Author Mark Richards
Donald J Trump was inaugurated as the 45th President of the United States on January 20th of 2017. That means he has now been in power for eight months – one-sixth of a four-year term. Will his Presidency bring about the end of the world and the collapse of civilization? Or is he really doing quite a good job…
It is easy to look at Donald Trump and only see the hair, the tan, the trophy wife, the frequent use of Twitter and the seemingly revolving door as he continues to fall out with – and fire – members of his administration. But he is now eight months into his Presidency: if he serves for four years (and he will be 74 by the time the 2020 election comes round) then he has already completed one-sixth of his term. So is he doing a good job? Or, as his detractors suggest, is he the worst president in American history? Let us take a look behind the headlines…
Is Donald Trump that rich? Or that intelligent?
President Trump’s net worth has generally been put at somewhere in excess of $3bn, largely based on his investments in property. It may now be down to around $2.9bn thanks to underperforming office space in New York, but that still makes him the richest president in history and, according to most estimates, it makes him richer than all the other presidents combined. Immediate predecessors George W Bush and Barack Obama were relative paupers in comparison. So if the Donald is so rich, he must be pretty smart?
There is some controversy surrounding how much money Trump inherited from his father, the modestly named Frederick Christ Trump, a real estate developer who died in 1999. Some estimates suggest it was as much as $100m. Several business journals have suggested that had Trump simply invested his money in ‘tracker’ funds (which track the stock market) he would actually be worth more than he is now. Fortune suggests he would be worth three times more and points out that the growth of his net worth has not grown at anything like the rate of other billionaires like Bill Gates and Warren Buffet.
So maybe not so bright…
What about foreign policy?
The world is a dangerous place at the moment. North Korean rockets are now whizzing over Northern Japan on a regular basis. Is Trump the man to deal with Kim Jong-un: or, as their increasingly vitriolic exchanges on social media would have it, is the “mentally deranged dotard” destined to come to blows with “Rocket Man?”
Then there is Iran. In 2015 an international agreement was reached to limit Iran’s nuclear programme. However, Trump is now threatening to pull the US out of that deal, something which was a major part of his campaign. If he did that then Congress would be forced to impose sanctions on Iran – not a move which is likely to boost peace in the region.
On foreign affairs, Trump has been blunt, and not afraid to preach his ‘West is best’ approach. These sentiments have played well with his core support in the States, who regard the simple statement of American values as something George Bush was reluctant to say and Barack Obama didn’t say at all.
Is he keeping America safe?
Trump famously promised to ‘make America great again.’ It is also his job to keep America safe and – the tragic recent events in Las Vegas aside – his supporters would give him credit for the competence of the national security team he has assembled, and for the explicit willingness to side with Israel as one of America’s key allies against terrorism. They might be less impressed with the increase in defence spending, which does not include a plan to reach a 350-ship US Navy, one of his less-reported campaign promises.
What about the wall and social issues?
He has not yet built his famous wall along the border with Mexico: he has been given plenty of money by Congress for border barriers, and prototypes of the wall with Mexico are being built. Trump says that he will pick the winning design in a month: given his history on the US version of The Apprentice, it might make a prime-time TV show…
Design competitions for walls aside, Trump is moving towards a system of migration based on skills preferences.
Trump has also rolled back much of the Obama legislation, although Senator John McCain continues to stand firm against the repeal of ‘Obamacare.’
He has pulled the USA out of both the Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership and the Paris Climate Deal – both very much reflecting his ‘America first’ view of the world.
Oh, and he’s tweeted 991 times…
Business loves him
Generally, the economic news coming out of the US has been good in the last eight months. Several companies have been ‘persuaded’ not to move production abroad and the US economy continues to create around 200,000 new jobs every month. If you measure success by the stock market, then Trump has done well: the Dow Jones index began the year at 19,763: it closed September at 22,405 – up 13% in the first nine months of the year.
Ultimately your view on Donald Trump may well depend on where you live. Trump vowed to ‘make America great again’ and he promised ‘America first.’ As he said when he pulled the US out of the agreement on climate change, “I was elected by the people of Pittsburgh, not Paris.”
Like many actions that have received a negative press in Europe that played well with his core domestic support: his approval ratings are good in those countries and states that voted for him last November.
Not everything Trump has done has been good: clearly, he has made plenty of diplomatic mistakes. However, behind the bombast and the bouffant, there has been progress made – good progress if you are someone who voted for him. Many in the UK will disapprove: many will worry about the future of the world. But Donald Trump will not change course: if the people of Paris did not vote for him, neither did the people of Portsmouth or Pyongyang.