Report card time for President Trump!
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The news media has been labeled by Donald J. Trump as “the enemy of America,” but it may be the only institution that will hold the new president accountable, said two visiting professors during a panel discussion in the West Wing.
‘President Trump’s First 100 Days: A Panel Discussion,’ drew a lively crowd of AIC faculty, staff and students, many of them asking questions of the two guest speakers. They were Prof. Tim Vercolletti, pollster and political scientist from Western New England University, and Prof. Ian Delahanty, U.S. historian from Springfield College.
The panel was moderated by AIC Political Science Prof. Julie Walsh, and brought here by the Cultural Affairs Committee & Honors Program.
Both Vercolletti and Delahanty agreed that with a Republican-majority Senate and House of Representatives, Trump is likely to get little push-back on issues like his ties with Russia during multiple investigations into that country’s interference with the 2016 US elections.
But the news media, frequently vilified by Trump, is unlikely to turn its focus from him.
“A lot of this has to do with the faith that Americans put in investigative journalism,” noted Delahanty. “Some of this is going to be up to the media to dig, dig, dig, and how Americans respond to that.”
Vercolletti added, “I think Americans are looking to the news media to act as a check on the presidents, where Congress is not willing to do that. The media is now calling it outright when the president is not telling the truth.”
With Walsh asking questions ranging from legislative work, including the failed replacement for the Affordable Care Act, and executive orders such as those relaxing environmental rules, the discussion was provocative.
While it was billed as an analysis of Trump’s first 100 days, the event actually landed on his 74th day as leader of the free world. April 29 will mark his centennial in days.
Walsh, Delahanty and Vercolletti agreed that people in the United States – and around the world – have come to expect the unexpected from the non-traditional businessman-turned-politician.
“It has been a very eventful almost-100 days,” noted Walsh in her introduction.
Later, Vercolletti said there is little to compare Trump with in terms of the public tone he has set.
“A lot of what we’re seeing – like President Trump accusing former President Obama of ordering a wiretap on him – has not happened before,” said Vercolletti, adding in Trump’s penchant for tweeting out his anger in the early morning hours.
But looking back in history, there are some comparisons.
Walsh said the whole idea of judging a president at the 100-day mark started in 1933 with Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1933, and was repeated with John F. Kennedy in 1961, both who had controversial elections and made quick changes when they took office.
“The gold standard remains FDR for sheer impact in a brief period of time,” said Vercolletti. FDR took office at the height of the Great Depression and quickly set into motion the recovery plans known as the New Deal, aimed at putting people back to work and building the country’s infrastructure.
JFK’s first 100 days may be best remembered for his misguided order to invade Cuba, which did not happen.
Delahanty said of Trump’s early administration, “My sense is that there is a lot more uncertainty right now over what’s to come next.”
Panelists also agreed that Trump’s low – and falling – popularity is hurting his ability to win over Congress, despite Republicans being the majority in both House and Senate. The defeat of the move to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act – it fell without a vote – is a case in point that may be repeated as Trump moves for more legislation.
The Russian factor – there are multiple investigations going on now into Russia’s interference with the US elections, and high-level Trump administration ties to that country – has eroded his popularity and may continue to hurt him, they said.
“This is a wholly unprecedented development in modern American history,” said Delahanty. “It has the potential to cause a break between the Republican party and President Trump.”
But, just 74 days in, it is too early to make predictions, they said.