Has Trump’s first year been a sleight of hand?

THE POLLS LOOK BAD, YET CORE SUP­PORT AND A BUOY­ANT ECON­OMY KEEP TRUMP AFLOAT, WRITES SARAH BLAKE

The Daily Telegraph (Sydney) - - Saturday Extra -

He tweets and a lot of peo­ple hate that, but I put that aside and look at his poli­cies, his job. Vickie Williams

First the good news for the 45th Amer­i­can Pres­i­dent on the an­niver­sary of his shock elec­tion win: al­most ev­ery per­son who voted for Don­ald Trump a year ago would hap­pily do so again and Amer­ica’s econ­omy is on a march, de­fy­ing ex­pec­ta­tions to dou­ble its growth rate to 3 per cent off the back of a record-high stock­mar­ket.

Now, the not-so-good news. With no ma­jor leg­is­la­tion passed, a crim­i­nal probe into the Rus­sian ties of some of his clos­est con­fi­dantes, a steady stream of ex­it­ing key staff and a drub­bing, just this week, for Repub­li­can can­di­dates in lo­cal elec­tions across the coun­try which many have laid at the White House door, it would seem gen­er­ous to say Pres­i­dent Trump has had a good year.

Most polls show the ma­jor­ity of Amer­i­cans don’t be­lieve he’s de­liv­er­ing on his ma­jor cam­paign prom­ises, in­clud­ing re­peal­ing Oba­macare, stop­ping im­mi­gra­tion from “ter­ror-prone” Mus­lim ma­jor­ity coun­ties and re­duc­ing taxes — none of which has even­tu­ated. Al­most twothirds of Amer­i­cans don’t trust Trump to re­spon­si­bly han­dle the grow­ing nu­clear threat from North Korea — the same amount who told an ABC poll last week that he’s ac­com­plished “not much” to “lit­tle or noth­ing” as pres­i­dent.

The Har­vey We­in­stein scan­dal has re­vived at­ten­tion on ear­lier sex­ist com­ments made by the for­mer re­al­ity TV show host, and the sex­ual ha­rass­ment al­le­ga­tions of a num­ber of women con­tinue to hover un­com­fort­ably close.

In­deed, Trump has his­tor­i­cally been the most un­pop­u­lar pres­i­dent at sev­eral key points of the past year, with his ap­proval rat­ing cur­rently hov­er­ing at about 33 to 37 per cent across most na­tional polls.

But don’t bother telling any of this to your av­er­age Trump sup­porter. To these men and women — even though the Pres­i­dent may not yet be do­ing what he said he would and the Repub­li­can Party is in­creas­ingly di­vided un­der his lead­er­ship — they would take him over al­most any­one else. “I re­ally don’t be­lieve his ap­proval rat­ings are that low, be­cause I

don’t be­lieve in the polls, be­cause they’ve been proven to be wrong,” Dale Rawlette from Glen Allen, Vir­ginia, said last week.

“He’s been do­ing a fan­tas­tic job, es­pe­cially with the re­spect that we have around the world and with the econ­omy, and I just think he needs more re­spect from his party.”

Ac­cord­ing to Laverne Jones Gore, a con­ser­va­tive ac­tivist and con­sul­tant from Cleve­land, Ohio, Trump should be cel­e­brated for “do­ing things that no­body else is do­ing and say­ing things that no­body else is say­ing”.

“As a Chris­tian, I had to be quiet,” she said of Amer­ica in re­cent years.

“You can’t talk be­cause you may say some­thing that’s not po­lit­i­cally cor­rect.

“Do you know how in­fu­ri­at­ing it is to be an Amer­i­can in Amer­ica and be told you can­not talk, you can­not speak, be­cause it’s not po­lit­i­cally cor­rect?

“He al­lowed that anger that had got­ten in­side of me — as a Chris­tian, as a mother, as an African-Amer­i­can, as an Amer­i­can, as a tax­payer — he al­lowed that pres­sure to be re­leased.”

And that is one rea­son why, de­spite the un­favourable opin­ion polls, al­most a third of

Amer­i­cans be­lieve Trump is do­ing a great job.

In­deed, in a re­cent ABC poll al­most ev­ery Trump voter from 2016 — or 91 per cent — said that they would vote for him again.

Ac­cord­ing to Vickie Williams, a stay-at-home mother in her 50s from Me­chan­icsville, Vir­ginia, the con­stant fo­cus on Pres­i­dent Trump’s Twit­ter melt­downs and un­pol­ished per­for­mances are a silly dis­trac­tion.

“The econ­omy is mov­ing for­ward and I think he’s worked harder than any pres­i­dent I’ve ever seen, so peo­ple should just give him a break and let things get done,” she says.

“He’s get­ting rid of a lot of the cor­rup­tion in Wash­ing­ton and I am not dis­ap­pointed at all.

“I sup­port a lot of the poli­cies that Trump be­lieves in. I know he makes com­ments, he tweets and a lot of peo­ple hate that, but I’m putting that aside and look­ing at his poli­cies, his job.

“You have to look at what he’s do­ing, not his com­mu­ni­ca­tion skills.”

Of course, the pas­sion of Trump’s sup­port­ers is more than evenly matched by those of his crit­ics, who come from across the coun­try and po­lit­i­cal spec­trum.

One of his most fre­quent spar­ring part­ners is Repub­li­can sen­a­tor John McCain, who warns that af­ter this week’s Democrat vic­to­ries in gov­er­nor races in New Jersey and Vir­ginia that the 2018 midterm elec­tions are now a gen­uine com­pe­ti­tion.

“Un­less we get our act to­gether, we’re go­ing to lose heav­ily,” McCain says.

Many lib­er­als have seized on vic­to­ries for women and mi­nor­ity can­di­dates in this week’s elec­tions as proof that the anti-Trump forces are gath­er­ing and man­ag­ing to or­gan­ise.

A num­ber of the first-time fe­male can­di­dates who won their races last Tues­day, only ran af­ter tak­ing part in Jan­uary’s Women’s March, which was held a day af­ter Trump’s in­au­gu­ra­tion and be­came the largest sin­gle-day protest in US his­tory.

Whether Trump wins a sec­ond term in 2020 seems a dis­tant ques­tion in a cli­mate where the pos­si­bil­ity he will face im­peach­ment is openly dis­cussed on each of Amer­ica’s par­ti­san 24-hour news net­works.

The probe has al­ready led to for­mer Trump cam­paign chair­man Paul Manafort and his busi­ness as­so­ciate Richard Gates fac­ing 12 charges in­clud­ing money-laun­der­ing.

Mean­while, Trump has said he wel­comes for­mer FBI chief Robert Mueller’s probe into whether his cam­paign worked with Rus­sia to in­flu­ence the 2016 elec­tion be­cause it will clear his name.

Pic­ture: AFP

Pres­i­dent Trump, First Lady Me­la­nia Trump, Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping and his wife Peng Liyuan in Bei­jing this week.

Pic­ture: Nathan Ed­wards

Pres­i­dent Trump and Prime Min­is­ter Mal­colm Turn­bull meet on the USS In­trepid in May.

Pic­ture: AFP

In the wake of the Har­vey We­in­stein scan­dal, ac­cu­sa­tions of sex­ual ha­rass­ment hover un­com­fort­ably close to Trump.

Pic­ture: AFP

Pres­i­dent Trump and Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin shake hands in July dur­ing a meet­ing on the side­lines of the G20 sum­mit in Ham­burg, Ger­many.

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