Analysis 04-28-2017


Trump’s First 100 Days
Success, Failure, or a Mix?

The talk in Washington this week is the end of Trump’s first 100 days in office.  How has he preformed?  Has he done what he promised?  How much of what he has done will have a long term impact on the nation?

Needless to say, much of what will be written is very subjective.  Those who have opposed Trump will find ways to say his first 100 days were an abject failure.  Those who supported him will point to his successes.

The truth, however, lies in between.

It’s important to remember that the first 100 days don’t indicate the success of an administration.  Lincoln, who was one of America’s greatest presidents, had a disastrous first 100 days as states seceded from the Union and the nation headed into a bloody Civil War.  Obama, on the other hand was judged as successful because he helped pass a massive bipartisan economic stimulus plan that promised “shovel ready jobs.”  Only later did the nation learn that there were few shovel ready jobs and much of the money was wasted.

In looking at Trump’s record, we will look at how he has done in fulfilling his major campaign promises (we will not look at all his promises as politicians always promise more than they can deliver), his ability to make a long term impact on the nation, his legislative record, and how his supporters and the electorate as a whole think about him.

It’s also important to separate the noise of the political news coming out of Washington from the actual impact that is being made.

His major campaign promises were economic growth, a tightening of the border to cut down on illegal immigration, repeal of Obamacare, and tax reform.

The record has been spotty.  Although the stock market is headed higher and consumer confidence is the highest in 16 years, the economic health of the country is still fragile.  However, his legislative effort to reduce government regulation might help spur a degree of economic growth.

And, although the promised border wall legislation is stuck in Congress, illegal immigration is down 90% since Trump became president, thanks to stricter enforcement.

Although Trump has signed some executive orders weakening Obamacare, legislation significantly eliminating it is stuck in Congress as well as his proposed tax reform.

However, these failures haven’t hurt Trump’s popularity with his base too much.  An ABC News/Washington Post poll showed 96% of voters who supported Trump still will vote for him.  In addition, the poll shows that more people would vote for Trump today than Clinton.  That’s somewhat unexpected considering the political schism in the nation today.

The biggest political damage has been to congressional Republicans like the Speaker of the House, who have hurt Trump’s legislative agenda.  Speaker Ryan is unpopular with Republicans across the nation because he isn’t seen as supporting Trump.

However, that doesn’t mean that Trump has failed in terms of working with Congress.  Those parts of his agenda that will have the longest term impact were accomplished with the help of congressional Republicans.  In fact in the first 100 days, Trump enacted 28 pieces of legislation, more than any other president since Truman.

Nearly half of that legislation targeted economic regulation instituted by the Obama Administration.

Under the Congressional Review Act, Trump and Republicans wiped out 13 last-minute regulations pushed through before Trump took office.

The Congressional Review Act was first passed in 1996 as part of then-Speaker Newt Gingrich’s “Contract with America.” The CRA now gives Congress 60 legislative days to review new regulations.

Prior to the Trump White House, the CRA had been used only once to overturn a rule. In that case, President George W. Bush overturned an Occupational Safety and Health Administration rule that addressed ergonomic injuries in the workplace.

The CRA so far has been used to nix everything from a rule that would have required oil and gas companies to report payments to foreign governments to gun control regulations.  Others reduced regulations on coal mining, which a promise was made by Trump.

These pieces of legislation will have a long term impact because they make it illegal for a future president to enact similar regulations without congressional approval.

The other legislative victory for Trump was the Senate confirmation of Neil Gorsuch to the US Supreme Court.  Although many Republicans had not supported Trump to begin with, his promise to pick a conservative Supreme Court justice had convinced many of them to vote for Trump.  His pick and confirmation of Gorsuch not only impacts the court for decades, it will solidify his support amongst Republicans for his reelection.

Trump has also been active in terms of issuing executive orders.  However, as Obama discovered since he left the White House, these executive orders only remain in force until a new president takes over.

However, there have been several executive actions that will have an impact.  Trump approved the building of the Keystone pipeline, which Obama deliberated on for years.   He has also moved aggressively in increasing the detention and deportation of more illegal immigrants.

Some Trump opponents have said that some of his executive actions are illegal and have been overturned by judges.  However, as was seen in a Tuesday ruling on funding of sanctuary cities, the ruling actually supports the majority of Trump’s executive actions.  Judge Orrick did uphold the government’s ability to enforce conditions of existing grants and 8 U.S.C. 1373, the federal statute which pertains to sanctuary cities.

Ian Prior, a Department of Justice spokesman, said in a statement that the “department will continue to enforce existing grant conditions and will continue to enforce 8 U.S.C. 1373.”

“Further, the order does not purport to enjoin the Department’s independent legal authority to enforce the requirements of federal law applicable to communities that violate federal immigration law or federal grant conditions,” Prior added.

Foreign Affairs

Constitutionally, foreign affairs are the purview of the President.  And, with the rest of his record, he has had some success and failures.

Trump campaigned on a platform of isolationism.  He said NATO was obsolete and criticized Obama’s meddling in the Middle East.

On the other hand, he promised to make America more respected and feared internationally.

He has succeeded more in the second promise than the first one.

Trump has always been a pragmatic businessman and his foreign policy shows that.  He has changed his opinion as circumstances changed, which means he isn’t an ideologue.

He moved from a pro-Russia attitude to one where he is more willing to confront them and support NATO.  He has refused to lift the sanctions on Russia

Although he has opposed military action, he quickly decided to attack Syria after the alleged chemical weapons incident.

During the campaign he condemned China’s economic policies and promised to take action.  However, he has shown flexibility in terms of economic policy in exchange for Chinese willingness to put pressure on North Korea.  The promise is that he will remain flexible as long as China helps the US.


Trump’s first 100 days have been mixed.  His promises to repeal Obamacare and build a border wall are still in limbo because of opposition in Congress.  However, his supporters blame Congress more than him.

His war on regulation has been a major success thanks to the Congressional Review Act and strong support in Congress.  Since this is legislation and can’t be overturned by a future administration, this promises to be the keynote success of his first 100 days.

The nomination and confirmation of Associate Supreme Court Justice Gorsuch was a major success with his base and concerned Republicans.  This will have benefits when he runs for reelection.

Trump has proven to be pragmatic in foreign relations, but has displayed a willingness to utilize military power to impress the world.  That is different from the isolationism that Trump promised.

It has been said that the American presidency changes the men who have held the office.  They learn to recognize the difference between the possible and politics.





State Department Confirms Iran Compliant With Nuclear Deal
By James Phillips
Heritage Foundation
April 20, 2017

With a new White House, many have wondered about the fate of the 2015 nuclear agreement made between the Obama administration and Iran. The Trump administration’s stance on the agreement became a little clearer on Tuesday when the administration notified Congress that Iran is complying with the terms of the agreement, and that the United States would therefore extend the sanctions relief granted to Iran as part of that agreement. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, in a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan, wrote that Iran remained compliant with the agreement, but that the administration was concerned about Tehran’s support for terrorism and is reviewing whether to continue suspending sanctions, as required under the deal.

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Why More Military Action in Syria Is (Still) a Bad Idea
By A. Trevor Thrall
Cato Institute
April 21, 2017

B uoyed by President Trump’s airstrike on the Assad regime, Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., have called on Trump to ramp up military action in Syria. Nor are they alone in calling for more aggressive action. From Hillary Clinton and Tom Friedman to a host of former Obama officials, a large bipartisan swath of the foreign policy community favors more assertive U.S. action in Syria. But no matter how frustrated Washington is about the mess in Syria, and no matter how satisfying it may have been to see the U.S. finally land a blow against Assad, more military action in Syria is still a bad idea. Most fundamentally, the U.S. would be signing up for yet another long, costly, and dangerous failure in a Muslim-majority nation. We only need to look at Afghanistan and Iraq to understand how things would go in Syria. In fact, the situation in Syria is even riskier and less inviting than Afghanistan or Iraq. The U.S. would be wading into a mess that involves not just a civil war, not just the Islamic State and Al Qaeda, but also the active military efforts of both Russia and Iran. A unilateral U.S. military campaign of any kind would be costly and run the risk of creating new conflicts with Russia and Iran.

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Iranian Power Projection Strategy and Goals
By Farideh Farhi
Center for Strategic and International Studies
April 21, 2017

The Iranian leadership has not reevaluated its regional posture after the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). The reasons are many, Farideh Farhi argues in this report. Beyond the government’s ideological frame, dramatic volatility in the region, uncertainty about the direction of U.S. policy, and domestic political and power dynamics all play a role in Iran’s unchanging defense posture. Seen broadly, the Iranian leadership feels it must continue aggressively to counter efforts to destabilize Iran and to ensure security at home by projecting power and (increasingly) fighting the enemy abroad.  In the post-JCPOA environment, the United States has two options. It can treat the JCPOA and the channels of communication that it has opened as a one-time effort that failed to transform the Islamic Republic’s behavior, externally or internally. Or it can treat the JCPOA as a successful transaction with a significant, if difficult, regional player, and seek to draw useful lessons from it for the future.

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Russia Needs American Help to Seal the Deal in Syria
By Dmitri Trenin
Carnegie Endowment
April 10, 2017

Last Friday’s US air strikes against Syria have dispelled any remaining illusions in Moscow about Donald Trump’s foreign policy. The Russian reaction to the use of force by the US president was strong but measured. Moscow condemned it as an “act of aggression”, but gave no order to Russian air defence units in Syria to intercept American missiles. Nor did the Kremlin cancel the forthcoming visit by secretary of state Rex Tillerson. Russian interpretations of Mr Trump’s volte face on Syria mostly focus on the domestic travails of the American president, who faces steadily ratcheting pressure over his associates’ dealings with Moscow. This is seen, in turn, as evidence of the influence of America’s “deep state”, which is inherently hostile to Russia. By reasserting US power on the global stage, the argument goes; Mr Trump has won a reprieve from his political opponents — but at the price of submitting to their foreign policy agenda.

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Blacklist The IRGC
By Ilan Berman
American Foreign Policy Council
April 25, 2017

What should President Trump do about Iran? Campaign rhetoric about a rapid dismantlement of the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and the P5+1 powers has given way of late to policy inertia, as the new White House focuses on domestic challenges (like health care) and foreign irritants, such as Syria and North Korea. But there are now fresh signs that the White House could soon seriously rethink its Iran strategy. As it does, it would be wise to revisit one of its earliest foreign policy concepts, and one with the potential to dramatically alter the strategic equation vis-a-vis Iran: a comprehensive blacklisting of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

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Iran’s Nuclear Weapons Program: On Course, Underground, Uninspected
By Clare M. Lopez
Center for Security Policy
April 24, 2017

The Iranian regime’s nuclear weapons program, born in secrecy and kept hidden for years, has never skipped a beat and today continues on course in underground and military facilities to which inspectors have no access. On 21 April 2017, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), the oldest, largest, and best organized democratic Iranian opposition group presented startling new evidence that the jihadist regime in Tehran is violating the terms of the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) agreement reached in July 2015 among the P-5 +1 (Permanent Five Members of the UN Security Council plus Germany), the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency), and Iran. As will be recalled, it was the NCRI that first blew the lid off Iran’s clandestine nuclear weapons program in 2002, at a time when it had been in progress for at least fourteen years (since 1988), unbeknownst to most of the world, including the IAEA.

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Famine, Houthis, and Peace Talks Confront Yemen
By Eric Pelofsky
Washington Institute
April 23, 2017

The Yemen peace process has been on life support since late December, even though the nation is on the brink of a humanitarian catastrophe. G-7 foreign ministers all but threw up their hands at their meeting last week in Lucca, Italy, with a nearly rote statement calling for a renewed ceasefire and peace talks. With the war in Yemen entering its third year, there is ample blame for the impasse to go around. The Hadi government and others believe the stalemate can be broken by an amphibious assault against Hudaydah, a critical Red Sea port providing food and medicine to millions of Yemeni civilians caught in a brutal civil war. It won’t, though, and risks tipping Yemen into a terrible famine…

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Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, One Year On
By Simon Henderson
Washington Institute
April 24, 2017
PolicyWatch 2790

On April 25, 2016, Saudi Arabia announced Vision 2030, an ambitious economic plan intended to confirm the kingdom’s status as “the heart of the Arab and Islamic worlds, the investment power house, and the hub connecting three continents.” The accompanying vision statement was long on rhetoric and short on detail, making it difficult to judge the progress achieved one year later. But its grand goals have captured the imagination of international business figures seeking deals and investments, especially the proposed initial public offering (IPO) for part of the state-owned oil company Saudi Aramco, expected in 2018. Anecdotal evidence also suggests that the program is popular with Saudi youths, who are tantalized by the prospect of a more liberal society. Yet several obstacles loom.

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