All The Right Enemies
By: Scott Jennings
With President Donald Trump’s 100th day in office coming at the end of April, media have already begun the timeless—and meaningless—process of dissecting how he is doing.
One hundred is an arbitrary deadline, born of our society’s enduring fascination with round numbers. Nonetheless, we persist in asking presidential candidates what their first 100 days would be like and then judging the winner at the same mark.
Our system of government gives the president enormous power to make things happen in his first 100 days (or in any 100-day period, for that matter). However, the chief executive’s ability to move swiftly runs smack into the big white glacier at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, where Congress is better judged in yearly increments.
Signing bills into law requires two branches of government; therefore, it isn’t exactly fair to blame the Trump Administration for a Republican-controlled Congress divided against itself. Though Trump lacks a signature legislative accomplishment in his first 100 days—ala Bush 43’s tax cut and Obama’s stimulus—it is not for lack of trying (see: Obamacare repeal).
While not as sexy as repealing Obamacare, Trump has signed several meaningful pieces of legislation that thrilled different parts of his political base – a pro-life bill allowing states to strip money from Planned Parenthood; a bill repealing Obama-era anti-coal regulations; and a bill scrapping anti-gun rules signed by Obama.
These were core promises kept by President Trump to conservative Republicans. And along the way, he nominated and saw confirmed Justice Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court. You could do worse in a 100-day period. Heck, Trump has signed more than double the number of bills Obama did in his first 100 days.
But President Trump has truly made his mark on foreign policy. He has forcefully reasserted American leadership on the world stage after an eight-year vacuum. He fulfilled a campaign pledge to “bomb the hell out of ISIS,” killing at least 94 of them using the “mother of all bombs.” He put Syria’s genocidal dictator, Bashar al-Assad, on notice by Tomahawking his airport after Assad viciously gassed his own people, including women and children. And Trump has dealt firmly with the lunatic despot Kim Jong-un by sending an aircraft carrier to the Korean Peninsula and then “cyber-terminating” a North Korean missile test.
In the face of success on the international stage and some policy wins at home, the mainstream media is desperate to undermine a successful 100-day narrative for Trump. The press has settled on two storylines – flip flops and White House staff infighting.
It is true that some of President Trump’s decisions stand in contrast to statements he made during the campaign. But those who deride his “flip flops” should remember that governing and campaigning are two different things and that Trump gets more policy latitude from voters because he has never held office before.
While campaigns focus on the promises of candidates, presidencies are more about reacting to circumstances than enacting plans in a static policy environment. Things change all the time, and a chief executive must be prepared to deal. Would we really want a president incapable of reacting to a rapidly changing world?
But in an attempt to split Trump from his political base, the press will continue to create stories about how his flip flops are costing him his most fervent supporters. And while you can always find a crank or two to quote in any article, the truth is that Trump’s base is as solid today as it was on Election Day.
Why? Because Donald Trump continues to have all the right enemies, and no flip-flops or stories of White House infighting are going to change that.
Trump’s base supporters are too busy living their lives to obsess over the outrage of the minute in Washington D.C. They don’t follow 50 Beltway reporters on Twitter, hanging on their every snarky comment. They aren’t particularly concerned with which Trump advisors are up or down in the morning political tip sheets.
But they do follow politics closely enough to know that the press still hates Trump, as do the liberal political elites. As far as the average Trump supporter in Middle America is concerned, Trump must be doing just fine.
And to make matters better for Trump, his political opposition, the hapless Democrat Party, has taken their participation ribbon view of society to laughable lengths, celebrating their loss in a recent Kansas special election like they’d won the lottery. They continuously relitigate the sideshow issue of Trump’s tax returns (newsflash: this was settled by the Electoral College). And today’s battle whine? Mitch McConnell was mean to Elizabeth Warren in the hallway!
The policy news flying out Washington is head spinning, but Trump’s political enemies are the same old collection of media properties and out-of-touch liberals. That tells Trump’s core supporters all they need to know – that the antiestablishment president they sent to Washington is doing exactly what they asked him to do. In the first 100 days, Trump has turned Washington upside down, pissing off all the right people along the way.