WASHINGTON (AFP) — Donald Trump faced the sober realities of his office Saturday as he marked the 100th day of a presidency stamped by chaos and confusion, but he will also take political succor in a campaign-style rally among core supporters.
Under a relentless spotlight since stunning the world in November with an improbable victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton, the 45th president of the United States has struggled to convert his campaign promises into tangible achievements.
His bid to repeal and replace his predecessor’s landmark health care reforms have foundered in Congress, where many of his legislative priorities have been tripped up by cold political gamesmanship.
Funding for his promised wall along the US border with Mexico, for example, needed to be stripped out of a federal funding bill in order to prevent a government shutdown.
His tax plan, hastily unveiled this past week in hopes of burnishing his first 100 days with a success story, has been savaged as a multi-billion-dollar giveaway to the wealthy and a plan that will send the national debt soaring.
Trump has signed dozens of executive orders, including several that roll back Obama-era regulations on industry or lift bans on oil and gas drilling, efforts widely praised by Republican lawmakers and voters.
But his most high-profile order, a temporary ban on citizens from several Muslim-majority countries entering the United States, was twice blocked in US courts.
Nevertheless, he put on a brave face in discussing the early days of his presidency.
“The first 100 days of my administration has been just about the most successful in our country’s history,” he said in his weekly address on Friday.
“I don’t think anybody has done what we’ve been able to do in 100 days, so we’re very happy,” he added to reporters Friday, remarking that he nevertheless believes the 100-day milestone to be arbitrary, “a false standard.”
As if he were escaping the pressures of the office, Trump is scheduled to attend a Saturday evening rally in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, where he is expected to return to much of the campaign rhetoric that has enthralled his base.
It is a setting where he appears most comfortable — in front of adoring crowds — and where he can at least temporarily shut out some of the criticism that he is a political novice struggling to earn respect and trust at home and overseas.
Trump spokesman Sean Spicer defended the president for holding the rally Saturday, scheduled for the same time as the White House Correspondents Association dinner.
Although past presidents have routinely attended the Washington event, Trump boycotted it this year, highlighting his disdain for the media.
“It’s not just about the correspondents dinner,” Spicer said of the rally. “It’s about an opportunity for him to talk to voters that elected him, what he’s been able to accomplish in the first 100 days.”
But at this stage of his presidency, Trump is the least popular US leader in modern times — even if his core supporters still fully support him.
Democrats gleefully described his opening century mark on Friday as a slow-motion train wreck, a period of dramatically diminished stability, legislative failures and broken campaign pledges.
Top House Democrat Nancy Pelosi offered failing grades for Trump’s “starkly dismal” first 100 days.
“Budget: F. Creating jobs: F. Draining the swamp: F. Health care: F-minus,” she told reporters.
Republicans have united on a bright spot, however: Trump’s appointment of the conservative judge Neil Gorsuch as the newest justice of the Supreme Court.
But warning signs have tempered any positivity, including Friday’s Commerce Department announcement that US economic growth slid to its lowest level in three years during the first quarter of 2017.
Complicating Trump’s presidency is a potential scandal that has been hovering over the administration like a drone: Russia.
Congress and the FBI are conducting a series of investigations into Moscow’s apparent interference in last year’s US elections, and whether there was any collusion between Trump associates and Russian officials.
Rising global tensions are also preoccupying the White House. The United States has pledged to step up sanctions to force North Korea to resume dialogue over its nuclear program, as Trump warned of the risk of a “major conflict” with Pyongyang.
On Friday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson took Trump’s message to the United Nations, where he sounded a global call to confront the North Korean nuclear threat and urged Beijing to use its leverage to rein in Pyongyang and avert “catastrophic consequences.”
Ratcheting up the rhetoric, North Korea responded early Saturday by test-firing another ballistic missile.