The great nineteenth-century man of letters William Dean Howells once made a remark that I have long cherished as a sort of personal motto: “The problem for a critic,” Howells said, “is not making enemies, but keeping them.”
A critic who does not make enemies is unlikely to be doing his job, inasmuch as criticism is the application of discrimination to human activities and such activities, by definition, will fall short of the ideal. A critic who does not make and keep enemies is likely to be a critic who fails to speak the truth.
An honest politician has to have a place in his heart for that enemy-keeping imperative if he is to merit the adjective “honest.” But a politician’s road is harder than a critic’s. A critic must be unwavering in his service to the truth of his own experience. But beyond that he needn’t worry much about making himself likable, only interesting.
An honest politician, worse luck, has to remain broadly true to his promises while also endeavoring to remain popular with voters, the people who put him into office.
Like so many activities in this sublunary world, achieving that it is a balancing act, a tapestry of compromises and negotiations—“deals,” to use a word that Donald Trump has elevated to a conspicuous place in the political lexicon.
Cynics may wonder whether, at the end of the day, there is any real difference between compromise and capitulation, negotiation and selling out to the highest bidder. Realists will know that there is a difference. The modern habit of assuming that a reliable index of someone’s wisdom is the extent of his disillusionment is as superficial as it is philistine. It’s important, in assessing a politician’s success, to keep an eye on his deeds as well as his declarations. But the tendency to cast every political statement in the worst possible light brings us closer not to the truth but merely our own cynicism.
It is with this in mind, I believe, that the oft-quoted idea that Trump’s detractors take him literally, but not seriously, while his defenders take him seriously, not literally must be understood. As we approach Trump’s hundredth day in office—the clock just turned on 91 days as I write this—it is worth stepping back and posing on Trump’s behalf the question Mayor Ed Koch made famous: “How’m I doing?”
align=”left” Cynics may wonder whether, at the end of the day, there is any real difference between compromise and capitulation, negotiation and selling out to the highest bidder. Realists will know that there is a difference. The modern habit of assuming that a reliable index of someone’s wisdom is the extent of his disillusionment is as superficial as it is philistine.
It would be difficult, I suspect, for readers who get their news primarily from outlets as the New York Times, the Washington Post, MSNBC, or CNN to have any sense of Trump’s stupendous accomplishments these past three months.
For some of us, it can almost go without saying, the fact that Hillary Clinton is not president, that her political career, in fact, is over is by itself an accomplishment of history-making proportions.
“Precautions are always blamed,” Benjamin Jowett once observed, “because when successful they are deemed to have been unnecessary.” Pundits now have the luxury of speculating what a Clinton presidency would have been like. I can tell them. American would have evolved even further toward its status as a one-party state ruled by an elite, progressive oligarchy. The war that Obama inaugurated on religious freedom, on the First and Second Amendments, on enforcing America’s immigration laws, on our energy independence and status as the world’s premier military and economic power—all would have been prosecuted vigorously by a President Clinton. The ideological weaponization of government’s administrative alphabet soup—the IRS, the EPA, the DOJ, etc.—would have continued apace as conservative groups were targeted and discriminated against for the tort of dissenting from the progressive orthodoxy on any contentious issue.
Thus it is that the fact that Donald Trump, not Hillary Clinton, is president is already, just by itself, an accomplishment of the first water. And it’s not just a matter of what Hillary Clinton would have done. At issue was also who she was: a Clinton. I leave to one side the breathtaking corruption that she conspired with through her connections with the Clinton Foundation and its various pay-to-play schemes. I leave to one side also her callous and mendacious incompetence in handling the terrorist attacks on our consulate at Benghazi, her scandalous and routine mishandling of classified material and deployment of a home-brew email server. Leave that to one side and think just of the precedent she would have set had she become president: no, I am not talking about her anatomical status as female, but rather her dynastic status as a Clinton. Had she won, the presidency of the United States for the last twenty years would have shuffled between three families. That alone would have set an ominous precedent and upsetting that counts as a large bullet dodged.
But what else has Trump wrought in his 91 days as president? To listen to the legacy media, the answer is: not much. Many near-top-tier jobs have gone unfilled. The much ballyhooed repeal of Obamacare failed on its first go around. Tax cuts haven’t happened. The progressive Jared Kushner-Ivanka wing of Trump’s advisors seems to have gained ascendancy (at least according to the Sanhedrin of the MSM) over the Steve-Bannon populist wing. In short, it’s a shambles all around.
That, anyway, is the gospel according to the progressive megaphones.
The message is far different on the ground. Quite apart from the permanent rustication of Hillary Clinton, Trump has moved with blinding speed to start fulfilling many of his major campaign promises.
- Immigration. Illegal border crossings are down by more than 90 percent. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is once again enforcing the nation’s immigration laws. Deportations are down because there are fewer illegal penetrations of US borders. In other words, Trump’s policy is shaping up to be a major success.
- Sanctuary cities, i.e., cities where federal immigration laws are essentially suspended. Trump promised to end them. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is working overtime to make that happen. Earlier today, he wrote at least eight jurisdictions warning them that they may be failing to comply with immigration laws and that they were therefore in jeopardy of losing federal grants. Some cities, notably in California and New York, have blustered that they will continue to resist abiding by the law, but I predict they will change their tune once the spigot of federal funds is turned off.
- Energy. The Keystone and Dakota access pipelines. Need I say more? Yes? How about “coal”: that should settle the question.
- Foreign affairs. Under Obama, you had the unenforced red lines of a pink politician. Under Trump, you have 59 Tomahawk missiles directed at a Syrian air force base that carried out a Sarin gas attack, followed a few days later by the destruction of an ISIS tunnel complex in Afghanistan with one 21,000-pound super bomb. You also have successful face-to-face diplomatic meetings with President Xi Jinping of China, Prime Minister Theresa May, and even Chancellor Angela Merkel. Earlier today, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel publicly told Secretary of Defense James Mattis that he welcomes the “strategic change of American leadership and American policy.” The Russians are stamping their feet but Trump continues his course. Meanwhile, the Chinese seem to have been enlisted to help with the problem of the Kim Jong-Un, the cartoon-like dictator of North Korea. In Seoul a couple of days ago, Vice President Pence echoed Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s warning that America’s “strategic patience” with North Korea’s minatory antics was at an end. Trump underscored that partly by parading a lot of military hardware in and around the Korean peninsula, partly by tweeting that “North Korea is looking for trouble. If China decides to help, that would be great. If not, we will solve the problem without them!”
- The Supreme Court. Neil Gorsuch. Also, Neil Gorsuch. And may I add, Neil Gorsuch? Thanks to the Federalist Society for preparing that list of twenty-odd names from which Trump plucked his first Supreme Court nominee. Trump will likely have to avail himself of at least two more justices and who knows how many federal judges “very much in the mold of Justice Scalia.”
- Regulation. First there’s the two for one rule: want a new regulation? Get rid of two others first. And then there is the spate of executive orders aimed and reducing onerous and inefficient regulation. It’s early days yet, but so far it seems to be working.
Two big question marks hover over the issues of health care and tax cuts. Despite the many confident prognostications from the punditocracy, I think it is impossible to say when or what is going to happen on either issue. We’re ninety days into a new administration now. Come back at day 360.
There is also the large issue of economic growth. The stock market, which is up about 2,500 points since Donald Trump was elected, clearly is bullish on his policies. Will that enthusiasm be translated into 3 percent or better growth? If so, the pathetic pink-hatted females can jump up and down all they like, the Black Lives Matter protesters can continue their policy of violent racial redress, disappointed commentators, who had pinned their hopes for advancement on a Clinton presidency, can continue to sulk and reassure one another that Donald Trump is “not their president.” It won’t matter. If Donald Trump reaches and sustains that magic number of 3 percent growth for the major part of his first term, he can count upon a second term as well. I fully expect him to maintain plenty of enemies, just as William Dean Howells advised, but they’ll be off caterwauling in the wilderness, as irrelevant to the process then as they were to the election last fall.
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I am generally happy with President Trump so far except for two points – both being broken campaign promises:
1. Intervention in Syria
2. Keeping Poles out of the visa waiver program due to an idiotic technicality which President Trump personally promised to fix “in my first two weeks” but hasn’t. I speak of course of his pledge made in Chicago at the PNC.
Certainly it is better to be dissapointed that President Trump is not perfect rather than enduring the perfect storm of a Hillary Clinton presidency. We shall see what the future holds.
The intervention in Syria was of low order. Nothing to be too upset about.
Syria was a test by the Russians and the actual did Trump a favor. It dispelled the conspiracy that he was the “Russian Candidate” he appeared strong and decisive with China’s Xi “holding his beer” while Trump spanked Syria. Also, 59 cruise missiles is hardly an intervention. It needed to be done swiftly and it was.
Judged by the standard of decades of American imperial aggression against helpless countries and by the standard of an ignorant nation whose sense of reality arises from being perpetually glued to American television: you are absolutely correct.
Judged by the standards of human decency, Constitutional and international law: you are incorrect.
If ‘decency’ and ‘international law’ could have stopped the problem of the use of chemical weapons, I could agree with you. They don’t. So I don’t. As for the judgement of the Constitution, unilateral action by the Executive in waging war is consistent with the Constitution. The war declaration powers of the Congress are there to allow Congress to force the Executive to wage war when the Executive might otherwise be inclined. You may fault the Constitution for granting the Executive the power to wage war unilaterally, but it is nonetheless the way the Constitution allocates power. Congress can intervene in Executive activities by refusing to provide funds. That is the check on the Executive war power within the Constitution. Extra-constitutional ‘checks’ exist as well, such as the response by the public and press.
I do not find any basis in the text of the constitution for that interpretation.
There is an ongoing discussion about how the Constitution is to be interpreted on this matter at National Review with John Yoo making the ‘pro’ case and (so far) Michael Stokes Paulson making the ‘con’ case.
That explains why I found the notion baffling. I stopped reading National Review when I heard Richard Lowry speak at Hillsdale in 1997 and realized that this intellectual mediocrity would be taking Bill Buckley’s place. The magazine has gone on to greater mediocrity ever since. A pity really. I grew up on old National Review, which I would dig out of the high school library archives…
Human decency and international law were on trial and Trump passed the test.
Assad did not.
The United States has no legal or moral right to make war on far off countries that never attacked America.
Of course they do, they are the only superpower in the world and people being gassed on world TV is a direct affront to US moral and military power.
All nations are equal because all men are created equal, and obligated to respect one another’s sovereignty. The only justification for war is self-defense, not what someone watched on television. The United States has been a rogue regime since at least 2003. It has no moral standing and is a threat to world peace. America is not judge, just and executioner.
“The United States has been a rogue regime since at least 2003.”
W/o the UNITED States the world descends into mass chaos and genocide. You have no clue what you are talking about.
To my mind, large parts of the middle east have descended into mass chaos and genocide because of the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. I think this is not a controvercial point. Even President Trump made it.
Really how many millions dies in the Iran Iraq war, how many thousands did Sadaam gas to death? Yes the invasion didn’t workout, but the Middle East is a disaster area with or wo US intervention.
The United States supported Iraq in that war and Western imperialism in general has been meddling in the Middle East for very long. US intervention is morally culpable for a great deal of suffering.
Islam is morally culpable for a great deal of suffering. You want civilization act like the United States, Canada and Australia.
Australia is a monarchy, like not one Islamic state. Let’s please be serious. I am not criticizing the United States for its achievements, just its faults.
fair enough. you are right about the war in iraq not working and i hope they never do something like that anytime soon, but at the same time gassing children and that being shown to the world can’t be ignored. since US is the only superpower, who fills the void when they don’t lead? all the other country’s balk.
Leadership need not be defined through haste and emotion. Reacting to things seen on television without prior reflection is what got us into many messes. In my view, the United States should ally with all legal states – including tyrants – to defeat non-state actors who use terrorism on a mass scale. Imperfect order is preferable to perfect chaos. The past 15 years has prejudiced me to prefer a Syria governed by Assad to a Syria deprived of a government by US intervention and made another area ripe for terrorism and chaos.
Of course the USA has both the moral obligation and the legal authority.
Roger, you were a consistently virulent anti-Trumper. I suspect you still might prefer one or more other choices in the White House. But I salute you for the humility and intellectual integrity you have displayed since the Inauguration in evaluating Trump’s actual, on-the-ground performance. Most of the never-Trumper pundit class, the Wills, Goldbergs, Williamsons, Frenches, Allahpundits and so on, are stuck in their soreheaded stubborn insistence that Trump will be the downfall of the Republic. They don’t like his style. Neither do I, especially, and probably neither do you, although even that seems to largely be working out fairly well. For people who consistently urged us to pay more attention to what Obama did than to what he said, they don’t seem to be taking their own advice now. And they seem to assiduously ignore the substantial achievements you describe in this piece.
You haven’t tried to justify your prior opposition to Trump (having explained it perfectly well last year), nor have you indulged in unnecessary mea culpas. You have done that rare thing supposedly described by Keynes when facts change. You have done it clearly, fiercely and bravely. Well done.
This piece is a fine example.
I myself was right there along with the Wills, Godlbergs, Williamses, etc until after the inauguration when I saw these college freakazoids come out of the woodwork and start assaulting people. The whole keystone pipeline thing before then, and the way the higher education system and media worker together with the DNC to pull strings of power that the GOP will never have access too.
After that, the gloves came off and it was that we must all hang together because we’ll assuredly hang separately.
The President needs to use Roosevelt’s Big Stick to make the message meaningful. Obama had the Big Stick but wouldn’t use it. The Syria bombing and the MOAB drop were relatively cheap but powerful examples of the Big Stick. It changes the strategic calculus for quite a few global players. He has to have the potential action option to be a player on the international stage. It’s a big part of the MAGA theme…
BTW: There is a shelf life on the Tomahawks and the MOAB. The replacements will be newer and improved…
Thus it is that the fact that Donald Trump, not Hillary Clinton, is president is already, just by itself, an accomplishment of the first water.
This is like celebrating Dunkirk as a great victory in WWII. True, by remarkable luck the evacuation kept the British Expeditionary Force’s manpower intact but it was a retreat that left the Continent in enemy hands. Electing Mr. New York City Values instead of old Mrs. Clinton and her New York City Values is just picking the boy’s side in a family spat. The whole NYC Values family still has contempt for you, Middle America.
Trump was the candidate America needed, but did not want. But if he did not do the obnoxious things (tweets, immigration comments, etc) he never would have controlled the media narrative and would have lost.
When you say ‘the whole NYC Values family’ has contempt for Middle America, are you speaking for ‘the whole NYC Values family’? If so, I’d like to see your bona fides to do so. You might be right, but I would suggest that at least a substantial number of the working class in Blue-state-istan might not be as contemptuous as you state. In what can fairly be described as ‘hostile territory’, 2,527,141 people voted for Donald Trump for President.
Rest assured, the feeling is mutual.
so under this logic if you are from NY you hate Middle America.
So far I like Trump, almost anything would be better than H. Clinton. The big battles remain on Trade, Tax Reform, and Healthcare. The Elite hates the border Tax proposal, cheap imports are central to their profits/looting of the American working classes and preventing innovations that might replace them. The existing Healthcare status quo is fighting tooth and nail to maintain and grow their government funding. The status quo will certainly will fight any free-market innovations and the working class is looking for guarantied Healthcare. It is hard to combine effective change and guarantied healthcare The Elites want to pay less taxes (who can blame them). I am all for Corporate Tax reform, but we need to get replacement revenue. My take is the income from the Border Tax can fund lower taxes. Income tax reform and simplification is needed, but it should be revenue neutral by income level. I would love my tax return to be a 3X5 card.
The real key is to fight the existing Elite and re-introduce competition into the system. Without economic growth (ideally 3%+), more jobs, and especially more productivity growth (we were at 3%, not at .4%) there will be no 2nd Term. Stopping illegal immigration should help with Jobs and Wages.
Trump can sell himself and he can rule by executive action but can he govern? Will his supporters be happy if he can not achieve any legislative victories? He is a mess organizationally. A year from now will his achievements feel like achievements if his legislative agenda stalls.
I want you to stop and think about your post for a moment.. imagine that you were hired as a police chief in a completely corrupt department and you had publicly stated that you would clean it up. Now, further imagine that everyone in the corrupt department was in bed with the people who produce news about your progress. That is what President Trump is facing right now. Turncoats in his own party, app. 90% hostile press coverage of his every move, and a Democrat Party which is in the streets punching his working class supporters. I will be somewhat surprised if much of any legislation gets through Congress before 2018 when Trump’s voters kick out a few Republicans and get the message across to the legislative branch that they really meant that they wanted Trump to drain the swamp.
Actually deregulation laws not EOs so they can only be back in place else by Congress not a EO or a regulatory action
So, what else are you wrong about?
Not too many understand POTUS is de-regulating by having Congress pass laws specific to the regulation. Not too many are reading the whithouse.gov announcements that spell that out.
Yeah I’m fine with that. At this point, the longer the Dems remain smug and arrogant twãts who are convinced of their own superiority, the better.
Seriously, they will never be able to win back Wisconsin or many other blue wall states the way they are going.
Think about it. Why do Dems think Hillary lost? Because of misogyny and (Inexplicably) racism.
The more longer they insult their former voters the better!
You are correct: keep insulting their former voters, and use potty mouths to do it!
Yet, American media does not know how to, or want, to stop the spin cycle. The neoDems are counting on 40 years of ‘education’ to insure their voters, and the media, do not question, or read, the Platform.
My concern is the other voters who fail to see how TeamTrump is undoing the smothering regulatory state, let alone the most interesting foreign policy moves.
Which is why 3% growth, and more job creation, is the best antidote, except for the media, and the ‘educators’.
Gets ugly even in deep blue NYC. A Dem candidate for NYC City Council, who apparently does not know that NY AG Schneiderman’s family owns a lot of apartment buildings in the area: “…Lopez-Pierre has circulated numerous emails and pieces of
literature highlighting building owners of Jewish roots who have donated to
Levine’s campaign and calling attention to what he claims are racist slights against himself and blacks and Latinos in general by the incumbent councilman and other Caucasians.
“We shall rise up against greedy Jewish landlords in New York City! If our political leaders fail to protect us, we shall sacrifice blood to save our communities from the evils of gentrification,” reads one missive sent to supporters.
His Twitter biography asserts “Jewish landlords OWN 80% of private rental buildings in Upper Manhattan; GUILTY of GREED for pushing Black/Hispanic tenants out.” …”
So you don’t like Jews?
I guess I understand:
I don’t like Islamists or Leftists
As John Hinderacker said back on November 15th: “As the Arab proverb has it, the dogs bark but the caravan passes by. That is what Trump and his staff should do: ignore the woofing dogs and move forward with the job of assembling an administration. Much as it might like to, the press can’t stop them.”
What a pile of garbage. This apologist for Don the Con’s failures has no concept of reality. Repeal the ACA on the first day? No. Muslim ban? No. Make Mexico pay for the wall? So sorry. Everyone of these items were major campaign promises which were abject lies. The rest of the article is also full of nonsense. How does the prior administration’s so called war on the 1st and 2nd Amendments and the confirmation of a Supreme Court justice translate into economic growth? As a good conservative, perhaps you should concentrate your efforts on the number of times he has played golf on our dime.
That’s funny I might as the same about Obama. The article was pretty simple. Trump is already addition by subtraction (No Obama, No Hillary) and that is great news. Also, if those policies lead to 3% GDP growth, he will get a second term and so will a future President Pence. The reality Obama’s quantitative easy dump Trillions of dollars into the banks. Once Trump rolls back regulation and re-scopes taxes that money will be unleashed.
What policies in this article supported the conclusion that we will have 3% economic growth? None. Keep drinking the Koolaid.
Perhaps the Kool-Aid allows one to see the world more clearly, versus, as you suggest, more distorted. Things are just getting started, so one can choose to be either optimistic or pessimistic, but there are limited *facts* to support either posture. If you think 3% is possible, then, within the context of the existing economic regime, the approach articulated by Trump would be one way to achieve 3%. Reducing export of jobs, increasing business growth, thereby increasing job creation potential, which could result in an increase of available jobs. When the increase in jobs is combined with constraining the number of workers via immigration controls and reducing citizen workers exposure to international labor arbitrage, the result could be an increase in wages (due to increasing demand for workers chasing a limited supply of workers). Increases in wages could demand for goods and services, which, due to changes in the existing trade regime and a supportive regulatory regime, will be more concentrated in the US economy, driving further growth on the supply and demand sides of the economic order. Ima Right’s comment about monetary policy should also be taken into account. Viola, 3%!
Deregulation and immigration
I was find concern trolling by leftists to be hilarious because you guys have no idea what the Republican base wants.
None at all.
Not repealing the ACA in the first 100 days is your only valid point.
The First Hundred Days without Hillary is Fantastic !!
The ending of the TPP was another important accomplishment and campaign promise kept.
Good piece. I agree with the last paragraph profoundly…
With the economy growing at a 3+ percent rate, Democrats (and their media allies) will soon have to abandon covering the economy altogether, something that will doom Democrats election chances in 2018 and 2020.
Of note: Trump is on pace to shatter Obama’s “average month job creation number” in just six short months (200,000+ compared to Obama’s 157,000+)
The problem is that if Trump is NOT re-elected, the progressive will overturn everything he’s done, since so far it’s all been by executive action rather than legislation. And absent legislation, it’s hard to see growth moving up to 3%.
not sure if legislation will have any bearing on anything. the president doesn’t really have that much control of the economy.
You are wrong. He is deregulating using legislation.
It would take legislation to undue the deregulation he has put in place
Keeping Hillary out was job #1.
My take on the situation is that the economy was really healed by 2012, but held back by the constant regulatory onslaught (Obamacare the worst part of that occurred in 2010, and the economic “progress” shows up in growth charts as it basically went flat at that point), just like the Lilliputians keeping Gulliver tied down. Now the giant is being set free.
Illegal immigration was already down and has been down for years. Nothing that Trump has done in the last 3 months could have affected it in anyway. The wall hasn’t been built yet.
Untrue. Obama phonied up the way deportations were counted, while under Trump actual self deportation, deportations, and people not attempting to cross are up.
In our town, a huge number of our “new friends” are gone, along with unregulated taco shacks, brick layers, etc etc, ad nauseum.
So, whatever Trump is doing is working.
Always the same story from Republicans. They say the Democrats are lying but we are telling the truth. Sure.
Actually, what Bartthedog said was true. Obama counted the number of illegal immigrants caught crossing the border and sending them back as “deportations”, compared to ALL PAST PRESIDENTS that never counted those as deportations. Trump doesn’t count those as deportations, so the statistics were manipulated by the Democrats and then perpetuated by the media to create a narrative that Obama was tough on borders when in reality he wasn’t. Now, who is telling the truth?
As always Republicans make up their own truths.
As always, Democrats refuse to face reality.
When the 3% growth happens then we can praise him and not until then.
3% not likely to happen until ObamaCare is gone. Forget 4%.
In the 6 months before trump was inaugurated GDP was up at an annual rate of about 3%.
That, above all, is a good reason to expect the data to reflect about 3% growth in the first quarter.
To sustain growth, however, you need expanding population.
How’s that going to happen?
US has above replacement rate fertility. That said, innovation to increase productivity
Obama dropped thousands of bombs on Syria from 2014 thru 2016.
You’re a fuchking liar. And you cherry pick data to make it look like the Economy is set to grow 3%.
Meanwhile you give Obama NONE of that credit.
Credit for what? Fake Red lines? Job killing regulations? 2%. gDP growth?
Jeez, skip the first ten paragraphs and get on with it.
Sessions ending sanctuary cities forget it, CA is going to become a sanctuary state. Sanctuaries have been around for thousands of years.