Saturday marked President Trump’s first 100 days in office, and we’ve learned this:
Among his avid supporters during the campaign, he can do no wrong. Buyer’s remorse? Hardly. If anything, they are more behind him now than ever.
And some who picked Trump because they couldn’t reconcile voting for Hillary Clinton will tell you they are relatively pleased with his performance thus far, but see 100 days as too small of a sampling to judge his presidency. But whatever Trump does to drive the left into a frenzy simply thrills the right. The more he attacks liberals, the stronger his support grows among conservatives, and he can’t be outrageous enough because they like the fact he isn’t your stereotypical politician. Likewise, those who view him as a national disaster won’t change their minds, either. The lines are drawn, period.
Political debate is a cafeteria plan. Folks hear what they want to hear, believe what they want to believe, and facts rarely factor in. President Obama didn’t play his first round of golf until he’d been in office for four months. Trump played 19 times in his first 100 days. Got a problem with that? Trump backers don’t. I haven’t encountered anyone locally who regrets having voted for him in November.
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I spent some time this week chatting with Trump supporters, to see what they see in him that his detractors do not. Their first 100 days report card?
“I voted for him,” said Modesto retiree Mel Mattos, while having a doughnut – where else – at Mr. T’s Delicate Donuts shop in north Modesto. “The best thing is that he’s put some teeth behind our laws. He’s made us more assertive.”
“He’s doing good,” said Jerry Passalaqua from his stool Thursday afternoon at Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3199 in southwest Modesto. “He’s lowering the tax rate.”
Passalaqua’s brother, Korean War veteran Anthony Passalaqua, chimed in.
“He’s getting rid of the all the bad people in this country,” Anthony said. “And he’s cutting the EPA rules and regulations, which will really help business and bring back jobs.”
They like Trump’s tough talk against the nukes-loving nutcase in North Korea and the attacks against targets Syria.
“He has (uh ... testicles),” Army vet Basil Amesquita said. “He sent rockets over to Syria and woke up the whole world. He didn’t make all of those bad deals with Syria and Iran. And he’s draining the swamp at the White House.”
They laud him for what he wants to do, and they blame the Democrats – who hold a majority in neither the House nor Senate – for impeding his progress.
“I’m not really off into politics,” said Larry Dodd, a disabled Navy veteran. “But from what I’ve seen so far, he’s trying to give something back to the poor guy – you and me – the working man. The Democrats – they want nothing but to take and take and take. Every time you turn around, they’re raising something. He’ll be very lucky if he can turn things around in four years. Hopefully, he can get voted in for eight years, then he’ll be able to do something.”
Steve Silva, who served in the Navy during the Vietnam War, wants Trump to complete the promised border wall to stop illegal immigration and – jokingly, we presume – take it in another direction as well.
“They should build it up along the east border of California, and Texas should round up the illegals, put them on buses and ship them to California,” he said.
Trump’s biggest failing so far?
“I don’t think he’s taken charge of the Republicans in the Senate or the House and let ’em know what he wants and how he wants it done,” Silva said.
Tim Helton is a friend of mine, a retired Modesto police officer and now working as a private investigator. He didn’t like Obama, but he wasn’t sold on Trump as Obama’s successor, either. When Hillary Clinton became the Democratic nominee, he favored Trump by default.
“Hillary is just shy of evil,” he said. He was appalled the Democrats rallied behind her, and also felt Trump’s antics during the campaign were different from the persona he’d depicted in prior years, so he had some misgivings.
“You don’t have to offend half the nation all of the time,” he said, citing Trump’s campaign comments that Mexicans are “rapists, murderers and drug dealers,” which Trump later denied and claimed were manufactured by the media. “But that’s exactly what he said. He needed to tone it down, but they didn’t call and ask me. ... ”
Since Trump took office, though, Helton has seen things he’s liked, including the desire to secure borders.
“What has impressed me is the way he’s pursued his (campaign) promises,” he said. “He’s working on energy independence with the Keystone and Dakota pipeline.”
And as for the bombing and missile attacks on Syria, “Why send your men and women over to do that?” Helton said. “We have air mail.”
Like others, he thinks 100 days isn’t enough to judge Trump’s presidency.
“For both sides, it’s too soon,” he said.
Agreed, said Kristy Ownbey of Modesto, whose vote represented one more against Clinton than as an endorsement of Trump.
“The only policy I’ve agreed with is that he’s using executive orders to overturn previous executive orders,” she said. “I’m not a fan of executive orders.”
One she likes is Trump’s repeal of protections for national monuments because the government owns too much land.
She’s frustrated that Trump and the GOP haven’t overturned the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).
“They campaigned that they’d repeal it – not repeal and replace it,” she said. “I want it repealed.”
She also applauds Trump for shunning the traditional White House press corps and taking his message “straight to the people.” She also likes his tax plan, “but I’d like to see us move toward a flat tax.”
At the same time, she said, he gave three different opinions on the North American Free Trade Agreement the same day. So count Ownbey among those who needs more than 100 days to judge this president.
Others? Their minds are made up, and on both sides.