Donald Trump’s first 100 days in office have been frenetic, contentious and at times downright bizarre.
Often, California has been squarely in his crosshairs.
By traditional measures, the start of his presidency is empty of significant legislation, and is marred by his epic defeat on repealing Obamacare.
But Trump is anything but a typical president. And using all the powers at his disposal, he has started to put his stamp on America – and not for the better.
His tax blueprint could raise tax bills for millions of taxpayers, many of them Californians, who now deduct state and local taxes on their returns. His review of national monuments could open up the California coast to drilling and development. His withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership will hurt the state’s export economy. His threat to defund “sanctuary” cities could cost them millions of dollars. His plan to roll back standards on car emissions could dirty our air unless the state protects its stricter rules.
California has so much at stake, in part because it leads the nation on so many of the issues Trump is targeting. On clean air, climate change, health care, immigration, trade and much more, the state must stay the course and, when necessary as it already has, go to the courts and Congress to resist Trump.
Conspiring with retrograde Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Trump overstates the “carnage” in cities as he starts bringing back failed tough-on-crime strategies and reigniting the war on drugs. Colluding with climate change denier Scott Pruitt at the Environmental Protection Agency, Trump is reversing policy on global warming and threatening our clean energy future. Appointing anti-immigration hard-liners, he is trying to close our borders and deport many more residents.
Trump has put former Goldman Sachs executives in charge of the economy and former generals in charge of foreign policy, while he spends weekends golfing at Mar-a-Lago. After promising to drain the swamp, he has sided with special interests, abusing an obscure law called the Congressional Review Act to kill Obama regulations that protect workers and consumers. His administration is also moving to privatize the government, including corporate immigration detention centers and private debt collectors working for the IRS.
Already, he has damaged the presidency and our democracy. He has displayed utter contempt for openness, and he and his family have shown complete disregard for financial conflicts of interest. By misleading, obfuscating and outright lying, he and his top aides are undermining public debate and trust, all the while complaining that any critical coverage is fake news.
And hanging over everything are the too-slow investigations into Russian interference that helped Trump win the election. The inquiries keep getting closer to his inner circle; depending on what’s uncovered, his presidency could be undermined, if not imperiled.
Trump now acknowledges that being president is a bigger, harder job than he ever realized. So far, he has been much more about feeding his ego than governing responsibly.
His me-first, haphazard approach was on display in recent days as his 100th day on Saturday coincided with the deadline to pass spending bills to avoid a federal government shutdown. Until his bluff was called, Trump the great deal-maker tried to strong-arm Congress into approving $1.4 billion for his border wall that he promised Mexico would pay for in the first place.
Trump is bringing that same erratic style as commander in chief. Without an overall strategy, he dips his toe in one global hotspot after another – Syria, Afghanistan, Iran, North Korea. He launched cruise missiles at a Syrian air base after an apparent nerve gas attack on civilians, dropped “the mother of all bombs” in Afghanistan and continues to rattle his saber at North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un over his nuclear weapons program.
Clearly, Trump is no Franklin D. Roosevelt, who popularized the 100-day benchmark with a flurry of New Deal legislation during the Great Depression. Trump doesn’t stack up well to Barack Obama, who pushed through laws to expand health coverage for poor children and to give equal pay to women in his first 100 days.
It’s symbolic of Trump’s shameless hypocrisy that he now complains that the 100-day benchmark is a “ridiculous standard” when as a candidate he promoted his “100-day action plan to Make America Great Again.”
Judged by his own 38-item list, he’s a failure.
He has followed through on most promised executive actions – which can be done with the stroke of a pen – and has signed more than 30 altogether, more than any president since World War II in their first 100 days. This, after blasting Obama for using executive orders.
But Trump hasn’t made much progress on big items that require congressional approval. His clearest win is getting Neil Gorsuch into a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court that, by all rights, belonged to Merrick Garland.
Trump has reneged on some items on his list, such as labeling China a currency manipulator. Indeed, he has compiled a stunning number of flip-flops – Syria intervention, NATO’s importance and more. He has largely turned his back on the working class supporters who helped put him in the Oval Office. The tax cut plan he announced Wednesday would benefit the wealthy far more.
Perhaps his biggest failure is that after the contentious election, Trump has failed to unify the nation. If anything, he has deepened divisions with his anti-Muslim travel ban, his push for more deportations and his mean-spirited tweets and statements. He has provoked a fierce backlash, including huge protests by women, advocates for immigrants, opponents of his travel ban and, on Earth Day, those standing up for science.
The resistance to Trump has made a difference. If there’s one silver lining so far, it’s that our system of checks and balances has worked, at least somewhat. His executive orders banning travel and defunding sanctuary cities have been blocked by the courts. Since most of his agenda is misguided, we’re thankful that Trump hasn’t accomplished more in his first 100 days.
After Saturday, Trump has 1,360 days left in his term – plenty of time to turn the page and focus on areas where there is broad agreement, for instance creating good jobs by rebuilding America’s crumbling infrastructure.
But Trump has to change how he runs the country. And that might be too much to ask.