My Sunday New York Post column today takes a look at how the traditional (well, since FDR, in American political usage) first hundred days are going:
As the end of Donald Trump’s first 100 days in office approaches, now’s a good a time to cut through the fog of misinformation, disinformation, media propaganda, ideological bias and outright hostility that has greeted his arrival in Washington and take a clear-eyed look at how he’s really doing.
Answer: much better than you think.
The rumor mills have been working overtime in Washington this weekend — and I guess we’ll find later today or tomorrow whether they’re right — but heading into the weekend, my assessment of the new president is positive.
Let’s take the area that was supposed to be his Achilles’ heel, foreign policy. Unencumbered by the can’t-do conventional wisdom of the Foggy Bottom establishment and its parrots in the Washington press corps, Rex Tillerson has played the carrot to Trump’s stick, soothing Chinese feathers ruffled during the campaign with a March visit to Beijing and setting up the successful meeting earlier this month between The Donald and the Chinese president at Mar-a-Largo that — purely coincidentally! — coincided with the cruise-missile salvo fired at Syria’s Bashar al-Assad.
Since then, the Chinese have openly cautioned the troublesome regime of Kim Jong un in North Korea not to antagonize the US with further nuclear saber-rattling in the region; “Trump is a man who honors his promises,” warned the People’s Daily, the ruling party’s official newspaper. Among those promises: a better trade deal for China and an ominous presidential tweet to the Norks that they’re “looking for trouble,” and signed “USA.” Even now, US warships are steaming Kim’s way.
Trump’s also laid down the law to NATO allies about hitting spending targets of 2 percent of GDP on defense, and will meet with them in May to accept their formal surrender. The betting window is now open, by the way, so get your money down on L’ill Kim’s Last Day on Earth, the official End of the Korean War and, for extra bucks, Assad’s Last Day as Leader of Syria. They’ll probably all happen around the same time, which is to say: soon.
Domestically, a first attempt at repealing and replacing ObamaCare flopped when Speaker Paul Ryan’s needlessly complex “better way” couldn’t muster enough GOP votes to make it to the House floor. But the fault was the ambitious Ryan’s. Now the way’s clear for a cleaner repeal. And, yes, tax reform’s on its way, too.
True, the president’s two executive orders regarding visitors from several Muslim countries have been stayed by federal judges refusing to acknowledge the plain letter of both the Constitution and the US Code 1182, which give the president plenary power regarding immigration. But the recent confirmation of Neil Gorsuch as an associate justice will quickly clear up that misunderstanding when the cases land in the Supreme Court. Further, the Republicans’ use of the “nuclear option” to eliminate the filibuster for high court nominees means Trump’s next pick is guaranteed a speedy confirmation.
Administration insiders, however, point to this as their proudest accomplishment so far:
Less remarked but equally important has been the administration’s speedy action on downsizing the federal government, proposing real spending cuts and reorganizing the bloated bureaucracy, which has drawn bleats of protest from the DC swamp creatures watching their sinecures circling the drain. Trump’s also lifted the hiring freeze, in order to flesh out a still-undermanned executive staff and replace Obama holdovers.
So as the Kushner-Bannon cage match continues, things will continue to be up in the air concerning the new administration. Will Bannon be forced out, or will the pugnacious former Breitbart chief reach a modus vivendi with the president’s son-in-law? The anti-Bannon forces inside the White House will do well to remember that nobody — not a single voter — voted for Jared Kushner, whereas all Steve Bannon did was take a rudderless campaign, maximize Trump’s strengths, and propel it to victory.
Trump can ill-afford to lose Bannon and his die-hard conservative base. And the sooner the floundering White House press operation is rebooted, the better; the administration has played defense against a hostile, sneering media long enough.
No new president will ever match the whirlwind of new programs introduced by FDR when he took office during the Depression — the gold standard cited by Democrats who equate activity with action. But Trump got elected for precisely the opposite reason: Less government is more freedom.
As long as he keeps that in mind, he — and we — will do just fine.