President Trump: One Year Later

By Eric Ham

U.S. President Donald Trump’s improbable rise to the White House caught many by surprise. Outspent and out-staffed, his unexpected victory over former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, had Washington reeling. Still, since taking the oath of office, his Administration has been anything but smooth. Stunning setbacks, crippling defeats, and perennial controversies have marked his one-year in office. Yet through it all, the former real-estate tycoon and reality television star continues to reshape Washington and the geo-political landscape issue-by-issue; challenge-by-challenge; crisis-by-crisis.

Despite a less-than-stellar record of legislative accomplishments, undoubtedly the Trump Administration will point to a plethora of achievements since winning the highest office in the land. A record-setting and record-breaking stock market; more judicial appointments, including the appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court, than any American president in recent history; the roll-back of several Barack Obama-era regulations ranging from environmental protections to criminal justice reform. President Trump’s “Make America Great Again” is becoming the new reality and Americans are not the only ones being impacted by these seismic shifts.

On his first visit to Brussels for the NATO Summit, the mercurial White House occupant unnerved some with his heated calls for more members to meet their financial obligations to the historic multilateral organization. Moreover, stalwart U.S. alliances are now frayed and hanging in the balance amid the president’s continued support of incendiary and racist propaganda. Already U.K. and German leadership have voiced strong denunciations of actions taken by President Trump. A stark contrast to the reception granted to Obama during his tenure. Yet, while some relationships have become strained, others have been strengthened. Once icy relations with Israel and Saudi Arabia under the Obama Administration have thawed and these Middle Eastern nations are enjoying a robust revival in the Trump era.

While some relationships have become strained, others have been strengthened.

The toughest and most demanding job in the land is challenging for even the most seasoned of politicians. Former President Lyndon B. Johnson, who was a master of the Senate, grew weary and broken from a failed Vietnam policy and decided not to run for re-election. His successor, Richard Nixon resigned in disgrace to avoid impeachment after the Watergate break-in. Debilitating foreign and domestic setbacks led to a surprise challenge from within his own party for Democratic President Jimmy Carter.

Now, Trump, the political neophyte has been beset by a cavalcade of crises as he grapples with the limits to his presidential powers. As the Chairman and CEO of the Trump Organization, a private company, his decision is final. But, the U.S. government does not work that way. Even the president has to answer to the U.S. Constitution and the norms and customs governing bureaucratic institutions. No doubt the enormous breadth and depth of the presidency is humbling and overwhelming, especially when compared with the operation he’s led for decades.

The verdict is still out on the Trump presidency.

The verdict is still out on the Trump presidency. Even by the most diplomatic standards, his first year in office has been an unmitigated disaster—much of his own making. Indictments; guilty pleas; unheard of turn-over in the Executive Branch; and mounting losses have left the Trump Administration demoralized and deflated. Many political observers and historians are doubtful of his ability to orchestrate a vast turnaround, lift his presidency, and personally rise to the ideals of the Oval Office as immortalized by the framers of the constitution. Russian collusion, claims of racism, and nuclear war are just a few of the very real threats plaguing this Administration. As President Trump moves into his second year, the world is watching and waiting for American leadership’s re-emergence.

The world cheered when America (under Obama) restored its stature on the world stage: from ending the Iraq War to saving the U.S. economy from the greatest collapse since the Great Depression, to re-establishing relations with foreign states such as Iran and Cuba. But now, it appears America is absent.

Under Trump, the U.S. positions on climate change; global trade; Jerusalem, Iran and more have the U.S. standing alone. In the past where America moved, the world followed. Now, not so much.

“Making America Great Again” was a great campaign slogan, but as president that greatness can only be achieved when reaching upward not stooping low.

Eric Ham (Atlantik-Brücke Young Leader 2011), is co-author of the bestseller THE GOP CIVIL WAR: Inside the Battle for the Soul of the Republican Party.

Stay up-to-date and subscribe to our newsletters RECAP and INSIGHTS.