World

Trump still grappling with presidency

US leader approaches 100 days in office with poor approval ratings

WASHINGTON: From the resounding setbacks in Congress to the stunning policy flip-flops, Mr Donald Trump has certainly been confronted with a steep learning curve in his opening months at the White House.

While the US president has shown a capacity to change both his tone and his positions, Mr Trump has struggled to convey a clearly articulated worldview.

As the symbolic milestone of his 100th day in power, which falls on Saturday, draws near, a cold, hard reality is setting in for the billionaire who promised Americans he would "win, win, win" for them.

At this stage of his presidency Mr Trump is the least popular US leader in modern history.

The 70-year-old Trump, whose election victory unleashed a political shockwave around the world, is still clinging to the take-no-prisoners, unpredictable, impulsive style that made him a property mogul and reality TV star.

But the onetime anti-establishment candidate who promised to "drain the swamp" in Washington appears to have recognised - with a mix of naivete and craftiness - that he has one of the most difficult jobs in the world.

In just his first few weeks in office, the federal courts halted his proposed travel ban and Congress failed to move ahead on health care reform.

"Nobody knew that health care could be so complicated," Mr Trump said during his efforts to see Obamacare - his Democratic predecessor's signature domestic policy achievement - repealed and replaced.

"After listening for 10 minutes, I realised it's not so easy," he said, after talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping about North Korea.

The demands and constraints of the Oval Office - where every word uttered counts - are quite different from the daily stump speeches Mr Trump made on the campaign trail.

Who to turn to for advice? Whose advice to heed? What kind of relationship to build with Congress, even when it is nominally controlled by one's own party? How much latitude to afford the State and Defence Departments?

Mr Trump's numerous policy pivots and resets also raise questions about the very definition of his fluid brand of "Trumpism" - which revolves around his ubiquitous "America First" slogan, a seemingly simple idea that is nevertheless tough to explain.

The internal squabbles within the Trump White House have not helped the president move forward with articulating his long-term vision.

All too aware that he does not have much to show so far, Mr Trump lashed out with a tweet decrying the "ridiculous standard of the first 100 days" - one that his team has repeatedly said was vital.

Mr Trump, who regularly talks about possibly running for re-election, has more than 1,300 days ahead of him until his first term ends. - AFP

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