- - Wednesday, January 4, 2017


President-elect Donald Trump is inheriting an abnormally large number of pressing issues as he takes office. We will see whether he spends his entire first term blaming his predecessor as President Obama did. My guess is that he will not.

As we wait for a glimpse of Mr. Trump’s governing style, let’s look at the issues of greatest importance:

Day 1 priorities — Mr. Trump and his team have been spending a lot of his time preparing his first actions as president on January 20. I expect that he will rescind all or nearly all of Mr. Obama’s executive orders and regulations. These touch on virtually every aspect of human existence, but particular importance will be paid to those issues that directly affect the economy. Personally, I’m interested not just in what he does or doesn’t rescind, but on what executive orders he himself issues.

Iran deal — Will Mr. Trump rescind the Iran nuclear deal? Many conservatives want him to, as does the Israeli government. Mr. Trump has said he will renegotiate it, but he may choose to rescind it since Iran has violated it in many ways from the first moment after it was signed.

Obamacare — Mr. Obama’s health care law is objectively failing. Because Mr. Obama procedurally passed the law without Republican votes, that means Republicans can repeal it using reconciliation (requiring just 50 votes and the vice president’s vote) and they will. But repealing Obamacare is easy. Replacing it in a way that keeps popular provisions, is market-based and improves accessibility and affordability, while finding 60 votes in the Senate, will be a difficult task.

Debt ceiling — The debt ceiling will need to be raised in the first two months. This will be an early must-pass vehicle, and may require Democratic votes, as some Republicans generally oppose raising the debt ceiling on principle.

Weak economy — While Mr. Obama inherited a recession, he is passing on a stunningly weak economy, with average annual GDP below 2 percent over his eight years. The economy is ready to grow, and Mr. Trump will remove barriers to economic growth through rescinding executive orders, cutting regulations and reforming corporate taxes in the first six months. Can Mr. Trump bring the country to 3 or 4 percent annual economic growth by the end of 2017? Can he raise median wages? Those are reasonable goals.

North Korea — The nuclear threat from the unstable North Korean regime is an urgent threat to the western United States, as well as to our allies in Asia. Mr. Trump will need to strengthen ties with South Korea and find leverage over China to force them to pressure North Korea to end its nuclear program. This is a major diplomatic challenge that may become a military challenge.

Terrorist threat/Syria — The terrorist threat from Islamic State is grave and metastasizing. While Islamic State has not yet carried out spectacular mass-casualty attacks in the U.S., intelligence officials say the threat in the region and even in the homeland is serious. Mr. Trump appears to want to partner with Russia to crush Islamic State, particularly in Syria, but this does not address the civil war being perpetuated by Syrian President Bashar Assad against his own people.

Immigration — Mr. Trump faces an immediate choice of whether he will rescind DACA, the executive order that allows the children of illegal immigrants to stay in the country and not be deported. More broadly, Mr. Trump will want to “build the wall,” which may end up being limited to physical barrier in urban areas and technological barriers in rural areas. He will still ultimately need legislation to pass E-verify, to end illegal hiring, and reform the legal immigration system. No issue is more clearly associated with Mr. Trump’s campaign — so he will need to deliver.

There are other important issues on the table — trade, China, the deplete military, the Supreme Court vacancy — but these eight issues will largely determine whether Mr. Trump’s first term is ultimately viewed as a success, and whether he wins a second term.

All of which is to say that Mr. Trump is inheriting the world’s most difficult job at a time when our country faces a longer list of complex and pressing challenges than any recent president.

Matt Mackowiak is the president of Potomac Strategy Group, a Republican consultant, a Bush administration and Bush-Cheney re-election campaign veteran, and former press secretary to two U.S. senators. He is the host of a new national politics podcast, “Mack on Politics,” produced in partnership with The Washington Times. His podcast may be found at washingtontimes.com/mackonpolitics.

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