Unexamined Premises

New Year's Resolutions for the White House

(AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

After a tumultuous first two years in the White House, the Trump administration — which is effectively just the president himself — is at an inflection point. The Democrats have retaken the House, the markets are volatile, the Fed is raising interest rates, the special counsel is still pursuing him, the Middle East is in chaos, and there’s no border wall yet. So how should Donald Trump head into 2019? Herewith, a list of New Year’s resolutions for him to consider:

  • Build the “danged fence.” Finding the funds won’t get any easier next year with the opposition party controlling the purse strings, but if the slow-motion invasion from Latin America isn’t a matter of national security, what is? The president insists he’s prepared to keep the government partially closed until he gets the $5 billion he’s requested, and he’s also floated the idea of using the military and its fungible budget to build it, which may turn out to be his best option. But build it he must: nothing will dishearten Trump’s base more — and ensure his defeat in 2020 — than welshing on his promise to end illegal immigration.
  • Stop the Endless Wars. The U.S. has been fighting on and off in the Muslim world since the first Gulf War in 1991, and steadily since 9/11. The Pentagon loves these mini-conflicts, in which junior officers can get combat experience, and the brass can commission and test the latest weaponry. But their value to American geopolitical security is small and the toll they’ve taken on our society is incalculable. The decision to leave Syria and roll back troop levels in Afghanistan is a good first step, no matter what Jim Mattis — who now has the distinction of being fired by two presidents in a row — thinks.
  • Choose temperamentally compatible subordinates who will carry out policy. Low-profile Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was the perfect choice to succeed the prima donna, Rex Tillerson, and the next SecDef should be fully on board with Trump’s desire to make our allies take a more active role in their regions. There’s a reason it’s not called the War Department anymore.
  • Fire Rod Rosenstein. The quintessential Swamp Thing, the duplicitous Rosenstein’s the guy who wrote the memo that persuaded Trump to fire James Comey, who then, via his own “leaked” memos, forced the appointment of Robert Mueller (Comey’s predecessor at the FBI) by none other than… Rod Rosenstein. If Trump can’t fire Mueller, Rosenstein’s the next best thing, and with a new attorney general headed in the door, now’s as good a time as any. Then, have the new guy —
  • Fire Bob Mueller. This farce has gone on long enough, as the sanctimonious Straight Arrow racks up his tally of process crimes while “Russian collusion” molts into an open-ended, ex post facto examination of the Trump family business. The very existence of a special prosecutor, with unlimited resources and answerable to nobody, is profoundly un-American and a disgrace to democracy. Terminate it with extreme political prejudice.
  • Ignore the media. Trump still thinks he can charm reporters, like he did back in Manhattan, but those days are long gone. Nearly every news story now must have some reference to Trump, no matter how tangential, and always unflattering as the partisan press shapes the “unfit for office” narrative for the incoming House Democrat majority. The president should cancel the daily briefing, light a fire under the passively reactive White House communications shop to get his message out proactively, and turn the press room back into the indoor swimming pool it was under FDR. What’s the worst that can happen? The media’s never going to like him.
  • Regarding Twitter, less is more. As they say in the Marines, fire for effect.
  • Announce during the State of the Union that henceforth the U.S. will live within its means on an annual zero-based-budget basis. No more continuing resolutions or stopgap spending bills, designed to fluff Democrat constituencies at taxpayers’ expense. Pay as you go, with a little something extra left in the kitty to pare down the debt. The buck has to stop somewhere.
  • Explain to the American people that while Russia is our adversary, China is our enemy. They send us fleets of spies disguised as graduate students, steal our technology and intellectual property and then sell it back to us. Huawei is only the tip of their spear. By imposing a stiff tariff — say 200 percent — on stolen tech, Trump would at one stroke protect American industry, hit the Chinese in the wallet, block their attempt to corral the 5G market, encourage innovation at home, and put their slave labor camps out of business. This is war.
  • Advocate real election reform. No more “vote harvesting.” No more early voting, no more late voting, no more absentee voting except for deployed military. Voter ID for everybody.  Yes, the states determine election law, but the bully pulpit is there for a reason. Otherwise, what happened in California, where the Democrats were miraculously winning House seats weeks after the election, will occur nationwide. And, above all —
  • Stay the course: The Democrats and the dwindling band of NeverTrumpers (do not fail to click on the link) are trying to overturn the 2016 election by the death of a thousand cuts. But business is booming, oil is cheap, the dollar is relatively strong, and Americans are enjoying prosperity again. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.