Trump's first 100 days

Bare scorecard shows Trump needs a plan for second 100 days

Relief that the Donald Trump presidency has not been as disastrous as once feared was a common theme in newspapers when the US leader marked his first 100 days in office last Saturday. Here are highlights from some of the leading titles across Europe, America and Asia.

As with their personalities, Mr Donald Trump's first 100 days as United States president have been the polar opposite of Mr Barack Obama's. The latter cajoled Congress to pass the largest stimulus in US history, launched a bailout of Detroit's big three carmakers and stabilised the financial system with his bank stress tests. Mr Trump's attempts at passing laws have all run into the sand. His second effort to repeal Obamacare looks as ill-fated as the first. You must go back decades to find a record as bare as Mr Trump's opening stretch.

Their air miles were equally divergent. By his 100th day, Mr Obama had visited Britain, France, the Czech Republic, Turkey and Iraq, as well as Trinidad - for the Summit of the Americas. The farthest Mr Trump has taken Air Force One is to his private Mar-a-Lago beach club in Florida.

By this point, Mr Obama had nominated most of his ambassadors, many of whom were confirmed. Just one of Mr Trump's ambassadors has passed the Senate - Mr David Friedman for Israel.

Mr Trump's and Mr Obama's approval numbers reflected the contrast. Mr Trump's Gallup rating has already sunk to below 40 per cent, while Mr Obama's at this point was still riding at 62 per cent.

It was in his second 100 days that things began to go wrong for Mr Obama. Ironically, this was when he stepped up his fruitless drive to win Republican cooperation. Mr Trump has not offered much pretence of wooing Democrats. Unlike Mr Obama, however, he has been unable to unify his own party.

In Mr Obama's second 100 days, the Tea Party began to take off. Talk radio conservative Rush Limbaugh became known as the "leader of the opposition" as Mr Obama's healthcare Bill headed into an August of angry town hall protests. His cap and trade Bill to limit carbon emissions also began to fall apart. By the end of his second spell, his approval rating among Republicans had been halved to just 17 per cent. It remained sky-high among Democrats. That polarisation never receded.

But the most telling contrast is in their temperaments. Mr Trump sets out bombastic positions and then often climbs down. Last week, he vowed to scrap the North American Free Trade Arrangement, then reneged later that day after taking panicked calls from his Mexican and Canadian counterparts.

He began last week vowing to hold up the federal Budget unless it included funding for a US-Mexico border wall. By Wednesday, he had dropped that too.

The same applies to Mr Trump's hostile stance on Nato, trade war with China and a long list of extravagant gambits. It is an open question whether he will win enough support to pass his sweeping tax cut proposal that was hurriedly unveiled last Wednesday. The plan barely cleared 200 words.

By contrast, Mr Obama's initiatives, whether doomed, such as the carbon Bill, or ultimately successful, such as healthcare, were the painstaking outcomes of wonkish research.

Can Mr Trump emulate Mr Obama's first 100 days in his second? Not unless he can stick to a script for long enough to unify his party.

"The biggest problem with Trump is that his daily melodramas are distracting us from the big challenges of our age," said David Rothkopf, whose book, The Great Questions Of Tomorrow, seems to have bypassed the White House. "You cannot tweet or bully your way to leadership in these complex times."

The flurry of announcements last week shows a president craving for a record to match the milestone. But it is just a number.

At his 100th-day press conference, Mr Obama said his agenda would not be accomplished within his first 1,000 days. He was right about that. Much of it never was. Mr Trump, by contrast, seems unclear about what he will do this week.

FINANCIAL TIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 01, 2017, with the headline 'Bare scorecard shows Trump needs a plan for second 100 days'. Print Edition | Subscribe