As President Donald Trump’s first 100 days draw to a close, Americans are deeply divided about his job performance, though a slim majority agree that he is keeping his promises (even if they do not like those promises).
By historical standards, Trump has led a very active presidency thus far, stunning his opponents with a battery of executive actions, but facing stiff “resistance” from the opposition and the courts.
Here are the five best moments — and the five worst.
1. Speech to Congress. Trump shocked his critics with a stirring address to a special joint session of Congress on Feb. 28 that was optimistic, inclusive, and precise, yet emotional. A CNN poll suggested that four out of five Americans viewed the speech positively. Key quote: “I am asking all citizens to embrace this Renewal of the American Spirit. I am asking all members of Congress to join me in dreaming big, and bold and daring things for our country.”
2. Syrian air strike. Trump said he would respond to the Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons against civilians, and promptly did so. The U.S. Navy launched 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at the air base from which the chemical attack had been launched. In so doing, Trump enforced the “red line” that President Barack Obama had failed to patrol. The attacks also sent a message to China — whose president was eating dessert with Trump at the moment of the attack.
3. Neil Gorsuch confirmation. Trump fulfilled a core campaign promise by appointing a constitutional conservative, Judge Neil Gorsuch, to the Supreme Court seat formerly held by the late Antonin Scalia. Gorsuch did extremely well in his confirmation hearings. When Democrats carried out a threat to filibuster, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell found enough Republican votes to change the rules, meaning that future Trump nominees would have an easier path.
4. Congressional Review Act. Trump used a 20-year-old law, passed by President Bill Clinton but rarely used since, that allows Congress to repeal regulations within a 60-day window. Because many of the Obama administration’s regulations had not been reported to Congress, the 60-day window had not begun for them, and so Congress could repeal them. Trump signed repeal bills for 13 regulations issued under Obama, rolling back the administrative state.
5. Immigration enforcement. Even without the proposed border wall in place (or funded), Trump’s new Cabinet — especially Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions — ramped up law enforcement, deporting criminal illegal aliens and sending a clear signal to potential illegal immigrants that they ought not try their luck. Illegal border crossings were down by nearly two-thirds over the same period the year before.
5. Crowd size fight. The Trump administration pushed back against the mainstream media’s efforts to talk down the size of the crowd at President Trump’s inauguration — but pushed too far, offering “alternative facts” about attendance that were later proven to be incorrect. That set the stage for a testy relationship with the press, provided material to Saturday Night Live satirists, and hurt the credibility of the new administration with the public, at least at the outset.
4. Michael Flynn departure. National Security Adviser Michael Flynn resigned after allegedly providing incorrect information to Vice President Mike Pence about the content of his conversation with the Russian ambassador during the transition period. The departure added fuel to Democrats’ theories of a Russian conspiracy to elect Trump — and showed that there are limits to how far the Trump administration is prepared to go in defying the mainstream media.
3. Leaks. For an administration with a famously cold approach to the mainstream media, the Trump White House seemed to leak — from all sides — to mainstream media outlets. Journalists used scraps of information to create internal rivalries in the West Wing — which may, or may not, have been real, but which reinforced a public image of instability. The leaks, and the supposed rivalries, seemed to settle toward the end of the first 100 days, amidst staff reshuffles.
2. Immigration executive order rollout. When Trump signed an executive order suspending travel from seven terror-prone countries, he knew it would face opposition, but probably underestimated the strength of the pushback. Protests broke out at airports nationwide, and became a rallying point for anti-Trump activists building a broader “resistance” movement. Liberal judges blocked the order — and the amended version that followed, freezing the president’s policy.
1. American Health Care Act. The White House tried to push conservative Republicans to vote for the House leadership’s legislation to replace Obamacare. But neither Speaker of the House Paul Ryan nor the president himself could sway enough votes to save the bill — which Senate Republicans had already declared dead on arrival. A second attempt to pass an amended bill in late April also foundered — this time because of a lack of support from moderates.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named one of the “most influential” people in news media in 2016. He is the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.