Trump Is No More Triumphant than He Is Presidential

With passage of the Republican tax bill, there are those in the media who are already doing an about-face to declare Trump triumphant.

President Trump takes a beating in the media, but he’s ending 2017 on the high note of his presidency.

The big picture: You might not like his words or actions. But measured in terms of what Republican voters want and expected, he’s winning on important fronts.

This was almost as predictable as the constant refrains about how Trump had finally pivoted to become presidential whenever he managed to do something that didn’t prompt an immediate face-palm. So let’s take a look at what constitutes all of this winning.

“The tax bill passed with almost unanimous Republican support”

There is a lot of truth in this one. The tax bill was huge and there were very few Republican defectors in Congress. But let’s be honest; Republicans control not only the presidency, but both houses of Congress. They maneuvered things in such a way that they were able to get this bill passed in the Senate without needing a single Democratic vote. If Trump couldn’t get Congress to pass the number one Republican priority of tax cuts under those circumstances, he would be absolutely useless. In the end, this one gets the president a win in terms of the policy he wanted, but the lift really wasn’t that heavy.

“He failed to repeal all of Obama’s health-care law. But Trump axed the individual mandate with the tax bill, and has chipped away at other parts of the law’s foundation.”

That one starts out with a major failure for the president. When the lift was a bit heavier than with the tax cuts, he couldn’t pull it off. But they did manage to get a repeal of the individual mandate included in the tax bill. That might count as a field goal after a failed touchdown drive.

I’m going to pause on reviewing the list and point out that the above is what constitutes Trump’s wins when it comes to major legislation. Contrast that with his “Contract With the American Voter” published during the campaign, where he promised to produce legislation on the following in his first 100 days:

1. Tax relief
2. End offshoring of jobs
3. Infrastructure
4. School choice
5. Repeal and replace Obamacare
6. Childcare tax credits
7. End to illegal immigration (i.e., wall and stiffer penalties)
8. Crime bill
9. Military spending
10. Anti-corruption

We could give him maybe 1 1/2 out of 10 that he accomplished during his first 330 (rather than 100) days. Now, lets get back to the list.

“Trump has tilted the court rightward in lasting ways.”

Other than the tax cuts, this probably counts as Trump’s biggest win. In addition to adding Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, twelve U.S. Circuit Court judges have been confirmed by the Senate.

“Trump has followed through on eviscerating regulations.”

I doubt that “eviscerating” is the correct word on this one. Many of the major regulations Trump rescinded from the Obama years are tied up in the courts right now. Beyond that, the administration’s claims are highly over-rated.

…the claim of victory in the war on regulation is instead based almost entirely on stopping proposed rules that haven’t yet made their way through the machinery of government. The White House says it has killed or stalled 860 pending regulations. It’s done this by withdrawing 469, listing another 109 as inactive and relegating 282 to “long term.”

A Bloomberg News review has found even those claims are exaggerated. Hundreds of the pending regulations had been effectively shelved before Trump took office. Others listed as withdrawn are actually still being developed by federal agencies. Still more were moot because the actions sought in a pending rule were already in effect.

“ISIS is in retreat.”

Andrew Exum predicted this almost a year ago.

When President Obama turned the affairs of state over to President Trump on January 20th, the Islamic State was in full retreat across Iraq and Syria…But the fall of the Islamic State is going to happen, and it’s going to happen on this president’s watch. Like the American jobs he claims to have created that were announced long before he took office, Trump will take credit for the Islamic State’s defeat.

That’s the list. You have 1 1/2 out of 10 legislative victories, a rightward tilt on the courts, a dubious record on eliminating regulations and the fact that this administration hasn’t managed to mess up the defeat of ISIS. But there’s one important piece these authors left off their list—the all-important question of how the voting public judges this president’s performance. Here is a look at that over the last year:

I don’t know about you, but when I review all of that, the last word that comes to mind is “triumphant.” Even granting the positive spin of what was included/excluded from the list, I’d call it mediocre to dismal. But then, I never bought the idea that Trump had pivoted to being presidential, either.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.