The IAP is hopefully optimistic about the POTUS (President of the United States) #45, but we are beginning our ‘Scorecard’ for President Trump’s Administration to evaluate this new president - after all, as President Truman said, as well as having a plaque on his desk with the sentiment:
“The Buck Stops Here”
During the ‘transition’ rush, Trump and his pre-administration cadre had the daunting task of vetting and appointing several thousand people to positions in the administration. While not able to accomplish this task, Trump did a good job getting several key positions filled. Not all of the appointees required confirmation hearings, but those who required such hearings got underway January 10th of 2017.
Of the cabinet appointments, alone, Trump had only one blip, when he picked retired US Army General Mike Flynn to fill the National Security Advisor position. Flynn resigned after three weeks and retired US Army General H.R. McMasters replaced Flynn. Despite significant opposition to several of his nominees, Trump got his way with his picks, losing only one, Secretary of Labor appointee Andrew Puzder who withdrew due to opposition (replaced by the Trump’s first Latino cabinet member, Alex Acosta, who served on the NLRB in the Bush Administration). He kept two appointees from the previous administration: James Comey as Director of the FBI and Janet Yellen as Federal Reserve Chair.
Generally, in the estimation of most observers Trumps selections have several hits and misses. Reince Preibus as Chief of Staff, coming over from the RNC Chair, was a no-brainer. Steve Bannon appointment as ‘Chief Strategist’ and member of the National Security Team didn’t last the full 100 days – thank goodness. Preibus’ job is in the background and Bannon was too much of a ‘bomb-thrower’ to work well with others, so both were ‘as expected.’
Others have been surprises such as the former governor of South Carolina, Nikki Haley as Ambassador to the UN; appointing a couple of former rivals for the POTUS Chair in Dr. Ben Carson becoming the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, and Texas Gov. Rick Perry as Secretary of Energy; selecting Linda McMahon, CEO of the Professional Wrestling empire of WWE and CEO of Womens Leadership Live LLC, as Secretary of the Small Business Administration.
Trump has eleven (11) appointments which previously held elected office, four (4) former governors, one (1) former senator, four (4) former congressmen and two (2) former state attorney generals (Gov. Halley [UN Amb.], Perry [Secty of Energy]were joined by Gov Terry Bransten of Iowa [Amb. to China] and Gov. Sonny Perdue of Georgia [Secty of Agriculture]; Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama [Atty. Gen.]; Congressmen Tom Price of Georgia [Secty of Health and Health Services], Mike Pompeo of Kansas [Director of the CIA], Ryan Zinke of Montana [Secty of Interior], and Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina [Office of Management and Budget]; Scott Pruett, former AG of Oklahoma [EPA]. Then there is the wife of Sen Mitch McConnell, Elaine Chao, who was Secretary of Labor under Bush-#43 who is now the Secretary of Transportation.
Trump has also tapped into his business connections with Goldman-Sachs hedge fund manager and Dune Capital’s Steve Mnuchin for Secretary of Treasury; billionaire business man Wilbur Ross as Secretary of Commerce, or former CEO of Exxon/Mobil Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State, President of Goldman Sachs Gary Cohn as Director of the National Economic Council, or Seema Verma, CEO and founder of SVC [Administrator of the Center for Medicare/Medicaid]; and those are only a few of the ones we know about!
Of the over 4000 appointments possible, several hundred have been filled. Several hundred more have been kept from the previous administration, mostly a bunch of Federal Attorneys and lower level administrators. One important White House staffer has only recently been filled, the White House Communication Director. March 6th President Trump named Michael Dubke would be the White House Communication Director, after several turned down the job. Dubke is the founder of a conservative communications firm Crossroads Media.
One bit of controversy, in addition to the Russian involvement and influence in the Election, is the role of Jared Kushner, Trumps son-in-law, and Ivanka Trump-Kushner advisory roles at a no-pay/volunteer status. Presidents have been exempted from nepotism regulations incumbent on all other elected officials and bureaucrats, but most of the public aren’t so sure about it. This is one issue we will have yet to see where it goes.
Who is Advising President Trump?
Several critics (among them Joel Skousen and Robert Gorgoglione) have apprehensions regarding Trump. He is an unknown quantity. A billionaire businessman, never having held elected office, having pandered and donated to both Republicans and Democrats, shifting stands on issues . . . it is no wonder there are questions. And then there is his habit of tweeting, the first president to use twitter so extensively!
Despite pledging to “Drain the Swamp,” Trump has put a lot of ‘alligators’ into appointed positions (as obliquely mentioned above). But who really has his ear? Who is he listening to? Who is advising him?
As Americans have seen before what the wrong advisors can do; namely, get the President (and the Nation) in trouble with wrong-headed assumptions, ill-fated advice, etc. President Carter was one such president, as have been several others over matters such as different views on economics, critical evaluations of different countries, whether or not we should invade or do battle, intervening here or there, etc.
Skousen states flatly: “I think Trump would like to keep his promises, but he doesn’t have the intellectual ammunition or good advice on how to counter all the demands and machinations of Washington insiders.” (aka: alligators of ‘The Swamp’ – see those starred below *) Among those ‘alligators’ is the has-been Newt Gingrich, a former speaker of the house (’95-’99) and Congressman from Georgia, infamous for his ‘Contract (ON or) for America.” Again Skousen pointed states: “Gingrich is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, very slick and dangerous. Even Trump is wary of him privately, and that is why Gingrich works the Trump advisors.”
Quoting a NY Times (22 April 2017) on the cadre of Trump’s White House advisors: “(President Donald) Trump’s West Wing aides, like President Bill Clinton’s staff two decades before, say they sometimes cringe at the input from people they can’t control, with consequences they can’t predict. Knowing these advisers - who are mostly white, male and older - is a key to figuring out the words coming from Mr.Trump’s mouth and his Twitter feed.”
Among the ’20+ Trump Touchstones’ are:
Rupert Murdock (FoxNews Mogul)
Chris Ruddy (NewsMax CEO)
Sean Hannity (Fox Host)
Stephen Schwarzman (CEO Blackstone Group)
Roger J. Stone Jr. (claims access; however, he was ‘fired’ from the inner circle, but he loves the attention)
Richard LeFrak (lifelong friend, Mar-a-Lago member, a ‘soothing voice’ for Trump)
Sheri A Dillon (Trump Tax Attorney -- Michael Cohen, is Trump’s personal lawyer)
Corey Lewandowski (Trump’s first campaign manager, who never went away)
Thomas Barrack Jr (loyal fellow Billionaire & Peer)
Steve Roth (RealEstate Tycoon)
Phil Ruffin (business partner for 20 years)
Carl Icahn (wealthy 81-yr-old Peer)
Ike Perlmutter (Marvel Comics CEO)
Robert Kraft (NE Patriots owner, Democrat & Mar-a-Lago crony)
Melania Trump (the First Lady)
The Sons: Donald Jr., Eric Trump, and especially his Son-in-law Jared Kutchner (married to Ivanka, who could also be counted!)
Chris Christie* (Gov of N.J.)
Paul Ryan *(Spkr of the House)
Newt Gingrich *(former Spkr of the House, ’95-’99; Congressman from Georgia -- two former Gingrich staffers and a spokesman work in the West Wing).
Many of the above are consulted off and on, but at least one a week, by POTUS45 . . .except for Stone, who is literally past-tense!
His First 100
As of April 27, Trump has survived his first 100 days. Granted, the 100 day benchmark is not a good or viable measure of ANY administration, but it is an easy point to compare ALL administ-rations, so we are stuck with it. Realizing it takes more than 100 days to learn what a POTUS can and is meant to do, let’s look at just that as a benchmark for the Trump Administration. What has he done, not claimed to have done but actually accomplished?
Of the many areas one could ‘measure’ the 100 days, where does one start? With the myriad claims? How does one check them all?? PolitiFact? GOP? The White House?? Yeah, right!
Claims such as:
“President Trump has passed more legislation in his first 100 days than any president since Harry Truman” by Tom McClintock -- PolitiFact Truth-O-Meter says: MOSTLY TRUE, Lots of signings, but no major legislation; a meaningless stat (it must have been all those Executive Orders, right?)
Pres. Trump’s claim: “For the first time in the modern political era, we have confirmed a new justice (to the Supreme Court) in the first 100 days.” -- PolitiFact Truth-O-Meter says: MOSTLY TRUE, one of the few to have the chance.
Steve Mnuchin, Trump’s Treasury Secty., claimed Trump “has given more financial disclosure than anybody else.” -- PolitiFact Truth-O-Meter says: FALSE, Trump hasn’t released his tax returns.
Trump claim: “The Ninth Circuit has an overturned record ‘close to 80%’” -- PolitiFact Truth-O-Meter says: HALF TRUE, there’s two ways to look at it.
Center for American Progress Action Fund claimed “A trip to Mar-a-Lago costs taxpayers approximately $3.6 million, according to a Government Accountability Office report.” -- PolitiFact Truth-O-Meter says: HALF TRUE, likely costs millions.
Trump’s claim on whether NATO is “obsolete.” -- PolitiFact Truth-O-Meter says: FULL FLIP FLOP, reason for flip-flopping is suspect.
Marco Rubio’s claim: The Obama administration’s 2013 Syria proposal “had no clear objective,” while Trump’s Syria strike “had a clear strategic objective.” -- PolitiFact Truth-O-Meter says: FALSE, faulty memory of 2013.
“Donald Trump went into the White House with a mandate to break with tradition. “In many ways, he’s embracing it. “As he marks 100 days in office, Trump has adopted more establishment-friendly positions, as well as habits of his predecessor, than his campaign persona let on. “He has changed his position on a dozen key promises and positions, our analysis found. “He’s spent numerous weekends away from the White House at his private Florida retreat, after years of lambasting President Obama for traveling on taxpayer dollars. And he is outpacing Obama’s time on the green.
“And despite his campaign rallying cry to ‘drain the swamp,’ Trump has filled his White House staff and Cabinet with billionaires, donors, former politicians and Wall Street financiers. “Even as a candidate, it was tough to pin down Trump’s positions. “As president, it appears his changes in position come from learning on the job. “Trump decided that he would no longer call China a currency manipulator, for example, after his first meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Trump told the Wall Street Journal that he learned China hadn’t manipulated its currency for months and that he needs to maintain a good relationship with China to address the North Korea threat. “In an interview with the Associated Press April 21, Trump admitted that when he originally said NATO was ‘obsolete’ during the campaign, he made the claim ‘not knowing much about NATO, now I know a lot about NATO.’ “’Every decision is much harder than you’d normally make,’ he told AP, speaking about how the office has affected him. ‘This is involving death and life and so many things.’” (Tracking Donald Trump’s flip-flops in his first 100 days, by Lauren Carroll, of PolitiFact, April 27, 2017 11:30 a.m.)
‘Regulatory burden’ spread is $7.6 Billion in 100 days
Leaving the flip-flops behind, the American Action Forum has done several pieces on Trump’s successes, so far. One was looking at his regulatory record compared to the past administration’s record. They came up with a regulatory cost difference, just during the first 100 days of Trump and Obama, totaling nearly $4 Billion difference in regulatory burdens – but that’s not all.
An article, by Sam Batkins, puts it “Even though transitions are not a time of peak regulatory activity, President Obama managed to impose $4 Billion in total, net present value regulatory costs, compared to $28 Million from President Trump, or less than one percent of Obama’s total. On an annual basis, the Obama Administration still published more than $2.1 Billion in costs, compared to less than $100 Million during this administration.”
Central to the AAF’s argument was the Executive Order Trump signed “repealing two rules for every new regulation and achieving $0 in net regulatory costs by the end of the fiscal year, this is a necessary condition for the type of significant reform this administration seeks.”
“What is perhaps more striking than the” amount of the Total Final Rule Costs, already mentioned, “is the number of major rules from cabinet agencies during the first 100 days. President Obama approved nine major rules totaling more than $3.1 Billion in burdens. Officially, President Trump has approved zero new major regulations, but the ‘Market Stabilization’ rule for health care markets and an official delay of the ‘Fiduciary Rule’ were both economically significant and will be labeled major soon. However, the Fiduciary Rule delay cut costs by $78 Million and the stabilization measure did not impose any new burdens. Thus, the major rules under the Trump Administration have actually contributed to his vision of fewer regulatory costs.
“There have been several lawsuits aimed at the administration’s regulatory agenda . . . However, even those actions aren’t reflected [here]. It represents only final rules published in the Federal Register from Presidents Obama and Trump. . . .
“With deregulatory actions . . . the tally stands at negative $3.6 Billion for the Trump Administration against $4 Billion for the Obama Administration, a spread of $7.6 Billion in the first 100 days. Even [this] doesn’t represent everything, the other formal delays and executive actions designed to reduce costs and streamline the administrative state. During the course of a four-year presidential term, that could equate to a difference of $111 Billion. And if the negative $3.6 Billion is extended out through the next four years, that could yield a projected $52.5 Billion reduction in regulatory costs. Contrast that to the $501 Billion increase from 2009 to 2012.
“CONCLUSION: Both progressives and conservatives can point to the data here as an example of the success or failure of the first 100 days of regulatory policy. Progressives might note there have been no significant regulatory actions, other than an amendment to the Affordable Care Act and the delay of the Fiduciary Rule. Conservatives might applaud this lack of output as the whole point, one of the cornerstones of the Trump Administration’s domestic policy. For those skeptical that there was going to be a profound difference between the regulatory records of President Obama and President Trump, the $7.6 Billion difference in just the first 100 days should assuage those doubts.”
What does Trump’s One-In, Two-Out Executive Order Do?
This insight from the American Action Forum, authored by Dan Goldbeck and Sam Batkins, explains the “One-In, Two-out “Executive Order this way. This system of regulations requires “ each new regulation put forward, agencies must find at least two to repeal, with an eye toward bringing net regulatory costs to $0 for the fiscal year. It incorporates past regulatory reform concepts – including some from countries like the United Kingdom – and establishes a basic framework for a regulatory budget system in the future. The order has the potential to be historic in scope, but its relative brevity on some issues means the ultimate impact will be a matter of how the administration implements the order.
“The order has two main stages: a ‘regulatory cap’ for Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 and regulatory budgets for subsequent years. For FY2017, it directs agencies to pair ‘any new incremental costs associated with new regulations’ with commensurate cost savings from repealing ‘at least two existing regulations.’ It also directs the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to establish a uniform set of procedures for determining ‘regulatory costs.’ For the subsequent years, it directs agencies to incorp-orate this process into their annual ‘Regulatory Plans’ and gives OMB the duty of establishing an annual regulatory cost cap for each agency, much as it would set a certain spending level in its fiscal budget request. The order also only allows regulations to go forward if they are explicitly included in the ‘Regulatory Plan,’ similar to the ALERT Act (www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/house-bill/1759).
“The basic concept may seem drastic, but certain provisions of the order itself will limit how much and how quickly the administration can implement it. For instance, it requires that whenever agencies repeal old rules they ‘shall do so in accordance with the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) and other applicable law.’ Under APA, an agency must generally publish a notice of proposed rule-making, take public comments, and consider those comments before finalizing that rule. This is a process that takes months, if not years. Although there are exceptions, it is difficult to see the administration taking some sort of shortcut for this process - particularly for any major rescissions - without facing a legal challenge.
“In addition, certain statutorily and judicially mandated rules may be off limits due to the ‘other applicable law’ provision. The order also explicitly excludes rules: ‘issued with respect to a military, national security, or foreign affairs function of the United States;’ ‘related to agency organization, management, or personnel.’
“Beyond those exemptions, the order grants the OMB Director a great deal of flexibility in exempting further categories of rules and particular procedural requirements.
The Executive Order and Regulatory Reform
“Some may find this to be a draconian, haphazard approach, but it is neither a novel idea nor as dramatic as it may seem. Since 2010, the UK has implemented a similar system (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/2010-to-2015-government-policy-business-regulation/2010-to-2015-government-policy-business-regulation); it started with a one-in, one-out approach and has since been expanded to a one-in, three-out approach (www.gov.uk/government-going-further-to-cut-red-tape-by-10-billion). Canada has also implemented a fairly extensive regulatory budget (www.rstreet.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/RSTREET54.pdf), there does not seem to be dramatic downturn in health and safety in either of those countries because of a regulatory budget.
“The nature of such executive reforms is hardly a new idea domestically either. If anything, much of its implementation will build on reform frameworks from the Obama Administration. Although the previous administration generally saw its ‘retrospective review’ impose net regulatory costs, it did make some notable rescissions; it eliminated an extraneous Driver-Vehicle Inspection Report leading to savings of $1.7 Billion and 46 million paperwork hours annually. Significant savings are there. It’s simply a matter of how rigorously regulators look for them.
“Congressional reform measures will likely help bolster and clarify some issues of this order. As AAF has found, potential cost savings from Congressional Review Act resolutions introduced this week could create roughly $40 Billion in savings (see above) by rescinding Obama Administration rules that this order may not immediately affect. These resolutions are just a part of a full set of legislative proposals on the horizon (https://www.theregreview.org/2017/01/23/goldbeck-legislative-developments-regulatory-state-2017/) that could change the basic mechanics of the regulatory state. Finally, the regulatory budget program establishes an executive branch regime to work in concert with the framework Congress is considering in its overall budget process reform proposals (www.budget.house.gov/uploadedfiles/bpr-shortsummary-30nov2016.pdf).
“CONCLUSION: President Trump checked off another item on his regulatory ‘To-Do List’: Building on the inaugural regulatory moratorium, establishing this program may help to constrain regulatory costs in the future. With more than $1.1 Trillion in regulatory costs since 2005, there ought to be some savings for regulators to capture. And although this is a historic executive order, its expansiveness and effectiveness will largely depend on how the administration implements it.”
Checking out one ‘Trump-tracker’
You can literally find anything on the internet, right? Google “Trump’s 100 days” and you get plenty of options. One is called the trumptracker (https://trumptracker.github.io) of the 175 items listed (we won’t list them all herein), but it is divided into multiple categories: promises of First 100 days (29 items),culture (15 items), economy (46 items), government (10 items), immigration (13 items), indigenous (4 items), security (22 items), health (8 items), world (30 items), education (2 items).
For example, looking at immigration – one of his signature topics during the campaign and election season – there are more than a dozen items listed. They range from “deporting ‘criminal illegal immigrants’ within one hour of being sworn in;” to “Bring the ‘good’ undocumented immigrants back legally after deportation. (In a CNN interview in July 2015, Trump said, ‘I want to move them out, and we’re going to move them back in and let them be legal, but they have to be in here legally.’);” to “Dreamers can maybe stay” referring to the ‘Dream Act’ pathway to legal status stressed in the late Bush (POTUS43) days and the Obama (POTUS44) era; to “end birthright citizenship,” (good luck with that one!); to his “Build a Wall; Trump’s campaign began with a promise to build a wall across the US Southern border and deport the country’s 11 million undocumented immigrants;” to a 2016 idea where Trump said he was “against closing the borders entirely, against accepting Syrian refugees in the U.S., barring Syrian refugees from entering the country and kick out any who are already living here; Trump says wealthy Persian Gulf nations like Saudi Arabia should pay to set up a heavily guarded ‘safe zone’ in Syria;”etc.
Trump is still pursuing the “Wall” and has increased efforts to recruit additional border agents for the ‘Southern border.’ He withdrew a request for initial funding in the FY2018 budget or interim operating resolution; but has still stated his intention to keep the “Wall” one of his priorities.
His two largest lists of items fall into the Economy (with 46 items) and World (a full 30 items) categories, with a close third being his 100 days portion (totaling 29 items).
Example from Economy include: “Trump supports an audit of the FED;” “Invest in infrastructure first;” “Grow the nation’s economy by at least six (6%) percent;” “Get rid of Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act;” “Simplify the US tax code, reduce tax brackets to 25% for highest, 15% for corporations, eliminate the ‘marriage penalty’ and alternate minimum tax [started];” “cut the budget by 20% by renegotiating;” “pass a huge tax cut, double the Bush43 cut;” “get rid of the national debt in eight (8) years;” etc.
Examples from World are: “Put Carl Icahn in charge of trade negotiations with China and Japan, pick a ‘killer’ ambassador to Japan, unlike the current ambassador, Carolyn Kennedy;” “Negotiate the release of all US prisoners held in Iran before taking office (Five hostages were released including Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian; Trump has taken some of the credit);” “Renegotiate the Iran Nuclear Deal;” “Ensure that Israel receives maximum military, strategic and tactical cooperation from the US . . . Israel and the US benefit tremendously from what each country brings to the table – the relationship is a two-way street;” “cut off funds for the UN Human Rights Council; etc.”
Examples from 100 days include: “Propose a Constitutional Amendment to impose term limits on all members of Congress;” “reduce federal workforce through attrition (exempting military, public safety, and public health);” “require for every new regulation, two existing federal regulations must be eliminated” [DONE]; “selecting a replacement for Justice Scalia” [Accomplished & Confirmed!] “Suspend immigration from terror-prone regions” [Attempted but halted by Court Orders]; “Announce intention to renegotiate NAFTA” [DONE – although he also said “or withdraw from the deal” which he recently stated is ‘off the table’]; etc.
There are lots more than what we were able to list here, but a fuller exposition can be made by putting the url (https://trumptracker.github.io) in your browser and perusing it yourself.
And the extent of the other information out there, among both the ‘fake news media’ and the ‘fourth estate’ could fill volumes already. We pledge to keep up and double check both the critics and the overtly-pro ‘supporters’ . . . objectivity is needed, if not required, in taking an overall look at the current or any resident of the White House.