Last year, I told conservatives who would come to visit me in my office that there were three main things to remember about the presidential election:
1) No other Republican beside Donald Trump could get elected;
2) If Hillary Clinton were elected, she would complete Barack Obama’s re-invention of the American republic as a socialist state; and
3) Despite positioning himself as an outsider, Trump would inevitably start acting like a standard politician once he was elected, but we had to weight that against the alternative.
In essence, I told people that No. 3 was the price we had to be willing to pay in order to ensure that we could avoid No. 2.
I have to admit that I am a little surprised by how quickly Trump has turned into a typical establishment politician, but it is a valuable reminder of how hard it is to steer the Titanic out of the path of disaster. Changing the pilot may seem like a reasonable response, but it doesn’t really solve the problem of the iceberg, does it?
So now, as we approach the end of the first hundred days of the Trump administration, those of us who voted for change in 2016 ought to take stock and see what we got, good and bad, by electing Trump as president. Here, in no particular order, are the Top 10:
1) Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch. At this point, before he has ruled on even one case, Gorsuch is largely a blank slate, but we can all agree that Hillary Clinton would not have appointed him, and that means he starts out with some promise. Verdict: Net plus, but wait and see.
2) Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump. The second couple of the White House may be the most powerful “first children” in history. Kushner has absorbed more titles than the 18th Duchess of Alba (look her up!) — everything from czar of reinventing government to the man who will bring peace to the Middle East. His wife, Ivanka, meanwhile, was able to use her tearful response to an alleged gas attack to convince Daddy Warbucks (er, I mean President Trump) to completely reverse his non-interventionist campaign pledge and export 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles into Syria. Jaren and Ivanka are called the “Democrat wing” of the Trump administration. Presumably most people who wanted New York liberals in the White House voted for Hillary Clinton, so the rise of the Kushners is something of a downer for conservatives. Verdict: Yikes!
3) The end of the Clean Power Plan. This is a promise kept by Trump. He said he would fight to help keep the coal industry alive, and this was a big part of that plan. Verdict: Bravo!
4) Travel ban vs. liberal judges. One of the most important of Trump’s promises from the campaign was to work to keep us safe from radical Islamic terrorism. Not surprisingly, that meant restricting the flow of immigration from states where radical Islam flourishes. The president had been given the power by Congress to act to restrict immigration from any country or by any class of people, but a couple of lifetime appointment judges who are not answerable to the people decided that Trump was acting unconstitutionally. There are two things to learn from this. One, Trump had better get to work quickly to fill the dozens of openings that currently exist in the federal judiciary with conservatives so that the law as written becomes the basis of future decisions. Two, if Justice Gorsuch rules against the travel ban as one of his first decisions on the Supreme Court, then all is lost. Verdict: Wait and see.
5) Build that wall. OK, there is no wall on our southern border yet, but no one expected it to be built in a day. The fact that there is actual progress being made toward construction of a fence/wall/protective barrier is enough to earn Trump some goodwill for appearing to intend to follow through on this promise. Verdict: Net plus, but wait and see.
6) Take on China. Trump promised he would be like a bull in a china shop when it came to fighting back against predatory trade practices and currency manipulation by China, but it turned out that after a weekend at Mar-a-Lago, Trump was a pekinese lapdog to President Xi Jinping. Turns out that China is not a currency manipulator, after all, and maybe they are just building a nice new resort in the South China Sea out of those islands they created instead of a military base. On the other hand, maybe Trump has tamed the Chinese dragon, and has gained a quiet ally in his apparent intention to teach the North Korean supreme leader a lesson about saber-rattling. Verdict: Wait and see (with fingers crossed).
7) Repeal Obamacare. Maybe we don’t know the meaning of repeal. Verdict: Disaster.
8) Improve relations with Russia: This seemed like a no-brainer. After all, even President Obama made fun of Mitt Romney for declaring that Russia was “our No. 1 geopolitical foe” in 2012. Trump was right that it would have made sense to enlist Russia as a convenient ally in the war against ISIS, but because the Democrats developed a sudden animosity for anything Russian in 2016, Trump has been forced to stand up to Putin to prove his all-American manhood. Verdict: Dangerous.
9) Keystone and Dakota Access pipelines get green light. Part of the pro-jobs, pro-energy, pro-development policy that Trump promised on the campaign trail. Verdict: Bravo!
10) Lower taxes for individuals and corporations. Probably the key component of Trump’s plan to re-energize the economy and stimulate re-investment. Currently being held hostage by Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. Verdict: Believe it when you see it.
These 10 issues are emblematic rather than exclusive. For the most part they raise questions about the true nature of the Trump administration, and present few answers. Perhaps the only thing we can say for sure is that President Trump is like no president before him, and enjoys being unpredictable.
The Democratic Party despises Trump, yet he seems drawn to many of their agenda items like a moth to the flame. Meanwhile, although he is at war with the ultra-conservative Freedom Caucus that helped get him elected and is shunning adviser Steve Bannon and the nationalist ideology that led to his election, he continues to move forward with some conservative issues that other Republicans have been afraid to touch such as abortion.
Final grade: Too early to decide. Check back in four (eight?) years.
Frank Miele is managing editor of the Daily Inter Lake in Kalispell, Montana.