The extremes of despondency and defiance mark the first anniversary of Donald Trump in office, Martin Blaszczyk writes.
We need look no further for symbolism at the first anniversary of US President Donald Trump’s inauguration than the fact that he had to miss his own anniversary party. When his administration was unable to resolve the budget impasse in Congress, it led to another partial shutdown of federal government functions.
A year on from taking office, this most polarising of presidents is attracting predictably divergent reviews – a gamut well-captured by a mixed report card from USA Today contributors.
Libertarian, nativist and distinctly right-of-centre commentators have praised the continuing strong economic performance which began under Obama, immigration restrictions, and the overall deregulation, tax cuts and ‘small government’ agenda.
In the National Review, Deroy Murdock asks: are you better off now than you were one year ago? Using a string of laudable economic data he shows that, for most Americans, the answer is a resounding ‘yes’, going on to debunk the major accusations against Trump. On Fox News, Allen Guelzo claims that “the dirigible of anti-Trumpism is assuming an amusingly deflated look” on the back of a string of recent policy and legislative “successes”.
Right wing Breitbart News, now minus former boss Steve Bannon, only bemoans the failure of the Republican-controlled Congress to secure the US $18 billion funding required to build The Wall along the border with Mexico.
For most of the rest of the mainstream press, however, the tale is one of dysfunction, distraction and divisiveness. In an extended review of Michael Wolff’s expose of White House politics, Fire and Fury, Time magazine’s Michael Duffy and Nancy Gibbs call Trump the “Unpresident”. They conclude that he finds himself in “an exhausting, even debilitating, life for a 71-year-old, much less one with little curiosity or sense of mission beyond self-interest. The most thin-skinned public figure imaginable has been exposed to the elements. And he doesn’t like them.”
Similarly, in the Washington Post, Ruth Marcus editorialises that “President Trump is exceptionally ill-suited to the task of fixing our fractured politics. He has no perspective, no patience and no knowledge of what that might take.” In GQ, Tanya Gold sets out to mock the president but quickly descends into despondency.
Heading down under for a more detached view, The Age calls the US “a fading empire”, concluding it exhibits all the classic signs: dysfunctional government, economic stagnation, military overreach and a fraying body politic. In Australian Outlook, Mark Beeson captures the uncertainty and anxiety of a world order rapidly losing hegemonic American leadership.
In the end, it is the people who will decide. According to Gallup, Trump ended his first year in office with the lowest average approval rating for a first-term president in history – 39 per cent – a figure comprising mostly Republican voters. In fact, across the spectrum of his campaign promises and pronouncements, the numbers are not good.
What permeates the limited commentary about Trump’s first year is a sense of fatigue. For supporters, it is a hoarseness that comes with defending a president constantly under attack. For opponents, it is utter dismay at the state of the office. Both sides have at least three more years of this battle to look forward to.