It speaks volumes about the times we live in, that President Donald J. Trump is viewed as being in trouble. We have a stellar Supreme Court justice, and a record dozen judges confirmed (thanks, Mitch) to the federal appeals courts. America’s economy is roaring for the first time in a decade. Congress enacted the biggest tax reform and cuts in 31 years. Corporations responded by dispensing Christmas bonuses within days of passage, relocating plant and migrating capital back home. Business and consumer confidence has skyrocketed since Election 2016, as has the stock market. An epic repeal of burdensome regulations without prior precedent — not even in the Reagan years — has further jump-started business revival. America is going “drill, baby, drill” and rapidly becoming the world’s energy superpower. Environmentalists are in retreat in their tireless efforts to wall off federal lands and block traditional energy sources.
National security changes have been similarly significant. Serious efforts are underway to stop nuclear military progress by North Korea and Iran, policy imperatives that prior administrations had ducked. The Pentagon is slated to begin long overdue defense rearmament, including accelerating development and deployment of essential national missile defense; America’s major NATO partners have made an historic commitment to ante up more. The first effort to arm the Ukrainians is underway. ISIS, which mushroomed in a year to grow from junior varsity to varsity status, is now defeated. Iran faces revolution, and a deadline for renegotiating the insanely one-sided arms accord president Obama accepted.
America has bowed to empirical and historical reality, and recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The Palestinians no longer command American dollars and diplomatic benevolence regardless of their continued terror campaign against Israel. That campaign escalated this month with the Palestinians repudiating the 1993 Oslo Accords, and associated security cooperation with Israel, unless Israel recognizes a Palestinian state. As Oslo has been a sham, its demise is good riddance. Israel PM Netanyahu stated in response to Abbas’s January 14 speech assailing Israel: “He exposed what we have been saying all the time, that the root of the conflict is the basic refusal to recognize a Jewish state in any borders.”
At the United Nations America is “taking names” and standing up for its interests without apology. Our ambassador to that globalist den of iniquity and grotesquery, Nikki Haley, is the brightest star in the Trump Cabinet firmament. She joins predecessors Arthur Goldberg (LBJ), Pat Moynihan (Ford), Jeane Kirkpatrick (Reagan) and John Bolton (Bush 43) on America’s all-time UN ambassador all-star team.
Team Trump has initiated the first serious effort to stem unchecked immigration via the unholy trinity of a visa lottery tilted towards migrants from culturally incompatible places; unchecked “chain migration” of distant relatives; and keeping open a largely unprotected southwest border. The White House is pushing hard, despite several major states moving from sanctuary cities to sanctuary states for illegals, and despite strong open-borders opposition from within his own party. Yet it is Trump who is in line with Bill Clinton’s 1995 SOTU (1:34). Quoth The Master then: “We are a nation of immigrants; but we are also a nation of laws.”
Yes, of course there have been reversals — Russia’s win in Syria, for example. And of course there are unresolved issues of great import besides immigration — trade, for example.
All this, mind you, was done despite a razor-thin margin in the Senate and not much more room to maneuver in the House; facing an openly hostile opposition party in full “resistance” mode, including the immediate preceding president and 2016 presidential candidate (both without historical precedent); mainstream media — a new survey shows that for 2017 the original Big Three television networks (ABC, CBS, NBC) aired for their combined 25 million viewers 10 percent positive coverage of Trump; Hollywood, awash in sex scandals as its demented denizens lecture America on morality; totalitarian leftist academia, as it censors pro-Trump speech on campus; and the international globalist private-jet Davos set, whose European core genuflects to militant Islam by opening its borders to unvetted migrants from Muslim states and statelets. Tack on to all this a corrupt, possibly criminal effort by Deep State — most notably at Justice and especially the FBI, State and the intelligence agencies.
So why is our 45th chief executive so beleaguered, facing, in the view of many, electoral reversal in 2018 and a one-term presidency?
Consider these three: (a) presidential deportment; (b) huge policy shifts; (c) cultural rifts centered on multicultural and gender identity politics.
Deportment: Why Can’t Donald Be Like Ronald?
Not McDonald; Reagan. Ronald Reagan was central casting for presidential deportment: dignified, gracious, genteel, gravitas, etc. Not the first descriptors that come to mind with DJT’s tweets and impromptu verbal outbursts. Much is made of DJT’s calling myriad Third World places you-know-what. But in 2013 Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC) said “Hellholes” in describing Mexico and other places from which illegal migrants head to the U.S.
One point largely ignored in the ensuing kerfuffle is that Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) promptly leaked Trump’s profane formulation so that his party could — along with some Republicans — play the race card. The Donald’s outburst came after a bipartisan group of six senators, including Durbin and Graham, came back with a pseudo-compromise on an immigration provision that surrendered virtually all that Trump wanted. Presidential profanity is nothing new. Clinton was known for volcanic explosions of temper; LBJ used vulgar racial slang that today would get him booted out of politics, and compared to which Trump’s nastiest stuff is peaches and cream.
Yet the rules have changed — at least, for Republicans — just as they did during Watergate. Nixon’s abuses of power were exposed, while greater, grosser abuses of Democratic presidents past were ignored.
The Jan. 16 press conference given by Trump’s White House physician — who held the post for both Obama and Bush 43 — Illustrates the corrosive hostility and skepticism of the press corps. It went on for nearly an hour, and they asked everything except whether Trump has Ebola or Marburg.
Policy Shifts: Isn’t That What Elections Are All About?
DJT has engineered the biggest policy shifts since FDR’s first term; but FDR’s party controlled both houses of Congress throughout his 12 years at the helm. A solid Democratic House stymied Reagan throughout his eight years; Obama lost the House in 2010 and then the Senate in 2014. Perhaps no president has accomplished so much with so little legislative room to maneuver in his first year, as did The Donald. As former president Barack Hussein Obama said: “Elections have consequences.”
One potentially huge policy triumph would be the collapse of the North Korean and Iran nuclear programs. The first requires much help from China, but the second relies almost exclusively on the United States, with an assist from Israel. Trump aims to inspire Iranian protesters as president Reagan inspired Soviet dissidents. Natan Sharansky told after his exit to the West how in 1983 a prison guard laughingly showed him Pravda, lambasting Ronald Reagan for his famous “Evil Empire” remarks (2:13). Sharansky and his fellow dissident inmates drew enormous encouragement from the knowledge that they had a real friend at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. President Trump extended for what he says is one final time, 120 days, for Iran and the Europeans to join him in renegotiating the Obama Iran deal. This will fail, and Trump will likely impose tough unilateral sanctions. The redoubtable Fred Fleitz surmises that this was done for three reasons: (a) finesse partisan divides in Congress; (b) delay an Iran confrontation while we deal with North Korea; and (c) to buy time for the president to replace two top advisers who oppose altering the Iran accord: national security adviser H.R. McMaster and SecState Rex Tillerson. The president can then elect to follow an exit plan along the lines of one developed for his consideration in August 2017 by John Bolton. Either of these changes could have a seismic impact on the political equation. The more likely crisis to come to a head in 2018 — administration sources say within months — is North Korea. Especially after the Hawaii missile scare this is one foreign hot spot very much on voter minds.
Identity Politics: Out of Many, One; or Out of One, Many?
Al Gore famously mistranslated the motto e pluribus unum as “out of one many,” instead of “out of many, one.” For the Democratic Party, the Gore version makes for “salad bowl” immigration that they wish will supplant the storied “melting pot” ideal. Illegals would pass through open borders and be legalized if Democrats win at the polls, creating a coalition of populous blue states that could give the party a long-term presidential electoral lock. Identity also is at the root of the gender “Me-Too” movement, outing (mostly) males for sexual harassment of females. But do we really need to hear about Trump possibly having bedded a porn star in 2006? If the Access Hollywood tape did not sink Trump with voters in 2016, this one seems past the statute of limitations for politician shaming.
Bottom Line. A president with Trump’s first year accomplishments should be coasting towards re-election in 2020, and his party easily able to hold both houses in 2018. That things appear likely to remain much up in the air shows how volatile and capricious these times are.
John C. Wohlstetter is author of Sleepwalking With the Bomb (2d Ed. 2014.)