We will soon celebrate the first anniversary of the Trump presidency. I am a moderate conservative and Donald Trump was not my first choice as a Republican nominee. But if the Republicans had nominated the Devil, I’d have voted the Hell ticket as an alternative to Mrs. Clinton. That said, I’ve warmed to the president since last January for the following reasons:
First, President Trump has stood up against the lynch mob. It is obvious to me that a decision was made days after the election that the president would be impeached, and not just by Democrats. The only question was how long it would take Mr. Trump’s enemies to find a charge. There is a bipartisan establishment, and most of it thinks Mr. Trump is a jerk. That alone is not grounds for impeachment, so Mr. Trump had better hope he hasn’t been filmed spitting on the sidewalk someplace. I like the fact that, rather than trying to placate them as did Richard Nixon and the Bushes, Mr. Trump hits back hard.
Second, Michael Wolff’s recent portrayal of Mr. Trump in his “Fire and Fury” book as a non-reader and someone who won’t listen to advice seems to me to ignore the point that he hires good people and holds them publicly accountable when they don’t produce the results that he wants. This is consistent with his advertised business management style. The fact that he lets his chief of staff and national security team manage day-to-day military affairs is encouraging. The president has not gotten us into any new wars and seems content to let the professionals handle the ones he has inherited.
In the area of foreign affairs, Mr. Trump has not made unnecessary enemies. Critics call his handling of North Korea boorish, but nothing his much more diplomatically astute predecessors have tried for 60 years has worked. At least, the two Koreas are talking again. Even if they are talking about how dangerous Mr. Trump is, at least it gives them something in common to discuss. Mr. Trump’s approach in going after the perfidious Pakistanis is one that has long been advocated by those regional experts who see Pakistan as part of the problem in Afghanistan rather than part of the solution.
Here and abroad, it appears that many potential adversaries realize that deliberately crossing Donald Trump will have consequences. Nobody thought that about Barack Obama. As a diplomatic tool, it is useful for an American diplomat to be able to tell a foreign negotiator that he or she cannot control how the president will react to a threat or to a failure to cooperate. Henry Kissinger was a master of this. In the end Mr. Wolff and his ilk are probably inadvertently doing U.S. foreign policy a service in attempting to portray the U.S. president as deranged.
Third, Mr. Trump also appears to be trying to keep campaign promises. I’m ambivalent about the border wall, but much of his base wants it. As for his tax decreases, we’ll see if wages go up and employment continues to rise. If the economy tanks, Mr. Trump will be voted out of office. If, as Mr. Wolff claims, Mr. Trump did not really want to be president; he may well declare victory and decide not to run in 2020.
If Mr. Trump doesn’t run for re-election, Mr. Wolff will be proved right; but that should be Mr. Trump’s call. Steve Bannon’s break with the Trump administration will come as a relief to those who think that Mr. Bannon was more of a detriment than a plus to Mr. Trump’s presidency. Mr. Bannon is coming off as a backstabbing ingrate, and his comments on the president and his family have diminished his standing among all but the hardest core of the alternate right.
Mr. Trump’s most ardent critics among Democrats and establishment Republicans are reflected daily in The Washington Post and The New York Times editorial pages. These elites really care how the rest of the world thinks about America and want to see the nation loved and respected. What they ignore is that they are running against a deep-seated American nativist approach which is to say: “I’m going my own way. Follow if you want, just don’t block my path.”
This approach still strikes deep notes in many Americans, there were enough of them to legally elect Mr. Trump. Some pundits are openly talking about a legal coup based on the 25th Amendment; that is a very slippery slope. The lynch mob has formed and is looking for a rope and tree … sad.
• Gary Anderson is a frequent contributor to The Washington Times.