U.S. President Donald Trump (C) gestures to media before boarding Marine One departing for Andrews Air Force Base en route to West Palm Beach, Florida, at White House in Washington D.C.,the United States, Feb. 3, 2017. (Xinhua/Yin Bogu)
by Matthew Rusling
WASHINGTON, Feb. 20 (Xinhua) -- Donald Trump's first month as U.S. president has seen more controversy than that of any other commander-in-chief in recent memory. While many blast him for several missteps, others argue that he has got a number of things right.
Others still contend that it's too early to fully assess the billionaire-turned-president.
FULFILLING CAMPAIGN PROMISES ON DOMESTIC ISSUES
Trump's outspoken manner has put him in the media spotlight for over a year now, and the controversy continued in his first month in office.
In the past month, Trump has been fighting an unprecedented war of words with the mainstream U.S. media.
He repeatedly slammed some U.S. journalists and major news outlets as "the most dishonest human beings on earth," "fake media" and "fake news" for their largely negative news coverage of his administration.
But the past 30 days witnessed Trump's rapid fulfilling of his campaign promises on domestic issues with a number of executive orders, including some that have caused controversy and criticism.
"I would say that Trump has had a challenging first month as he has sought to execute an ambitious agenda," said Dan Mahaffee, an analyst with the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress.
In terms of what he has done right, Trump has continued to pursue his policy goals and foster support from his very strident base by holding to his campaign promises, Mahaffee told Xinhua.
Meanwhile, Mahaffee noted the Trump team's "poor planning of some measures, the challenges posed by an incomplete roster of officials and difficulties in working with the Washington establishment."
Darrell West, vice president and director of governance studies of the Brookings Institution, said that the Trump administration had a slow first month, as many of his top appointments have not been confirmed and most top positions don't even have a nominee.
"It could be months before there is a fully functioning government," West told Xinhua.
This has prevented Trump from doing anything other than issuing some executive orders, and Republicans have not passed any major legislation yet, he said.
West added that Trump's best move has been nominating a Supreme Court Justice who has received a positive reaction in general. "This may be his most impactful move," he said.
A major setback in Trump's domestic moves was the controversial travel ban rolled out in a bid to keep terrorists from sneaking into the country.
The ban, which bars citizens from seven predominantly Islamic nations from entering the United States, was rejected by a federal judge in Washington state, whose ruling was later upheld by a federal appeals court.
Some have blasted the ban as anti-Muslim and un-American, while others said the problem was mainly with the rollout, as it came as a surprise to many airport customs agents and government agencies. It led to the detention of innocent travelers with no ties to terrorism.
The ban, as well as Trump's order to build a long wall along the border with Mexico, triggered widespread protests at home and abroad.
MIXED FEELINGS ON TRUMP'S ANTI-TRADE MOVES
One of Trump's first orders of business was scrapping the longstanding North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) signed by the United States, Canada and Mexico. He also ordered to quit the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), an Asia-Pacific free trade deal strongly promoted by former U.S. President Barack Obama.
Labor economists said the NAFTA has indeed, as Trump said, been a bad deal for Americans as it has led to massive job losses over the last two decades.
However, some economists said that simply taking an ax to it could disrupt trade, as U.S.-Mexico supply chains are now tightly intertwined and the scrapping of NAFTA could lead to price hikes.
On jobs, there are also mixed feelings on Trump's recent threat for a border tax. A couple of companies have already scrapped plans to set up factories in Mexico and opted to keep some operations in the United States.
Supporters said that finally someone in Washington is standing up for blue-collar folks after decades of job losses, wage stagnation and a bleak economic picture for America's rural areas.
But on the flip side, critics have called the move anti-capitalist and dangerous populism that could ultimately lead to price increases for certain products and have a negative impact on trade.
TRUMP'S FINE-TUNING OF FOREIGN POLICY
When it came to foreign policy, Trump in his first month has "fine-tuned" his positions on certain important issues.
Notably, Trump has backed down from his tough stance on the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) by reaffirming his support despite his previous criticism of the alliance as "obsolete."
During recent visits to a European security conference in Munich, Germany, both U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and Defense Secretary James Mattis reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to the NATO, though urging its members to share more of the financial burden of protecting European security by increasing defense spending.
The biggest setback for Trump's foreign policy initiatives was perhaps the strong resistance he has encountered in his attempt to reset the tense U.S. ties with Russia, which was regarded by many Americans as the top strategic rival.
Michael Flynn, Trump's former national security adviser, was forced to resign last week amid criticism over his phone call with Russian Ambassador to the United States Sergey Kislyak in late December.
Flynn reportedly indicated in the call that the Trump administration would review the U.S. sanctions imposed on Russia by the Obama administration.
On China, Trump initially irritated Beijing by claiming that the one-China policy was open for negotiation. But earlier this month he moved to smooth things over in a phone call with Chinese President Xi Jinping, promising to honor the one-China policy.
Trump's change of stance "suggests that he is willing to listen to his top advisers and change his mind, and that is reassuring," Bonnie Glaser, a China expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Xinhua.
But experts cautioned that it is still too early to evaluate Trump's foreign policy as he has been in office for only a month.
"We have glimpsed only discrete aspects of the policy, but have not been presented with a coherent and articulated strategy," said Douglas Paal, vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
As political appointees from the prior administration are leaving their jobs and it takes months for those jobs to be filled, "outside observers need to be patient," said Glaser.
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