On Saturday, April 29, the First 100 Days of the Trump administration will come to a close. This early part of the President’s tenure in the White House was full of developments at home and abroad. Much of what was expected to happen during the First 100 Days happened, but there have been surprises as well.
Historically, it’s a time where the President can take advantage of the grace period offered to him by the people and the press. As Tim Vercellotti anticipated in January, this grace period would not happen, as the earliest days of the administration indicated the political divides of the election would not soon go away.
“Usually the First 100 Days give the administration a window, and I don’t think that was there,” said Vercellotti, Professor of Political Science and Director of the Polling Institute at Western New England University.
Reflecting four months later on what he predicted at the Inauguration, Vercellotti indicated this may have been because the Trump administration is comprised mainly of outsiders who spent most of their careers outside of Washington.
Though many people and the press have remained critical of this group of outsiders now inside the White House, it didn’t make the First 100 Days any less eventful.
In the last two weeks, headlines at home and abroad have been dominated by Syria. The site of a protracted civil war since the Arab and African Springs of 2011, it has become a proxy war for global powers.
“The U.S. is involved and is an active player. This has intensified U.S.-Russian relations,” said Laura Janik, Professor of Political Science.
In 2013, Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons against civilians, which led to the deaths of more than 1,500 innocent Syrians. For over six years, the country has been in a state of war with the Free Syrian Army leading the opposition.
The terrorist group ISIS (previously part of al-Qaeda in Iraq) entered Syria in 2013, hoping to gain territory and establish their own state. The faltering Assad regime was soon backed by Russia and Iran, meanwhile the U.S. maintained that Assad would have to go.
At the time, the Obama administration focused its efforts on targeting ISIS with strikes in Syria, but that policy changed after Assad used chemical weapons against his own people again on Tuesday, April 4.
Because of this violation of international law, President Trump made the decision to target the Syrian government by bombing al-Shayrat airfield on Thursday, April 6. The airfield is believed to be where the chemical weapons attack was launched, and it’s bombing marked a shift in the White House’s stance on Syrian intervention.
“The humanitarian toll this has taken is one of the largest reasons why we should be concerned,” Janik said. Since 2011, 250-350 thousand people have died in Syria, and it has created a massive refugee crisis.
Estimates say 11 million out of the 17 million pre-war Syrian population are currently displaced from their homes. Janik added that the rebuilding process from this is almost “unimaginable at this point.”
Iran and Russia have both promised retaliation if the U.S. strikes again, while American allies have expressed support for the strikes.
“It is in the vital national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of chemical weapons,” President Trump said in an address to the nation.
On the domestic front, the battle was healthcare. Republicans have run on the platform of repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act since its inception in 2013. With both a Republican Congress and White House, they finally had their chance.
In March, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan introduced the American Health Care Act to replace Obamacare after it was repealed. However, the bill failed to come to a vote, and Obamacare remains in place.
“It illustrates the divisions in the Republican Party that have been there but [are] not obvious,” Vercellotti said, after not only Democrats but also Republican members of the House Freedom Caucus opposed the bill.
To Vercellotti, this issue in particular demonstrated how the First 100 Days have been a learning process for Trump, saying that President Trump has to get used to “dealing with co-equal branches of government.”
Since January, the Trump administration has been trying to handle the issue of Russian election meddling. The Senate has begun to hold hearings, and the FBI is conducting their own investigation, while members of Trump’s administration have had to answer to questions about close ties with Russian officials.
On policy, the administration has rolled back a number of regulations from the Obama administration and has issued several executive orders, including American withdrawal from the Tran-Pacific Partnership, a revised travel ban on individuals from several Muslim majority countries, and orders to revive the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines.
President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch was confirmed by the Senate after Republicans had to eliminate the option of a filibuster from the Senate rules, when Democrats planned to filibuster the confirmation.
Among many of these accomplishments and setbacks, the President continued to tweet, at one point claiming the Obama administration wiretapped him at Trump Tower. Vercellotti warned that if the President continues to tweet whatever comes to mind, he will lose credibility.
“Presidents do not have unlimited capital,” Vercellotti said, adding that he hasn’t seen a First 100 Days like this ever before.
With the First 100 Days coming to a close, infrastructure and tax reform remain two major priorities for the administration. Republicans will continue to be questioned about whether or not they can govern, and President Trump will continue his effort to “Make America Great Again.”
This article was originally published in The Westerner on April 20, 2017
Featured photo source: We Are Change