The opening weeks of a fresh presidency are always exciting. For some the mood is jubilant, for others, fear-filled. All these feelings are heightened when a wild-card like President Trump takes office. A man with no professional political experience, but also no obvious obligations to specific lobbies.
So, we shall examine President Trump in his first few weeks in office. What can they tell us about future policy? Has it been a good or bad start? Where are we headed?
Coming out of the rough campaign the United States went through, a little grand-standing and bragging is to be expected. Though perhaps not professional, it is a regular occurrence in politics most are reasonably comfortable with. The exception came when President Trump maintained that millions of illegal votes were cast in the past election and Trump bragged about the size of his inaugural crowd. Pictures quickly popped up showing Former President Obama’s inaugural crowd with Trump’s crowd, highlighting the distinct difference in Obama’s favor. Counterclaims rose just as fast about the times the photos were taken and if they were true representations of the crowds. Honestly though, why are the crowds so important? Well, in part, Trump likes a good contest and he wants to win it. If there is any ambiguity as to the winner, someone like Trump might see an opportunity to make a case for their side. The only problem here is there was no ambiguity in terms of the popular vote. Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by several million votes.
This leads to Trump’s claim that millions of illegal votes were cast. This claim not only serves to discredit Clinton and grasp at any remaining chance of declaring himself full and total winner, as opposed to winner by technicality, but this claim also allows him a dig at illegal immigration. Connecting illegal immigrants to illegal voting gives him more credibility in some eyes when he speaks of deporting them. The main issue with this claim is that Trump has not produced any evidence to back up his claim. Beyond that, what recounts there were last election didn’t even turn up a fraction of the level of illegal voting Trump is claiming.
Early on in the first week of his presidency, executive orders flew left and right as Trump got directly to work in the White House. Even this first action caused some minor stir, as groups on both sides debated with each other and themselves how many executive orders are reasonable for a president, if an executive order is an attempt at circumventing Congress, and how much power the president has been granted over the past few years.
Among these first executive orders was a predictable one which changes a policy on funding international groups who promote abortion and contraceptives. A routine has formed, as incoming democrats re-allow the funds and incoming Republicans disable them. This was also not surprising due to Trump’s stated position on the issue of abortion later in the campaign trail. This executive order points to a pro-life/anti-abortion stance and possible future attempts to further defund groups which espouse similar views to the international groups.
Another executive order set plans for the Mexican border wall to be built. This facet of the Trump campaign was one of the more controversial proposals. Despite the executive order, the wall would still need to be approved by Congress to be funded, and it remains to be seen who will pay for the wall when all is said and done. Trump has backtracked somewhat on his famous proclamations that Mexico will indeed pay for the wall. Trump said it may be an indirect payment or may come in the form of taxes a the border. Another bump in the road for this wall plan is the issue of numerous federal regulations, environmental regulations, and state regulations may prevent fast progress. In addition, a sizable portion of the land along the border is privately owned, so a massive, expensive, and controversial compaign of emminent domain seizures of land would need to take place.
In recent days, another particularly controversial executive order from Trump took effect. The “Muslim Ban”, as the media has taken to calling it, was announced without any warning or grace period. The ban covers seven countries with significant Muslim populations, true, but there are other countries which are Muslim majority nations that were left off the list. Actually, several of the countries left off the list were more terror-prone than most on the list. In addition, the ban is not based on religious affiliation, but by country. The former would certainly be unconstitutional on it’s face. The ban is a 90 day only moratorium to evaluate the procedures currently used and implement what Trump refers to as “extreme vetting”.
The most important issue with the ban politically is that no advance notice was granted, even to the different arms of the government, and no grace period was put in place. These in combination have led to numerous detentions at border points of entry, and several tragic stories of family and students being cut off suddenly. It cannot be emphasized enough that plans such as these require a grace period as an essential component. The Trump administration responded to questions on the lack of warning with the claim that if such a ban were announced, the undesirable terrorist elements from the designated countries would simply enter during the grace period.
The next major issue with this executive order is that it is particularly vague in parts, causing legal and civil turmoil. Protests over the ban surged as judges figured out exactly what had been done. It seems that the executive order was initially treated as a full ban on anyone coming from the seven countries listed. After legal squabbles, this became a ban on immigration, dual-nationals, and legal permanent residents of the U.S. are being handled on a case-by-case basis, according to the Department of Homeland Security. Even if a grace period was not extended, the Trump administration could have at least sorted out these particulars before instituting such a broad ban, rendering a grace period less necessary.
Lastly, one of the people Trump chose for his administration has many recoiling in horror. Steve Bannon has been called a racist, a sexist, anti-Semitic, and a white-nationalist. Again, the media at large has taken sizable liberty with their words on Bannon, so let’s take a look at the evidence of these accusations quickly.
Steve Bannon’s ex-wife claimed he said some anti-Semitic things while she was in court. The reliability of such claims is dubious as their source is distinctly against Bannon. The Breitbart website Bannon ran posted a story which mentioned a “renegade Jew”. The story, however, was written by a Jewish man who claims Bannon didn’t ask him to write it. The claims he is racist or a white nationalist seem to come from the fact that some of his positions attract followers from the “alt-right” or the more extreme side of the Republican party. Other than these followers, I can identify only one source for the claims of racism against Bannon; his website ran a story about how the Confederate flag is about heritage. That’s some pretty weak proof if you’re going to try and say this guy is a Nazi. Is he dangerously comfortable letting the racist elements of the far right wing hang around his site? Yes, more than a little, but keep things in perspective and look at the facts of what he has said and done before labeling him.
Now, granted, the “sexist” label might have some sticking power. A lot of articles from his site are vehemently anti-feminist or seem to have some possible sexist elements, but nothing blatantly sexist. The anti-feminism angle seems to be mostly geared towards the liberal nature feminism has acquired in recent generations.
What’s more worrisome than these other accusations is that Bannon is someone who said, “I want to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today’s establishment.” in reference to his political philosophy. Do we want someone like this, with all these close calls with undesirable elements and quotes like this having a seat at the National Security Council in place of the Chairman of Joint Chiefs? Well, Trump does. He’ll need to pass a vote in the senate, though, so hopefully he will be “extremely vetted”.
We will all watch President Trump as his term progresses. If these first few weeks are indicative, the future holds uncertainty and bold moves, for better or for worse. With Trump nominating his first Supreme Court Justice, the future also holds more scrutiny and debate as well. How Trump’s presidency will ultimately develop remains to be seen.