For all the comparisons between the British referendum vote to leave the European Union and the election of Donald Trump in the United States five months later, one clear difference between Brexit and the Trump presidency has emerged. Whereas it has become clearer that the UK is heading for what has been called a hard Brexit – a sharp break with adverse consequences for trade between the UK and the EU – it seems that the US has got itself a soft Trump.
The consistent theme of President Trump’s first 100 days in office, which ended today, is that when he meets an object, movable or not, he turns out to be a surprisingly resistible force. One of his first actions was to impose what he called a “Muslim ban”, additional travel restrictions on people arriving in the US from a somewhat arbitrary list of Muslim-majority countries. This met the obstacle of the American courts, was struck down, redrafted, struck down again and is now in abeyance.
Then the President lent his support to the healthcare bill drawn up by Paul Ryan, leader of the Republicans in Congress, to cut the coverage of Obamacare, but it failed even before its first contact with the electoral reality of a vote in the House of Representatives. It was withdrawn and there is no prospect of the repeal of Obamacare getting through Congress now.
Donald Trump's first 100 days: in cartoons
Donald Trump's first 100 days: in cartoons
Donald Trump's first 100 days in office were marred by a string of scandals, many of which caught the eye of the Independent's cartoonists
Trump's first 100 days have seen him aggressively ramp up tensions with his nuclear rivals in North Korea
Mr Trump has warned of a "major, major conflict" with the pariah nation lead by Kim Jong Un
Mr Trump dropped the "mother of all bombs" on alleged ISIS-linked militants in Afghanistan, amid an escalation of US military intervention around the globe
Mr Trump has been accused of falling short of the standards set by his predecessors in the Oval Office, including Franklin D Roosevelt
The tycoon's ascension to the White House came at a time when the balance of power is shifting away from Western nations like those in the G7 group
Western politicians, including the British Conservative party, have been accused of falling in line behind Mr Trump's proposals
Brexit is seen to have weakened Britain, reducing still further any political will to resist American leadership
Mr Trump's leadership has been marked by sudden and unexpected shifts in global policy
Trump's controversial missile strike on Syria, which killed several citizens, was seen by some analysts as an attempt to distract from his policy elsewhere
The President has also spent a large majority of his weekends golfing, rather than attending to matters of state
Though free of gaffes, a visit from Chinese president Xi Jinping spotlighted trade tensions between the two states
One major and unexpected setback came when Mr Trump's Healthcare Bill was struck down by members of his own party
Mr Trump has been a figure of fun in the media, with his approval at record lows
A string of revelations about Mr Trump's financial indiscretions did not mar his surge to the White House
Outgoing President Barack Obama was accused of wiretapping Trump Tower by his successor in America's highest office
The alleged involvement of Russian intelligence operatives in securing Mr Trump the presidency prompted harsh criticism
The explosive resignation of Security Adviser Michael Flynn, who lied about his links to the Russian ambassador, was just one scandal to hit the President
Many scandals, such as the accusation Barack Obama was implicated in phone-hacking, first broke on Mr Trump's Twitter feed
Donald Trump's election provoked mass protests in the UK, with millions signing a petition to ban him from the country
Donald Trump cited a non-existent terror attack in Sweden during a campaign rally
Donald Trump stands accused of stoking regional tensions in Eastern Asia
North Korea has launched a number of failed nuclear tests since Mr Trump took power
Theresa May formally rejected the petition calling for Mr Trump to be banned from the UK
When Mr Trump's initial so-called Muslim ban was struck down by a federal justice, the President mocked the 69-year-old as a "ridiculous", "so-called judge"
A week after his inauguration, Theresa May met with Mr Trump at the White House
Donald Trump's first days in office were marked by a hasty attempt to follow through on many of his campaign promises, including the so-called Muslim ban
Donald Trump's decision to ban citizens of many majority-Muslim countries from the US sparked mass protests
Revelations about Donald Trump's sexual improprieties were not enough to keep him from being elected President
British PM Theresa May was criticised by many in the press for cosying up to the new President
One of Mr Trump's top aides, Kelly Anne Conway, was mocked for describing mistruths as "alternative facts"
British PM Theresa May was quick to demonstrate that her political aims did not hugely differ from Mr Trump's
Donald Trump's inauguration, on 20 January 2017, sparked protests both at home and abroad
As for the wall that Mr Trump was going to build along the southern border (and for which Mexico was going to pay), it was described as “symbolic of better border security” the other day by Lindsey Graham, a Republican Senator.
As Xenia Wickett of Chatham House writes for The Independent today, President Trump has pulled out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade deal with Mexico, Canada, Australia and others, as he said he would. And he has appointed Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, although Congress had to change its rules to do so. But, “when judged by his own expectations, Donald Trump is woefully failing”.
Just this week he has reversed his position on Nafta, the North American Free Trade Agreement, a trade deal that is already in force with Canada and Mexico, saying merely that he would like to “renegotiate” it. And he has said that, having not known much about Nato when he rubbished it during his election campaign, he now thought that it is sufficiently focused on his priority of fighting terrorism to mean that it is a worthwhile organisation after all.
These are all welcome retreats from the wilder shores of campaign rhetoric. They are also welcome signs that President Trump can be pushed around by arguments against doing unwise things and can be constrained by the checks and balances of the US Constitution. Those who argued during the election campaign that the candidate’s rhetoric should not be taken too seriously have been, by and large, vindicated, and in a remarkably short space of time.
Those who took a more alarmist view cannot rest easy yet, however. President Trump’s foreign policy has been unpredictable. Contrary to campaign warnings against Barack Obama’s possible intervention in Syria, Mr Trump has enforced his predecessor’s red line against the use of chemical weapons there. He has been warm to China and cold to Russia: the opposite of his campaign language. And his bellicosity towards the pauper tyranny of North Korea does not feel like a strategy with a reassuring endgame.
Still, we should be grateful, on the evidence of his first 100 days, that President Trump, constrained by the system against which he railed so volubly on the hustings, has turned out to be softer in practice than the choleric bully he appeared to be.Reuse content