100 Days: The Washington Walrus Review

100 Days: The Washington Walrus Review

Saturday (29th April) will mark the 100th day of the Trump administration and while the reviews have been contemptuously abysmal, the ratings have been ‘huuuuuge.’ This still seems to matter even in the face of overwhelming rejection, criticism, and abject failure.  If it didn’t, we could count him out. The struggle, unfortunately, continues for the resistance.

So where do we begin? 100 days is not a long period of time to assess a presidency and Trump does have a point when he discounts it as a ‘ridiculous standard.’ (Yes, this was from a Tweet.) Indeed, most historians would agree on this point, citing LBJ’s commitment to Civil Rights and Reagan’s action on taxes as significant initiatives taken outside this time frame. Even, Clinton was a little slow to start. This president has jettisoned so many disastrous schemes already however that it seems a little naive to conjecture that he may be reading the instruction manual. Trump cannot read. It therefore seems appropriate, as with most administrations, that we should at least consider the tone he has set for what is to come.

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Women’s March

 

Darkness. The tone has been one of great darkness. A little abrupt? Well, let’s flit through some of the things that have occurred these past three months. Before he had even gotten through his first weekend, the women’s march had mobilized millions worldwide in unison against his sexist postulations. Then, his travel ban was overturned as quickly as it had been implemented. (Remodeled versions of this ban continue to dominate the courts, though Trump baffingly still considers this an achievement.) He had little time to reflect on this however, for the American Health Care Act he endorsed was ready to fail, even with a Republican majority. Then, as if that was not enough, he managed to give rise to Cuban Missile-like fears with North Korean relations. While all this was happening, a credibility gap was forming not only between him and his base, but between him and his hapless press secretary, Sean Spicer, who continually referenced tweets, establishing a new low for media relations. To top all this off, he has gathered around him the type of cabinet Sauron of Lord of the Rings fame, would even consider excessive.  There’s not enough time to go through every appointee but son-in-law Jared Kushner is basically in charge of Middle East talks and Rick Perry has the EPA. Yes, those are just some of the main talking points…

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Sauron, Maeir, ally to the Valar Melkor, and force for evil in three Ages of Arda.  We’ve been using a lot of Lord of the Rings references lately.

Trump’s shortcomings as a president not only undermine the values of democracy, civil liberties, and common morality however. They also betray the cause of his campaign, the hopes of his base, and the future of America’s youth. Is rejuvenating the coal industry really a step forward? Is TPP even promising when across the globe, more and more capital has been injected into a green industry? Just who wants this border wall? Yes, there are many questions (and lapses in logic) but don’t expect the answers from Trump. He’s a doer, not a thinker. That is why crude nationalism is the new rationale. That is why diplomacy has been pushed aside in favor of military might. That is why the Age of Terror has been ramped back up to fifth gear. We have suffered in the process but Trump, despite amazingly poor approval ratings for what should be his ‘Honeymoon’ period, only seems to push more and more. After all, in a time of ‘Alternative Facts’, political polarization, and great distrust of the media and the far left, there will always be some band of neanderthals ready to defend him at every turn.

Trump’s first 100 days can therefore be characterized for the tone they have set, in many ways, more so than any other president’s. Besides the fact that there is a steeper learning curve for him than those before (given his lack of political experience), he has moved boldly and without trepidation on many of the causes he said he would address. If Democrats want to succeed, they will need to keep up with the momentum of these past three months as 1,360 days yet remain till the next inauguration.

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The Chief Is Hailed

The Chief Is Hailed

Early last Friday, 59 cruise missiles were launched by the Trump administration in response to a chemical attack which killed 86 people in Syria. Before the dust had even settled, the media had determined the legitimacy of this presidency by virtue of its military injunction. It is a familiar story which plagues almost every country’s history when such action placates the concerns of before and replaces them with either a patriotic zeal of some level or at the very least, an admission of authority.

A few commentators like the Washington Post’s Derek Hawkins went so far as to describe the images of impending missile destruction as ‘beautiful’ whilst others, such as Fareed Zakaria on CNN, made more restrained, though nonetheless telling observations; ‘I think Donald Trump became president of the US last night.’ The questions of morality and legality in these assaults will undoubtedly provoke widespread debate but our interest for now lies in the area of the President’s perceived image. For just as these strikes have given the Trump the pedestal of ‘Commander-in-Chief’, so too have past events helped to cement previous leaders’ standing.

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Abraham Lincoln and FDR, for example, whilst exceptional in many degrees, were able to ascend to the highest level of presidential grandeur because their legacies were so fundamentally interwoven with the great conflicts of their time. In less obvious circumstances however, such as Bill Clinton’s handling of Bosnia, we have also seen the ascension of rodents from the sewers to the street (not that Bill Clinton is a rat). Praise is not an essential factor in identifying the confluence of this change but inaction or weak, diplomatic-heavy procedures do little to reassure the public’s confidence in their leader. Our old favorite, Jimmy Carter, springs to mind at this point. Had he launched even a single missile during the Iranian Hostage Crisis, he would likely have garnered a tighter circle of supporters. He chose every other option first however and for that, he suffered the image of a weak, submissive Commander-in-Chief.

Military action may be the quickest way of mobilising public support; it does not create the strongest footing however. George W. Bush, after the attacks of 9/11, peaked at a 90% approval rating and garnered the support he needed for the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. We know how the rest goes but even to this day, loved or hated, he is acknowledged as a strong leader. So whilst the likes of W. Post’s Margaret Sullivan has duly noted that ‘praise flowed like wedding champagne’ in the wake of the strikes, we must take such observations with a grain of salt. Trump’s popularity has not been assured in this instance. Questions over his legitimacy, however, are finally fading. A hundred days have almost passed and the media have now come to accept him as their president.

And in this unholy shitstorm, the vacuum of the media’s irresponsibility has once again magnified. We will leave this with a passage from what renowned Dan Rather had to say however because he puts it best:

The number of members of the press who have lauded the actions last night as “presidential” is concerning. War must never be considered a public relations operation. It is not a way for an Administration to gain a narrative. It is a step into a dangerous unknown and its full impact is impossible to predict, especially in the immediate wake of the first strike.