Having won the U.S. presidential election against the combined forces of the Democratic Party and the media, and with less than enthusiastic endorsement from his own Republican Party, it was to be expected that Donald Trump as president would face unprecedented opposition from the media, the Democrats and from powerful sections of the American political establishment, particularly on the left.
In his favour was the fact that he had won a decisive political mandate, and the enduring support of “Middle America”, particularly in those states which were evangelical Christian, and those that had been hardest hit by green ideology and the decline in the American manufacturing industry.
Trump’s promise to “Make America great again” resonated across the country, and delivered to him a mandate to change direction.
Many of the things that Trump has done have been in fulfilment of his election commitments, and have reinforced the attachment of those who voted for him.
As a political outsider, Trump clearly understands that his success depends on fulfilling the promises he made to millions of Americans. And he has followed through.
Key positions in his administration, including Secretary of State, Treasury Secretary and Defense Secretary have been filled by people with wide experience in government, business and the defence forces.
Trump has proposed the repeal of Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which was intended to force the closure of coal-fired power stations, and appointed former Texas governor Rick Perry as Secretary for Energy.
He has actively encouraged the expansion of the U.S. oil and gas industry, by lifting restrictions on exploration on federal lands, and signing executive orders authorising the construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada, and the Dakota Access pipeline.
Billions of dollars that previously flowed to the Middle East will now stay in America.
Trump has introduced legislation for the repeal of Obamacare, the expensive national health scheme which also required employers to fund abortions.
He has reinstated the Mexico City policy, a policy originally introduced by Republican president Ronald Reagan in 1984. Since then, every Democratic president has rescinded it and every Republican has reinstated it. The policy blocks U.S. federal funding for non-governmental organisations that provide abortion counselling or referrals. Its immediate target was the world’s largest abortion provider, Planned Parenthood.
Trump has also foreshadowed the rebuilding of America’s domestic manufacturing base, by withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), proposed renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and proposed imposition of targeted import tariffs on Chinese goods.
He has also had success in a couple of high-profile decisions by U.S. computer companies to build new plants inside the United States.
These achievements in the first four months of his four-year term are significant, yet they have been poisoned by several politically damaging issues, including President Trump’s unprecedented use of Twitter to castigate his opponents, the row over Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, and his sacking of FBI director James Comey.
Every one of these issues is a distraction from the central business of government.
During the presidential campaign last year, Trump’s daily use of Twitter to denounce his rivals, particularly Hillary Clinton, was diverting, almost comical. It gave him the opportunity of replying to her through memorable one-liners, and speaking directly to his own constituency.
However, as President, the continued use of Twitter has left Trump looking petulant and thin-skinned: able to dish it out, but not to take criticism.
The controversy over Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election was launched by President Barack Obama in 2016. A year ago, he blamed Russia for hacking the Democratic Party’s National Committee’s email server, after the release of a trove of emails via Wikileaks that embarrassed Hillary Clinton.
Just weeks before the American people voted, the leaders of the U.S. intelligence agencies issued an unprecedented public statement denouncing Russian interference in the election campaign against Clinton, and in favour of Donald Trump.
The issue was thoroughly canvassed during the election campaign, in a way that helped rather than hindered Hillary Clinton. But Clinton was beyond saving.
Nevertheless, in the dying days of his Presidency, Barack Obama ordered a report on foreign interventions in the 2016 presidential elections, and late in December, expelled 35 Russian diplomats from the U.S. as a reprisal.
I have no doubt that Russia did try to influence the result of the election, but its efforts were effectively countered by Obama and Clinton, who even claimed that Trump was the Kremlin’s candidate during the presidential debates.
Trump’s sacking of FBI director James Comey was utterly unnecessary, and has created the impression that Trump had something to hide. It would be tragic if Trump’s substantial achievements were undermined by his ego, or his eccentricity, providing fodder for his implacable enemies on the left.