Donald Trump's presidency is fast approaching the "first 100 days" milestone, and he seems to be trying to set his own record during this period -- a record of breaking more campaign promises than any previous president ever has during his first 100 days. This week brought on a flurry of flip-flops, perhaps signaling that in the remaining two weeks or so Trump will be trying to outdo himself in the broken promises category.
The news media has watched all this with bemusement, mostly because a lot of the promises Trump is now breaking were pretty inane to begin with (and even that's being charitable). Knee-jerk campaign slogans don't translate well into actual policies, Trump is figuring out. America may be better off for this self-realization, which is why the media is so bemused by it all.
But you have to wonder what Trump's supporters are thinking. Will there ever be a broken promise too many for them? Will their support fade as the broken Trump promises pile up? It remains to be seen. The rumor-mill is currently speculating that Steve Bannon may not last much longer in the White House, and if he leaves he could direct Breitbart to openly wage rhetorical war on all things Trump. That might do it.
For now, though, even keeping up with the flip-flops is pretty exhausting, because there are so many of them, and the rate of flip-floppitude even seems to be increasing. In the past few days alone, Trump has changed his mind on a whole host of issues, now taking a position roughly opposite from his campaign rhetoric. Trump warned Barack Obama not to get involved in Syria, not to launch airstrikes in retaliation for chemical weapons use, and if he was going to strike to get congressional approval before doing so. President Trump ignored all of his own advice. Trump used to beat up on NATO while campaigning, but now says the alliance is wonderful. He promised to label China a currency manipulator on "Day One" of his administration, but he just refused to do so, on Day Eight-Four. Even last week Trump was calling China the "world champion" of currency manipulators, but now says they aren't manipulating their currency at all. Trump had an incredibly simplistic view of China and North Korea, but after meeting with the Chinese leader, said: "After listening for 10 minutes, I realized it's not so easy. I felt pretty strongly that [China] had a tremendous power [over North Korea], but it's not what you would think." Russia was going to be an American ally, but now relations with them are "at the worst point since the Cold War."
On the economic front, Trump is flipping and flopping like crazy as well. Janet Yellen is no longer some sort of Hillary-loving Democratic stooge, and Trump might just name her to another term at the Fed. Low interest rates were an evil plot when he campaigned, but now he thinks they're great for America. The Export-Import Bank was also a bad idea, up until this week's reversal. Trump also quietly lifted his federal hiring freeze this week, which didn't get much attention outside the Beltway.
All of those changes came in the past couple of days. From Trump's raid on an airfield in Syria until today, Trump has been breaking campaign promises at lightning speed. His director of the Office of Management and Budget even came out and admitted that Trump is simply not going to be able to make good on one of his bigger campaign whoppers, that he'd pay off the national debt in his first term in office: "It's fairly safe to assume that was hyperbole. I'm not going to be able to pay off $20 trillion worth of debt in four years. I'd be being dishonest with you if I said that I could." The obvious conclusion: Trump was being dishonest with the voters when he promised to do exactly that.
There are a whole host of issues that Trump promised would be taken care of lickety-split that have not yet gotten off the ground in any noticeable way. There has been no jobs bill or White House jobs plan at all. There is no infrastructure bill, despite all those repeated promises to "rebuild the country." There are no new trade agreements, even though the master of dealmaking was going to hammer them out in the blink of an eye. The swamp of Washington has not been drained, it has in fact gotten even swampier with all the Wall Street icons now serving in Trump's administration. Oh, and Hillary Clinton still roams free instead of being locked up.
Of course, Trump has made good on some of his promises, or at least made the attempt (and failed). He's still pushing to get his border wall built. Jeff Sessions seems happy to ramp up the "deportation force" Trump promised. The Environmental Protection Agency has been put on its own endangered species list. Many of Obama's last-minute improvements to Americans' lives are being overturned, even when doing so is wildly unpopular (where were all those campaign rally signs demanding "Please sell my browsing history!" one has to wonder). Trump withdrew from the Trans-Pacific Partnership as he promised he'd do. He tried -- twice! -- to roll out his Muslim ban, but the courts have so far shut Trump down. Trump's magic healthcare plan that would make life wonderful for all (with unicorns!) never appeared, but he threw his weight behind Ryancare, which then promptly went down in flames.
Still, the sheer amount of broken promises (especially this week) overwhelms the ones Trump has either kept (or at least tried to keep, halfheartedly or not). It remains to be seen, however, how much any of this will mean in the long run. A lot of these broken promises deal with fairly esoteric issues that average Trump voters don't really care that much about. "Kill the Ex-Im Bank" or "remove Janet Yellen" are not exactly rallying cries that drive voters to the polls in huge numbers. Orwellian Ministry-of-Truth-style announcements on certain subjects ("NATO now doubleplusgood, Russia now doubleplusungood!") are of dubious political importance in the real world. A bigger problem for Trump is that he doesn't have much of a record of accomplishment to stack up next to all of his failures, disappointments, and outright flip-flops. So far, can even Trump supporters come up with anything major Trump has managed to get done beyond getting a nominee onto the Supreme Court? Other than that, there's not a lot to point to. Trump gave a surprisingly calm speech to Congress, but while a notable achievement for him this used to be the bare minimum expected of any president, so it's really not that much of an accomplishment in the grand scheme of things.
Whether any of it matters still remains to be seen, though. Despite a small tick upwards of a few points, Trump's public job approval rating is on track to be the lowest ever recorded after 100 days in office. But, so far, he seems to have a floor of about 40 percent support, which he hasn't fallen below. If Trump's numbers ever dive down into the 30s, that will be the point when he starts really losing his base of support. So far -- even with all the broken promises and flip-flops -- this group still seems to support Trump (just for being Trump, essentially). Trump is still in there kicking ass and naming names, to them, and it doesn't particularly matter whose ass is being kicked or what names are being named. This "details are for wimps" attitude has worked well enough for Trump so far, but one has to wonder if there is a shortlist of Trump campaign promises which are non-negotiable to them. If Trump announced a new border policy that anyone caught by the Border Patrol sneaking in would be given a voucher for a one-week stay at a Trump hotel, that might be a step too far for his base. Or, perhaps, if Trump did some "extreme vetting" of Steve Bannon? Kidding aside, though, will any broken Trump promise actually cause his base support to dwindle? He seems to be trying to break as many of his campaign promises as possible in his final few weeks of his first 100 days, so perhaps we're about to find out.
-- Chris Weigant
Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant