Donald Trump’s totemic first 100 days in office have been greeted with brutal reviews. Ironically, the most positive comments involve the neck-snapping series of flip-flops Trump has sprung on signature populist issues. The chattering classes have greeted these with deep sighs of relief.
In their view, the “axis of adults,” as neo-conservative Max Boot puts it, has taken control. The marauding Rasputin, Steve Bannon, has been rebuked. The “corrupt political establishment” that Trump railed against has taken hold.
Rather than relief, this should worry anyone concerned about the future of the country. And Trump’s casual shedding of his agenda makes a fundamental reassessment among Democrats all the more imperative.
Let’s quickly review the promises Trump abandoned. In the campaign, his America First posture declared NATO “obsolete,” but now he salutes it as a “great alliance.” He railed against the $6 trillion wasted on endless conflicts in the Middle East and promised to end our dalliance with regime change. Now he’s doubled down on wars from Afghanistan to Somalia, and his Secretary of State declared that the United States will be dedicated to “holding to account any and all who commit crimes against the innocents anywhere in the world.” He was going to stay out of Syria, now his Defense Secretary boasts (falsely) that his cruise missile attack took out 20 percent of its air force.
Trump promised to join with Russia to take on ISIS and praised Vladimir Putin; now Trump and relations have reached to a new nadir. He was going to label China a currency manipulator, but now he isn’t. Trump promised to rip up NAFTA, but recently his Commerce Secretary suggests that the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal that Trump scorned might provide a model for changing it.
Domestic populist pledges are also on the cutting room floor. Trump vowed to defend Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid; now he embraces the Ryan health care plan that would have gutted Medicaid. He boasted he would cover everyone with cheaper and better health insurance. The Trump-backed GOP replacement plan would instead have deprived an estimated 24 million of insurance. The rich wouldn’t benefit from his tax cut plan, he promised, now they will clean up. He was “ashamed” of Fed Chair Janet Yellin, now he’s open to reappointing her. Mexico would pay for the wall, now it won’t. He’s going to “clean the swamp,” but he’s assembling the most corrupted and conflicted administration since Grant. He mocked both Bush brothers. Now he’s not only hiring former Bush aides, but he’s even embraced Jeb Bush’s signature destructive assault on public schools.