Ed Rogers, writing in The Washington Post on May 10, offers some back-handed praise of Donald Trump and his presidency:
For the Trump administration, the absence of disaster usually has to suffice as good news. Well, I wouldn’t say President Trump is on a roll, but he has had several good days.
Specifically, the outcome of Tuesday’s Senate primaries made it more likely that the GOP will retain control of the Senate, the clean break with the Iran deal can be considered a bold display of resolve, and two judges have fanned back special counsel Robert S. Mueller III — perhaps curbing his overreach. Progress toward an agreement with North Korea seems to be proceeding quickly. In fact, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo secured the release of three Americans on Wednesday who had been held prisoner, and President Trump announced he will meet with Kim Jong Un in Singapore on June 12. Regarding North Korea, Jeff Greenfield wrote in a Politico piece titled “Thinking the Unthinkable: What if Trump Succeeds?” last week that recognizing all of Trump’s flaws provides “all the more reason to retain a sense of perspective; to be able to consider seriously the proposition that this misbegotten president has somehow achieved an honest-to-God diplomatic success.”
Then there are the recent polls from Reuters-Ipsos, Gallup, CBS and CNN which show that the president’s job approval is ticking up. The unemployment rate is at an 18-year low; according to the National Federation of Independent Business, not only are record levels of small businesses reporting profit growth, but also the Small Business Optimism Index continues to sustain record-high levels. Americans have confidence in Trump’s handling of the economy. And at least for the time being, even the generic ballot is moving in Trump’s favor.
In addition, a few of the president’s critics are stumbling. The mainstream media did themselves real harm with the debacle of this year’s White House Correspondents Dinner, and Trump tormentor New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman was forced to resign following allegations of repeated abuse of multiple women….
… Yet the Trump presidency could be an exploding cigar. Just as you begin to settle in and get used to it, the whole thing could blow apart.
To state the obvious, Trump is his own worst enemy — and he won’t change. Feckless Democrats won’t bring him down, Republicans have acquiesced, much of the media has become annoying background noise, and Mueller doesn’t seem to have a silver bullet. Only Trump can destroy Trump.
A correspondent of mine had some incisive things to say about the state of affairs:
I think Trump is not only consequential, but also significant. To me, in this context, consequential means changing important things from the way they had been. Significant, means historically noteworthy. I think he will be the most significant president since Ronald Reagan. Interestingly, both Trump and Reagan followed presidents that were not significant presidents, leaving little legacy to mark their terms in office. If Trump were to be impeached and awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, remote possibilities, he would be significant 100 years from now. He is, and will be, significant for grabbing a political party and making it his party, even though he is not a politician. TR, also a Nobel winner, did the same.
Trump may also be significant for being unsavory and getting away with it.
My reaction follows:
Reagan accomplished three consequential things, in my view. First, he made old-fashioned conservatism somewhat respectable, though he was and still is reviled on the left for having done so. Second, his determined effort to rebuild the armed forces — to call the bluff of the USSR — was probably the main cause of the Soviet surrender in the Cold War. Third, his political support of Volcker’s tight-money policies, coupled with the tax-rate cuts he pushed through Congress led to the taming of inflation and a resumption of strong economic growth after years of “malaise”.
Thus far, only 16 months into his presidency, Trump has done three consequential things. First, he has nominated a conservative justice to the Supreme Court (though this didn’t change the balance on the Court) and a slew of district and appellate court judges, who seem to be solid conservatives. (There haven’t been any howls of outrage from the conservative sector of the internet.) Second, he has changed the image of American defense and foreign policy from defeatism (clearly the upshot of Obama’s “leading from behind”) to something like Reaganesque doggedness. (In tandem with that, he has backed the enlargement of the defense budget, though not yet, I believe, on a Reagenseque scale.) Third, he has deliberately (and somewhat effectively, as far as I know) pushed for a rollback of regulations that he views as especially harmful to the economy. His stance on immigration is loud and controversial, but it remains to be seen whether it will be consequential.
Maybe I’ve missed some important things, but my bottom line is agreement with my correspondent. It is entirely possible that by the end of Trump’s (first?) term the U.S. legal system will have shifted sharply toward a literal reading of the Constitution; the U.S. will not be in danger of military or political eclipse by Russia and/or China; membership in the nuclear club will not have expanded; trouble-makers like Iran and North Korea will have been “tamed”; and the rate of economic growth will be at its highest since the end of World War II, with a concomitant reduction in the real unemployment rate (much of which is still hidden in a low labor-force participation rate) and a somewhat higher (but not economically debilitating) rate of inflation.
If all or most of that happens — a big if — it will cement the political realignment in the country that was sparked by Trump’s candidacy. The Democrat party will increasingly be the home of affluent, well-educated whites (mangers, aspiring managers, academics, techies). Blacks will still be there for the Dems, though not in their former numbers, now that they are beginning to learn three things: Trump will not send them to concentration camps; white Democrats take them for granted while talking down to them; and blacks have done worse, not better, since Democrats began to throw money and special privileges at them. Hispanics will still be there for the Dems, perhaps in higher numbers than before because of Trump’s perceived “racism”. But the “blue collar” classes and regions will turn increasingly Red. Thus the Midwest, despite Blue enclaves in the big cities, will shift back toward the GOP. The South will remain Red, with the exception of Virginia and perhaps North Carolina, which are becoming extensions of the Northeast (though it will be less reliably Democrat because of the blue-collar shift). The Left Coast will remain reliably on the left, but the push to split California and liberate its conservatives will grow. If it succeeds, the GOP will become even stronger in Congress and in the electoral college. Regardless of what happens in California, the new GOP will be stronger politically than it has been at any time since World War II.
All of that could go by the wayside if there’s a real war involving the U.S., a recession, or a scandal beyond the known fact of Trump’s dalliances (i.e., an actual crime of consequence, not the payoff to Stormy). But barring such things, there will be a new GOP, and it will be stronger than the old one for some years to come.
As for Trump’s personal life, if things go nearly as well as they might, it will merit an asterisk in history books. Balanced historians (they’re hard to come by) will simply note that Trump was one of many presidents who couldn’t keep his pants zipped up, but that he succeeded in spite of it. They might even note that (among men, at least) there is a strong connection between sexual and political drive. Though the last observation will be out of bounds in the new Victorian era that is descending upon us.