How much slack should the American public give to a new president? How much should they give to a president who has never served in government or the military?
The public ponders these questions about President Donald Trump as they observe his unorthodox way of running his administration during his first month. The answer to these questions will set the tone for the rest of the Trump presidency.
When George W. Bush became president, he wished to be a compassionate conservative. He had a tough time getting elected. There was a major dispute over ballots in Florida, which had to be decided by a 5-4 vote in the Supreme Court in 2000.
George W. Bush came into the presidency under a cloud. But by April 20-22, 100 days into his first term, his approval ratings stood at 62 percent, higher than his predecessor, Bill Clinton who was at 55 percent by that time, and George H.W. Bush stood at 58 percent, according to CNN polls.
President Trump has also had a bumpy start, with his not-very-well thought-out ban on immigrants from seven Middle Eastern countries. Protests erupted across the nation, based in part on uncertainty and then outrage as Trump worked very hard to keep his campaign promises. His ratings have plummeted to 37 percent.
Already, Trump’s cabinet nominations have met fierce resistance in the Senate. The confirmations have been delayed due to Democratic objections, Republican defections and Democratic use of Senate rules to delay votes.
Religious and ethnic minorities wonder what decisions Trump will make to disrupt their lives. There is a great deal of uncertainty and fear among those groups, for good reason.
Gen. Mike Flynn has already stepped down as National Security Adviser because of his talks with the Russian ambassador and his subsequent lies to Vice President Pence.
At times there seems to be several differing voices about what Trump’s views are.
Trump has already had to revise his tough talk to China over Taiwan. His backtracking will weaken our position with China in future negotiations.
Intelligence agencies, probably in retaliation for being criticized by a tweeting Trump, have leaked information that has damaged the Trump administration’s credibility with their cozying up to the Russians. Federal judges have ordered temporary stays to his executive orders, causing Trump to tweet demeaning comments about “so-called judges.”
It seems clear that Trump is trying to do the right thing. He wants to be a good president, but he is making a lot of rookie and cringe-worthy mistakes. One wonders if his whole term of office will continue to be as chaotic as his first month.
How do Trump’s supporters view all this? The ones I have interviewed, while not happy with some of his early decisions, are willing to cut the new president some slack. Trump’s harsh conversations with world leaders like the Mexican president about illegal drug traffic and the Australian prime minister over refugees, are seen as early negotiation strategies in the “Art of the Deal.” Their approach is, “Let’s wait and see if this is part of President Trump’s ‘grand strategy’ to bring out promised and needed change.”
In many ways, while Trump’s early decisions have created upset and uncertainty, there are bright spots: his nominations of Rex Tillerson as secretary of state and Gen. Mattis as defense secretary, and his nomination of Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court – a solid candidate who has the courage to criticize President Trump over his comments to the judiciary – seem to be good decisions.
His tough talk with the Iranians and North Koreans over their missile tests send a message to those two countries and many others watching from the sidelines that must give them pause, because of uncertainty over what Trump may do next. NATO allies are starting to contribute more of their share to their own defense and Prime Minister Abe of Japan came to the U.S. to tell Trump that his nation will invest $150 billion to build factories and to create 700,000 jobs in the U.S.
How much slack should the American people afford to Trump? A biracial friend is very suspicious about our new president. She told me I am an educated white guy who can afford to wait and see. She may have a point. My inclination is just that, to wait and see how Trump’s administration evolves. In the meantime, I’m going to have to put up with Trump’s follies and foibles, his threats and tweets, as I yearn for a more mature president to emerge from the ugly chrysalis that describes his first month as our president.