It’s traditional by now to make a big deal out of a new president’s first 100 days. To get a 10 day jump on those other pundits, I’m going to pick an equally arbitrary number – today marks his first 3 months in office – to give Trump an early grade.
I’m breaking down my take to the Good, the Bad and the Ugly (copyright 50 years ago, by Sergio Leone). (And if you haven’t seen that movie, what’s wrong with you? Men a-bed in America tonight should hold their manhoods cheap if they haven’t seen that Eastwood gem. In fact, you could do worse – manhood-wise – than to spend a chunk of your life immersed in all things Shakespeare and Eastwood, with some Walter Payton and Johnny Cash thrown in.)
Where was I? Oh yeah. In reverse order:
Trump: the Ugly
Put aside the obvious jokes about the hair – that’s beneath us all.
One of the two main things about Trump that continually grate on me involves his style: his unserious, immature vulgarity and semi-vulgarity. The Access Hollywood interview is probably the archetypal example, but others are sadly easy to find, on an almost daily basis.
The latest example: when he recounted his decision to fire the missiles at Syria, he described how he was having dinner with Chinese leader Xi (and by the way, China, nice going with the names. You do realize you’ve chosen the Roman numeral for “eleven” as your top guy, right?), he spent more time on how great the chocolate cake was (It was beautiful, the best chocolate cake ever, believe me.) than on the fact that he ordered a missile strike.
At least once a week he says something that’s crudely phrased enough that I face palm myself; at this pace, if he wins a second term, I’m going to finish 2024 looking like I just lost a cage match.
The second Trump quality that bothers me is that he’s not a conservative, and that was the main reason I didn’t vote for him in the primary. He is a lifelong Democrat who joined the GOP 10 minutes before his presidential run, and the malleability of his political convictions is a constant source of concern.
While some of his positions are conservative – he knows that high taxes hurt the economy, he knows the MSM are corrupt leftists, he loves America and is no globalist – others are leftist — he doesn’t seem to see any problems with protectionism, and doesn’t hesitate to bully companies or others with whom he disagrees – while others are just idiosyncratic and ego-driven: he likes people who like him and doesn’t like those who don’t.
The low point of his first three months was watching him push a first attempt at health care “reform” that enshrined most of the disastrous big-government controls of Obamacare, and then to be most incensed at the principled conservatives in the Freedom Caucus for opposing that mess.
All of that being said, I’m still pretty happy with the first three months, for a lot of reasons:
2. Trump’s vulgar style strikes me as a venial sin rather than a mortal one, and is counter-balanced by his willingness to fight back. While most people think of me as a sophisticated polymathic high-brow gentleman (stop laughing), I’ve got a vulgar streak of my own, and appreciate crudity when it is aimed at a deserving target. My favorite debate moment was when Hillary finished bloviating about how she is glad that someone like Trump was not in the Oval Office, and he got in a verbal rib-kick: “Because you’d be in jail.”
One of my other favorite moments was when he defended himself against false charges that he’d paid Russian hookers to urinate on him by saying, “I’m also very much of a germaphobe, by the way. Believe me.” (First item on the list “Things Mitt Romney would Never Say in a Million Years”: “Probably the most convincing reason to believe that I’ve never paid foreign prostitutes to pee on me is that that is just gross.”) The Fake News chant is sophomoric. But it’s mostly true.
The bottom line is that after a string of GOP players who saw it as beneath them to fight the Left (Bushes 41 and 43, McCain, Romney), Trump is willing to throw a punch, and for me, that covers a multitude of his sins.
3. I’d rather have a president acting on consistent ideological principles, rather than changeable instincts. But his instincts are often better than many of us expected: illegal immigrants are a problem, America is exceptional, the problem in the Middle East is not Israel, you don’t give Iran nukes.
These should not be tough issues, but our last president couldn’t grasp such subtleties.
4. His appointments have been surprisingly good: T-Rex at state, Mad Dog Mattis, Sessions is giving the right people hell, Mnuchin knows a bit about the economy, a physician (Price) in charge of Health, Nikki “joy of man’s desiring” Haley at the UN. Education sec De Vos is no genius, but she knows enough to push educational choice and resist public ed unions, and EPA head Pruitt knows that the EPA has wildly over-reached.
Of course there have been a few mis-steps (I’m looking at you, Flynn), as there always are.
But consider this: dopey Trump picked the Murderer’s Row listed above, and put Gorzilla on the Supreme Court. Who did world-renowned Nobel Peace Prize Winner Sophocles Obama appoint?
Whitey-haters like Van Jones and Eric Holder, “tax cheat Timmy” Geithner (at Treasury!), Oklahoma strong safety Janet Napolitano at Homeland Security (after which she went to Berkley, which tells you all you need to know), “Lurch” Kerry and Hillary as SecState (quick, name an accomplishment, other than “Most Miles Traveled,” which is the equivalent of a participation trophy).
And that’s not mentioning the aptly named Loretta Lynch! (How bad does your judgment have to be when Eric Holder is arguably NOT your worst Attorney General pick?!)
5. In what is probably the most back-handed compliment possible, I’m happier with Trump because the other options are so much worse.
The Dems are beyond awful, in so many ways that no argument is necessary beyond listing their recent accomplishments: almost doubling 230+ years of national debt in 8 years, you can keep your plan and doctor, Benghazi, Harry Reid, “tell Vlad I’ll have more flexibility after this election,” Lois Lerner, private server, “you have to pass the bill to learn what’s in it,” creepy Chuck Schumer, creepier Jonathan Gruber, one 128-year-old socialist candidate who’s never done an honest day’s work in his life, another who enabled her hideous husband’s repeated sexual assaults and who couldn’t beat Donald Trump in an election, et freaking cetera.
But the GOP establishment is no prize either: they promise for 7 years to repeal and replace Obamacare and then shrink from it; they promise to cut taxes and then shrink from it; they gain power in Congress because of their conservative base and then attack that base far more vociferously than they ever attacked the far left jerks who have fought dirty against them for decades.
Even on issues where the public is solidly behind them – stop illegal immigration! – they have to be dragged into taking action against their will.
If I had to grade Trump on his first 3 months:
For style and words: C –
For substance and actions: high B.
If I’m grading on a curve, and the other class members are Obama, Hillary, Congressional Dems, GOP establishment: easy A.