On Saturday Donald Trump marks 100 days in the White House and the majority of the world’s media judge his performance as well below par.
They note his failures or his watering down of policies that were major points of his election campaign: repealing and replacing Obamacare, building a wall on the border with Mexico, banning entry to people from some Muslim countries, radical tax reform, scrapping trade agreements.
This verdict is hypocritical: Trump’s critics blame him for not carrying out policies which, had he implemented them, would have come at a greater cost to his country and the world.
In this case, Trump’s failure is the best result we could expect. It is similarly unjust to accuse Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras for his abrupt change of course after the referendum in 2015: Sticking to the wrong course would have cost the country far more than the loss of prime ministerial face.
However, the combination of inertia and governmental arrogance are causing damage that may come to rival the cost of what we avoided two years ago.
In Trump’s case, it’s not that he hasn’t tried to implement his policies. It’s just that he failed – because of inexperience, because of character.
He hasn’t copied Tsipras, who confessed his “illusions” on some issues, but at least on healthcare and North Korea, the US president has said that things are more complicated than they appeared.
Countless warnings from analysts and political rivals had not reached him.
On military issues, the missile attack on Syria and the dropping of the “mother of all bombs” in Afghanistan are not minor issues.
From their meager results, though, they reveal a tendency to improvisation rather than deep strategic thinking. (Let’s not forget Trump’s description of enjoying a “most beautiful” chocolate cake with his Chinese counterpart while missiles fell on Syria.)
Trump has the air of one who found himself in highest office without trying, just because he wished it. Of course he had to collect 340 million dollars (of which 66 million was out of his own pocket) for his campaign.
The fact that he spent about half of what Hillary Clinton did shows that his entertainer’s charisma and his absolute views and simplistic promises were enough. It was Trump’s time.
In our case, Tsipras’s time came after a national bankruptcy and two bailout agreements worth hundreds of millions of euros. SYRIZA is not responsible for what came earlier, but after Tsipras’s 825 days in Maximos Mansion the problems are worse and solutions more difficult.
In both instances, we see that sometimes it’s best that politicians don’t implement what they promise. This shows a basic problem in politics: It’s easier to get elected by lying than by telling the truth; though it is difficult to govern with the truth, with lies it is impossible.