Trump: Not as bad as promised
This appeared in the Washington Post.
One hundred days into the Donald Trump presidency, we have neither achieved the nirvana he promised nor entered the dystopia critics, including us, feared. Since nirvana was never likely, it may be more productive to examine why we have, so far, avoided the worst. Preliminary thanks are owed to Congress, judges, the Congressional Budget Office, the American citizenry, and voters in the Netherlands and France.
And, to a highly limited extent, to the president. He did not, on Day 1, tear up the NAFTA, the Iran nuclear treaty or the Paris climate change accord. He has not abandoned NATO or embraced Vladimir Putin. He has appointed sober-minded advisers to important positions, notably defence secretary and (on his second try) national security adviser. When Bashar Assad used chemical weapons against defenceless civilians, Trump responded with appropriate force.
On the other hand, Trump’s early record also offers cause for alarm. His inexperience and ideological drift have been evident in his administration’s slow and lurching start. Though a consistent foreign policy has yet to emerge, there is reason to fear he will diminish U.S. economic, political and moral leadership in the world. Trump has reversed a generation-old trend toward openness, becoming the first president in modern times to conceal his tax returns and scrapping an Obama-era policy of publishing a list of White House visitors.
No conclusions can be drawn from any of this. Will Trump allow his team to shape a more traditional foreign policy, with a dose of trade belligerence, or will he undermine long-standing alliances — or will he jump from one stance to another day by day? We don’t know. How will the White House respond when tested by a crisis, as it surely will be? Will Congress and the FBI seriously investigate Trump’s connections to Russia and that nation’s interference in the 2016 election?
Until that last question is answered, it is surely too soon to say the system has worked. But the system is at work, and — designed by the Founding Fathers, shaped and tested over time, pushed and pulled by millions of engaged Americans — it remains an impressive piece of machinery.