After a full-year in office, it is time to take stock of the Trump presidency.
- He certainly stunned the world by winning the 2016 elections despite having no government experience and a very controversial campaign.
- He remains absolutely reviled by the Left, and much of the media.
- He has made plenty of rookie mistakes in his first year and his approval numbers reflect that — hitting a record-low 32% in December, while since rebounding somewhat, hitting 42% this week in the wake of the passage of the tax cut bill and clear evidence of a surging economy and stock market.
Now that he has delivered his first State of the Union address (watch or read), let’s set aside the media firestorm and the deep cynicism of most reporters and pundits and ask, What is the truth? In what ways is this unconventional President succeeding? And how is he struggling?
I’ve been watching the President and his team very closely this year, and I’ve been praying for them every day, sometimes several times a day. My readers know that I was originally a “Never Trumper” during the campaign, but changed my position just days before the election, for reasons I laid out in detail
on this blog.
As I told
CNN’s Anderson Cooper back in February, “There’s a difference between being a cynic and a skeptic. In an Evangelical way of looking at it [the Trump election], this was a marriage I wasn’t sure should happen, but now that it has happened I want the President to succeed. But I think cynics are unable at times to be able to hear even anything good that the new President says,” or does.
In that spirit, then, here is my assessment of the President’s successes in economic, domestic and foreign policy/national security, the President’s failures or disappointments, and some observations on his capacity to change — to course-correct — when he’s making mistakes. It is by no means exhaustive, but I hope you find it helpful.
ECONOMIC & DOMESTIC POLICY SUCCESSES:
- Signed historic tax cut, dramatically reducing the tax burden on middle class families and small businesses, dramatically reducing the corporate tax rate to be far more globally competitive, and creating incentives for U.S. corporations to bring capital parked overseas backed into America to create jobs.
- Embarked on aggressive and historic effort to reduce job-killing over-regulation.
- Created 2.4 million new jobs, including 200,000 new manufacturing jobs.
- Unemployment down to a mere 4.1% — a 17 year low — as of December 2017.
- Hispanic unemployment is now at an all-time low.
- African American unemployment is now at an all-time low.
- Two quarters of 3% economic growth in 2017, significant increase from sluggish growth in recent years.
- Record high stock markets — the Dow topped 26,000 for the first-time in history.
- 31% increase in the Dow — best growth since FDR.
- Investors have gained $6.9 trillion in value since last January.
- Confirmation of conservative Neil Gorsuch as a new Justice on the Supreme Court, which in my view is his most important achievement to date.
- Appointed and got confirmed more federal judges in first year (12) than any other President (“Former President Barack Obama successfully appointed three appeals court judges in his first year in office in 2009, as well as Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. His predecessor, George W. Bush, got six confirmed,” reported Axios.)
- Signed a proclamation calling for a National Day of Prayer on September 3, 2017 for the victims of these natural disasters, and has worked closely with faith leaders on a wide range of important issues.
- First American President in history to address the March For Life in Washington, and has kept many of his pro-life promises to both publicly champion and sign legislation protecting the lives of the unborn
FOREIGN & NATIONAL SECURITY POLICY SUCCESSES:
- Decimated the Islamic State caliphate, after removing the handcuffs the Obama team had put on the U.S. military and American allies.
- Liberated 98% of ISIS territory.
- Liberated some 8 million people enslaved by ISIS.
- Liberated Raqqa, the Syria capital of the Islamic State.
- Hit Syria with missile barrage after Syria used chemical weapons against its citizens, something President Obama never did even though he drew the “red line.”
- Persuaded more NATO countries to increase defense spending to reach 2% target.
- Signed a $700 billion defense budget, a dramatic increase from Obama years.
- Boosted missile defense spending by $4 billion, to protect Americans from North Korea, Iran and other threats.
- Taking a tough stance against North Korea — including boosting U.S. defenses in Asia, including deploying F-35 stealth fighters and B-52 nuclear-capable bombers — and ending the appeasement policy of “strategic patience.”
- Dramatically strengthening alliance with Israel, visited Israel on his first foreign trip as President and becoming first American President to visit the Western Wall, making a nuanced Jerusalem announcement to move U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Israel’s capital, and sending Vice President Pence to Israel deliver an excellent address to the Knesset.
- Significantly and steadily strengthening U.S. alliances with the moderate Sunni Arab world — meeting numerous Arab leaders in Washington, and making a very successful first foreign trip to Saudi Arabia in which he addressed leaders of 50 Arab/Muslim nations, and sending Vice President Pence to Egypt and Jordan to underscore how important these allies are to the U.S. (that said, his Jerusalem decision has stalled this progress and the administration faces significant challenges with its Arab allies in 2018).
- Excellent choice of Nikki Haley as UN Ambassador who has aggressively challenged U.N. biases and mismanagement.
- Appointed Gov. Sam Brownback to serve as the new U.S. Ambassador for International Religious Freedom, thus elevating the importance of religious freedom as a critical American foreign policy concern.
CAPACITY TO CHANGE
DISAPPOINTMENTS & ON-GOING CHALLENGES:
- Has not laid out a comprehensive strategy to protect all innocent life and end the cruelty of abortion once and for all, despite 60 million abortions having been performed since 1973. “A new analysis published by the National Right to Life Committee indicated there have been an estimated 60,069,971 abortions since the Supreme Court handed down its 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision allowing virtually unlimited abortions,” reports Life News. The President rightly notes the Declaration of Independence says government’s mission is to protect life. He must do more.
- Unnecessary and at times unkind, divisive and off-message Tweets and comments by the President. Such activity is taxing — and arguably, exhausting — the goodwill of the American people, undermining the many positive policy and personnel decisions the President has made. Indeed, a remarkable “70% of voters say the President should stop Tweeting from his personal account,” according to a recent Quinnipiac Poll, indicating this view is held by a wide range of Americans of differing ideological beliefs — left, right and center.
- Disconcerting and repeated statements of admiration of Vladimir Putin, combined with other odd and at times contradictory quotes about Putin, by the President. Such statements suggest the President may not adequately appreciate the threat Putin and the Russian military and intelligence community pose to U.S. national security and that of America’s allies. Indeed, the President only mentioned Russia one time during his State of the Union address, and only in passing, at that.
- Michael Flynn, the President’s former U.S. national security advisor, pleading guilty to lying to the FBI during the Russia investigation. “Court documents show Flynn has acknowledged to investigators that at least two Trump transition members were involved in his outreach to Russian officials — though he initially gave false statements about those discussions,” reported Fox News. This certainly does not prove the President himself “colluded” with the Putin government during the 2016 campaign. It is troubling, nonetheless.
- Paul Manafort, the President’s former campaign manager, being indicted by a federal grand jury (with his business associate, Rick Gates) on 12 counts of illegal activities, as part of the on-going Russia investigation. Again, to be clear, I do not yet know what to make of the much-disputed charge that the Trump campaign illegally “colluded” with the Putin government to win the 2016 elections. The President calls the Mueller investigation a “witch hunt.” And that may well be. We will know all the facts in due time and can more fairly assess them then. There is no reason to rush to judgment. That said, it is worth acknowledging that large numbers of Americans are deeply concerned about the matter and worry the President is not being straight-forward with the public about his relationship with Moscow. “A Washington Post-ABC poll found nearly half — 49 percent — of Americans believe Trump himself tried to interfere with the Russia investigation in a way that amounts to obstruction of justice,” reported the Washington Post. “And about a quarter — 26 percent — of Americans believe there is “strong evidence” supporting their belief. And half of Americans believe the Trump campaign colluded with Russia, according to the poll.”
- Repeated public attacks against the U.S. intelligence community, the FBI and even his own Attorney General, risking undermining public confidence in the hardworking and patriotic Americans who work in federal law enforcement and the intelligence community. Almost unprecedented in U.S. history, the President has publicly blasted the conduct of Attorney General Jeff Sessions as “very weak”, said he was “very disappointed” with Sessions, and allowed rumors to run rampant for months that he might fire the Attorney General because Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation.
- Penchant for self-aggrandizing exaggeration and hyperbole that erodes public trust in the President’s words (such as famously insisting the crowd size at the inauguration was far larger than it was, or insisting he won the 2016 election by a “massive landslide”). A new poll in January 2018 found that the President face a “credibility gap” — “only 35 percent say he’s ‘honest,’ and 34 percent say he’s ‘trustworthy.'”
- Chose Rex Tillerson, who has no experience in government or global diplomacy, to be the Secretary of State, and has not replaced Tillerson despite continuing controversy and strains in the relationship. The President has publicly contradicted his Secretary of State numerous times (see also here), and privately weighed replacing him. I’m sure that Mr. Tillerson is a fine and honorable man and he has an impressive record in the private sector. However, the American people need world-class diplomat and one that the President has full confidence in, and one that world leaders know has the President’s full confidence and ear. In such a tumultuous global environment, it was a mistake for the President to appoint him, and a mistake not to make a change immediately.
- Incredibly slow to appoint qualified, trusted ambassadors around the world.There are currently 20 open ambassadorial posts in Europe, numerous open ambassadorial posts in key Middle East countries like Egypt and Jordan, and the U.S. still does not have an ambassador in South Korea, despite the rising risk of war on the Korean peninsula.
- Wasn’t able to persuade Members of his own party to repeal and replace Obama Care, as he promised. The President has made some progress at reducing the harm of Obama Care, such as ending the individual mandate (via the tax bill). But in his State of the Union address, he did not ask Congress to try again to repeal and replace the entire system.
- Has not yet passed solid legislation to secure America’s southern border, and still hasn’t secured $25 billion for the border wall, despite making this one of his top policy priorities.
- Overall, on policy and personnel (especially Vice President Mike Pence, who has been excellent), the President has had an impressive year. He’s certainly made mistakes, but he has also shown the capacity to make changes and course-correct.
- On his own personal statements and Tweets, the President has had a terrible year. This lack of discipline has undermined his credibility with the American people and America’s friends and allies around the world. He needs the change quickly.
- Defending the sanctity of human life from the womb to natural death must become the President’s top priority. He’s doing better on this than I would have predicted, but needs to do much more. America faces judgment for murdering 60 million babies. We must legally end this evil scourge with all haste.
- As the President and his team begin their second year in office, I commit to praying for them every day. I also commit to praying for the country, for revival and a Great Awakening (which have nothing to do with Washington or the presidency.) I hope you will commit yourself to on-going prayer for the country and her leaders, too.
“I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” — the Apostle Paul (I Timothy 2:1-3)