Marie Harf: A Democrat's honest take on Trump's first 100 days

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For the eight years Barack Obama was president, Republicans argued aggressively and persistently that they should be trusted with the leadership of our nation instead. After winning majorities in both houses of Congress during the Obama years, the GOP outlined an agenda they promised to follow through on as soon as they re-took the White House.

Donald Trump’s victory in 2016 finally gave them that opportunity.

In these first 100 days, however, President Trump and the Republicans in Congress have been stymied by a fundamental truth: it’s much easier to be in the opposition than it is to actually govern.

The chaos emanating from the White House and within the Republican caucus on Capitol Hill demonstrates how deeply the GOP started believing its own political hype – so much so that the party failed to realize how truly difficult the ideas it was promoting would be to implement (for example, insuring everyone while lowering costs and keeping the popular aspects of ObamaCare).

President Trump and the Republicans in Congress have been stymied by a fundamental truth: it’s much easier to be in the opposition than it is to actually govern.

We now have a government run entirely by Republicans that is floundering, unable to achieve big legislative victories and without a strategy to turn that around, heading very quickly into a midterm election year where voters are going to expect much more progress.

The confirmation of Neil Gorsuch was the high point for the administration in its first 100 days – a campaign promise quickly fulfilled. But things go rapidly downhill from there.

President Trump has attempted to check off many of his agenda items using executive action, which the White House is trumpeting as real progress. But on two of his signature orders, he learned firsthand that the judiciary is indeed a co-equal branch, and those EOs were stayed because of serious legal questions based in part on his own inflammatory public statements. His words really do matter.

Turning overseas, we tumble to some of the worst moments of the first 100 days. President Trump has governed based on a caricature of what he appears to believe “strong” foreign policy is: bragging about raw use of military power, acting dismissively towards diplomacy, and bullying our friends and our adversaries.

Most worrisome, the administration has failed to outline detailed strategies to address any of the serious foreign policy challenges we face. Slogans are not strategy.

At the same time, the administration is doing real damage on the world stage. It is true that countries probably believe President Trump is more willing to use military force than President Obama was. But the Trump administration is also increasingly viewed as dangerous and unpredictable – unaware of the basics of international politics or simple facts, led by someone lacking a core set of principles who believes erratic behavior in foreign affairs is a good thing.

President Trump and his team have upset some of our closest allies, including the United Kingdom, Germany, South Korea, and Australia. These unforced errors have consequences, because as powerful as we are, we cannot solve the world’s biggest challenges alone.

As we grapple with the start of the Trump presidency, my Democratic Party has had its own growing pains in determining the best ways to rebuild our ranks.

How do we re-constitute the norms and institutions of public service that have been so eroded since President Trump came onto the scene? What do we have to offer as a party to the American people in places like my home state of Ohio? And are we still a big tent – open, as I believe we should be -- to strong principled candidates without any one issue serving as a litmus test (including abortion)?

If the first 100 days taught us anything, it’s that we all have a lot more work to do.

Republicans, you asked to be put in the game, and the American people said yes. It’s time to stop fumbling the football. If you don’t, 2018 is coming fast, and you risk being back on the sidelines.