After six chaotic months, can Trump save his presidency?

Washington, Wednesday

Donald Trump’s first six months in the White House have been a riot of scandal, chaos and outrage that — absent a major course correction — could spell doom for his entire administration.

All US presidents face crises that seem to sweep the White House from its moorings. Abraham Lincoln struggled through a bloody Civil War. Bill Clinton was humiliated by muck-raking investigations. Barack Obama took five months to plug a devastating oil spill and even longer to right the economy.

But few presidents have caused such outrage or faced such a multitude of crises as Donald Trump has in his first six months.

“To be consumed by scandal from day one is not good, no major legislation is not good, to have approval ratings that are so low and the potential for Republican defections, all of this is not what you expect,” said Julian Zelizer, a professor of history at Princeton University.

Trump swaggered into office on January 20 declaring Washington was broke and only a killer businessman such as himself could fix it. That promise looks increasingly threadbare.

The White House remains understaffed, under-skilled and struggling to attract new talent. Existing staff there admit to being exhausted and demoralised.

Trump’s political agenda has been blown to smithereens: The border “wall” has not been built, NAFTA has not been torn up, the Iran deal is still in place and Obamacare remains the law of the land.

Even with Republicans in control of both houses of Congress, the influential and nominally supportive Drudge Report declared this the “MOST UNPRODUCTIVE CONGRESS IN 164 YEARS.”

Oratorically, Trump has continued where his campaign left off, picking fights with the press, judges, his own party, Democrats and FBI director James Comey, whom he fired.

All the while, a drip, drip of evidence has amplified allegations that his family and aides sought help from Russia to tip the election against Hillary Clinton. There have been bright spots.

The Islamic State group has been virtually defeated in Mosul and in Raqa, the capital of the so-called caliphate, is besieged.

Trump has fulfilled his promise to scrap a trans-pacific trade deal, and successfully appointed conservative judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. But Trump wins have been few and far between.

“I don’t see these six months as a success and it’s hard for me to see the argument that it was,” said Zelizer. But presidents can and do right the course.

Bill Clinton’s first term was notoriously difficult and like Trump he suffered an early and embarrassing legislative defeat on healthcare. Trump’s character, however, could equally prove his administration’s worst enemy. — AFP

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