Seven days that shook the world: Amid distractions he created, Trump moves swiftly

By Dan Balz analysis

US President Donald Trump is moving at an unprecedented pace to change the direction of the country and reset America's place in the world.

Amid many distractions of his first week in office, the President has kept his focus on the ideas that animated his campaign - most notably immigration and trade - and on the people who most enthusiastically responded to him.

Nowhere has that been more apparent, with such major implications, than with his order for a ban on immigration by Syrian refugees and travel restrictions on immigrants from certain Muslim-majority countries - yesterday halted by a judge. Even with all the qualifiers, it is a step that two years ago would have been unimaginable for a prominent politician in either party to advocate.

The reality is that he governs as a minority president and a controversial one.

His approval ratings hover around 40 per cent. Although he fairly won a majority in the Electoral College, a majority of votes went to Hillary Clinton. Those facts obviously bother him, as he can't let go. His opponents should not be fooled by any of this.

Nothing has affected his governing priorities or his seeming determination to act on as many as he can as quickly as he can. He is the perpetual-motion president.

He may appear obsessed with the false claim that the election was marked by massive voter fraud or the exact size of his inauguration crowd. But he is still moving on the agenda that he outlined as a candidate as if he won a smashing landslide.

Trump's opening days fully reflect his campaign. He was the chaos candidate, someone who continually found ways to inject controversy and distractions into the conversation. His words and actions often seemed random and self-defeating. But they also seemed designed in part to distract from other controversies and to keep his opponents off balance.

His first week in office is an extension of that style and strategy: speed and disorder, but disorder whose partial purpose is to keep his opponents spinning.

Throughout the campaign, the controversies he created drew the most attention. Trump understood there were other powerful forces at work in the election that he could use to his advantage: the dissatisfaction with traditional politicians, a desire for change, Clinton's political weaknesses and the iron bond between him and his supporters. What was supposed to sink him did not. Trump has not forgotten.

Dozens of demonstrators marched in and around the main terminal at Portland International Airport. Photo / AP
Dozens of demonstrators marched in and around the main terminal at Portland International Airport. Photo / AP

Nor has he forgotten who put him where he is. He gives no indication that he believes he must reach beyond his base to be successful. He also has identified his antagonists, which is always important for him. To the Washington ruling class, Trump rhetorically offered the back of his hand. He would not be bound by convention or tradition. He has been even more blunt in his attacks on the media. His policies still lack depth and detail. Given a free hand, his would be a US drawn inward and self-interested, wary of the world. He favours trade and economic policies that not only carry significant risks but also would reverse years of consensus among presidents. His executive order on immigration moves the country to where it has never been before, with an all-but-stated religious test for entry. Republicans who reluctantly backed him now own the policies, too.

Trump is attempting to take full advantage of one of the biggest powers of the presidency: the ability to set an agenda and communicate his vision and priorities. He is attempting to bend the governmental bureaucracy in his direction, intimidate opponents and even scare his allies in Congress. He has the attention of all of them, and every world leader of note in every capital around the world. As in the campaign, he is the pole around which everyone else moves.

One week is just one week, which is why it is premature to speculate on how the story ends.

What is known is that he cannot govern by executive order alone, nor carry out sensitive diplomatic negotiations through tweets, nor do many of the things he says he would like to do without the aid of legislation. Some of these executive orders will carry weight.

Others will mostly highlight where Trump would like to go, with action to follow, perhaps slowly.

He is grappling with what it means to be president when it comes to dealing with the rest of the world.

As a sign of things to come, the first week was all that Trump's supporters might have hoped for and all his opponents feared.

- Washington Post

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