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NOLAN FINLEY

Finley: On his 1st report card, give Trump a C

Nolan Finley
The Detroit News

Judging Donald Trump’s presidency based on the first 100 days is as foolish as he was in promising to deliver his entire agenda during that short sprint.

We still don’t know how this will turn out. Trump has not been the rapidly transformational leader he pledged to be on the campaign trail. Nor has he been the train wreck his critics declared him even before he spent his first hour in office.

Give him a C. I’ll borrow from my grade school report cards and say the president has a great deal of potential, currently being squandered by a lack of focus and discipline.

The first three months-plus have seen a lot of rookie mistakes, and some really dumb moves. The negatives make for easy pickings.

Start with launching a war with the press straight off. The media was predisposed to hate Trump; he made a sour relationship even more so with cheap attacks on individual reporters and news outlets and a loose regard for the facts.

He tweeted himself into some deep holes, and once in them he just kept digging. Pride and ego too often defeated self-interest.

Trying to rush through the first Obamacare replacement without the full support of the Republican congressional caucus, let alone any Democrats, was pure arrogance.

And lurching ahead with poorly vetted immigrant travel restrictions before he had his own attorney general in place invited an embarrassing setback in the courts and created needless havoc at airports and fear among immigrants here legally.

Details are turning out not to be Trump’s strength. Hundreds of appointed positions are still unfilled, contributing to the sense of chaos around the White House. Blame part of that on the Democratic resistance movement, which dragged out confirmation of the Trump cabinet. But many key posts are still waiting for nominees from the president.

In Congress, Democrats aren’t likely to give him a single vote on anything. But he’s also hampered by philosophically divided Republicans who can’t agree on what they want to do with their rare solid lock on Washington. Passing significant legislation in this environment is all but impossible.

But there have been successes. He got his Supreme Court nominee seated. Neil Gorsuch will start paying dividends for conservatives right away, and for decades to come.

Trump also is making progress in unraveling the regulatory entanglements Obama placed on economic growth. That’s helped keep the stock market riding high.

He cajoled several U.S. companies, including Detroit’s automakers, to either keep jobs in America or create new ones.

And in bombing Syria in retaliation for its use of chemical weapons, Trump made it clear that when America says it won’t tolerate something, it means it.

The first 100 days aren’t about getting everything done. It’s about learning to be president. Trump, who once boasted he could run his business empire and the country at the same time if he so chose, piece of cake, found out quickly what a difficult job he won.

He’s showing recent signs of growth. Over the past week, he backed slightly away from his boneheaded border wall, eased off the saber rattling with North Korea and told Mexico and Canada he won’t pull out of the NAFTA trade pact.

The first 100 days mean little. Trump’s real test will be delivering enough of what he promised in his first two years to protect Republicans in the mid-term election. He has the potential to do so, if he can maintain focus and discipline.

nfinley@detroitnews.com