So we’ve had just over a week of President Trump – what lessons can be learnt from this experience? Firstly, it is far too early to draw any hard conclusions – all new presidencies make mistakes based on incorrect assumptions about their political potency. They all have honeymoon periods and they all seem to want to try and govern for all the people rather than those who voted for them. None of these appear to apply to the Trump presidency at the moment. They are ruling as they ran with little or no real appreciation of how things will play in the real world. For them it would seem that the base is the only thing that matters and you have to say that that is a reasonable way forward. Without their base they wouldn’t be sitting there in the White House. But a President is more than just a cheerleader for his voters rather he is supposed to be the leader of the whole country – which clearly Trump isn’t at the moment. Perhaps he will learn this lesson – perhaps not.
Secondly, it is very very easy to sign pieces of paper in the White House and think job done. It is very much more difficult to try and implement what you have just signed. This weekend’s mess of the travelling ban is a case in point. I have not read any reason why President Trump thought it necessary to rush through the measures that he did. It is reported that the Department of Homeland Security wasn’t even consulted about the matter until just before pen was being put to paper. If that is correct then perhaps the ensuing mess might teach the President and his team that these things do have consequences. I believe the current position is that travellers from the 6 countries who have valid visas or other rights to stay are now being allowed into the country that they thought was their home until President said otherwise – however I may well be wrong. Again it has to be said that it is a very legitimate thing for the President of the United States to try and protect the country and the people who live there. What is not clear is why these six countries and why now? In matters like this it really isn’t good enough to say it was a campaign pledge there does need to be more evidence given of an imminent threat to the country posed by travellers from these countries.
Thirdly, the politics of this last week don’t seem to add up either. The first weekend saw an outpouring off opposition against the new President but then things started to settle down just a little. Perhaps the more politically savvy thing to do would be to let things calm down before doing something to reenergise the opposition – playing to your base doesn’t really provide an answer either for anything other than a short term gain. Very shortly President Trump will face a hell of a decision over healthcare and the likelihood that many of the people who voted for him might lose some or all of the health care coverage they gained under the Affordable Care Act provisions. I don’t understand the mess the American’s appear to get themselves into over healthcare but what I do understand are the problems caused by messing around with the coverage and he could very quickly be consumed by them if he and the Republican controlled congress mess things up. Based on the last week the odds of that happening are increasing significantly.
So there we have it – my thoughts on week 1 of President Trump. I personally think the most charitable assessment would be that it was very mixed. They will probably do better as the weeks and months of experience start to shape how the White House runs or then again they could not. I really am not sure which way it would go and that is perhaps the most worrying thing about the whole thing given the real challenges ahead.