Trump's first year: The report card

It has been a crazy year in Washington. A new president came to town making big promises about how he would upend eve...

Posted: Jan 18, 2018 1:10 PM
Updated: Jan 18, 2018 1:10 PM

It has been a crazy year in Washington. A new president came to town making big promises about how he would upend everything that was wrong with politics and assured his supporters that nothing could get in his way. So how did he do?

Grading presidents is a difficult business. These kinds of marks, especially in such a polarized age, are always dependent on the eye of the beholder.

What looks like a total disaster to one person seems like a clear-cut victory to another. This is the essence of a nation divided by red and blue.

In an era when the very notion of "truth" has come under fire, it's hard to evaluate anything a president does and expect that there can be a rational debate about the conclusions. Good grades would be dismissed by some as supporting a dictatorial commander in chief while others will push aside bad grades as more "fake news."

Despite these challenges, here is an effort to evaluate some of the bigger aspects of how he has used the power of the presidency to pursue his objectives. The grades are not meant to say whether the objectives or actions were good or bad, so much as to think about whether he has been effective at matching up promises to outcome.

Exercising presidential power: A-

From the start, President Trump promised to flex the power of the presidency to get things done. He wouldn't be constrained by the obstacles that have stymied other presidents -- other power centers and longtime Washington norms -- so that he could achieve his goals.

The good news for Trump is that he came into a pretty powerful office and expanded its impact. He has dismantled a huge number of economic and climate regulations put into place since the 1970s and used his Twitter bullhorn to promote an agenda of conservative populism that has thrilled his base.

He has unleashed a frontal assault on immigration through increased arrests and raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (up 16%), attempting to stop funding for sanctuary cities, the refugee ban, attempting to end DACA, and his legitimating nativist rhetoric that should not be uttered anywhere near the Oval Office in 2018.

Although there is a major investigation underway of Russia's meddling in the 2016 election and into whether there was collusion with the Trump campaign, right now the Republican Congress has done very little in response to his Nixonian assertions of authority in going after the investigators and the journalists working on this issue.

Legislating: B-

Until the end of the year, this would have been an easy F. For a Republican president whose party controlled Congress and whose party disagreed on very little when it came to policy - a wave of right-wing legislation akin to the sweeping changes of President Lyndon Johnson's Great Society should have been smooth sailing.

But it wasn't. Trump's turbulent leadership style and the chaos that gripped Washington as a result of his leadership left the GOP fumbling the ball on health care and failing to move any signature bills through most of the year. But he redeemed himself to some extent by pushing the massive corporate tax cut through, giving the party's wealthy donors a Christmas gift.

It was a triumph. Whatever the long-term effect of increasing the budget deficit and contributing to greater inequality, Trump has benefited in the short term from some major employers, such as Apple, who have announced expansion plans, or others who have said they would give bonuses to workers. Of course, passing a corporate tax cut should be low-hanging fruit for a Republican government and it is notable that even moderate Democrats said no to the bill. And the disastrous performance on handling the proposed budget and DACA deal in the past few days is a reminder that when it comes to Capitol Hill, President Trump is no Lyndon Johnson.

Coalition building: C

Here President Trump is somewhere in the middle. Without question, he has done nothing to really expand the GOP. Despite his wins in some small constituencies that went for Obama in 2008, much of what Trump has done is to preserve the party status quo.

He has been successful at elevating the hard-line elements of the party whose principal base of power had been the House, without losing the support of many Republicans, despite the complaining from people like Sens. Bob Corker and Lindsey Graham (who quickly turn around to embrace him on the golf course or airplane). This is a measure of success given how reactionary so many of his pronouncements have been.

That said, his approval ratings suggest he has zero chance of expanding the Republican coalition and if the polling trends continue the party might suffer massive damage in the midterms, which would be the one thing that would cause everyone on the right to rethink their support. His success has also depended on a booming economy that leads many Republicans to remain quiet regardless of what he does.

America's standing in the world: D

Although there are many critics who would give him a whopping F, it is important to note that the President has made some big moves that have support. In Israel, for instance, his announcement about recognizing Jerusalem as the capital has met with strong approval, while it has been denounced by many other nations.

In the Philippines he has also been met with strong applause. But most of the world is appalled. They see a president whose policies have been reckless and who has withdrawn from great alliances to feed the America first crowd. While his Twitter war with North Korea didn't start a war, that may just be because the world has been lucky so far.

Moral Leadership: F

On this the President has spent a year failing the nation. Whatever party one belongs to, there should be no support for the kinds of statements that have come from this White House. The President should be a person who pushes the nation to live up to its highest ideals, not someone who drags our democracy down into the political mud. When an entire nation was discussing Trump's derogatory reference to Africa last week, it was hard to imagine that somewhere Martin Luther King Jr. wasn't shedding tears on the holiday meant to commemorate his work on civil rights.

Trump has elevated the standing of racist and xenophobic organizations because of his words, and transformed the presidency into a reality show circus where anything is permissible and nothing is surprising anymore.

He has introduced a style of presidential rhetoric that is more fitting for the professional wrestling ring, at best, than for the White House. His ongoing war on the truth will forever scar our national dialogue and create permanent space for those who disseminate politically loaded lies and conspiracy theories. He has laid down a very real precedent for all future presidents to act their very worst and to abandon all effort to serve as models of public behavior.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 30674

Reported Deaths: 1107
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds248039
DeSoto157216
Madison129634
Jones112049
Neshoba98571
Rankin91612
Lauderdale90879
Harrison88610
Forrest86042
Scott77015
Jackson61616
Copiah60216
Washington5789
Leake57519
Holmes55141
Lee54718
Wayne54213
Oktibbeha54126
Warren51118
Yazoo5056
Leflore48651
Lowndes48312
Grenada4795
Lamar4567
Lincoln45434
Pike43112
Monroe39930
Lafayette3894
Sunflower3737
Attala35923
Covington3475
Panola3456
Newton3399
Bolivar33414
Adams31018
Simpson3103
Pontotoc2836
Tate27810
Chickasaw27618
Marion27511
Claiborne27010
Jasper2616
Noxubee2618
Winston2596
Pearl River25432
Clay24910
Marshall2263
Smith22011
Union2079
Clarke20624
Walthall2004
Coahoma1996
Kemper17814
Lawrence1741
Yalobusha1717
Carroll16411
Humphreys1479
Tallahatchie1364
Itawamba1358
Montgomery1312
Tippah13011
Calhoun1294
Hancock12613
Webster12510
Jefferson Davis1114
Prentiss1083
Jefferson1073
Greene1058
Tunica1003
Wilkinson949
Amite892
George863
Tishomingo781
Quitman760
Choctaw744
Alcorn682
Perry664
Stone641
Franklin452
Sharkey350
Benton340
Issaquena91
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 41362

Reported Deaths: 983
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson4944152
Montgomery4021103
Mobile4005134
Tuscaloosa222642
Marshall170210
Lee135937
Madison13597
Shelby122723
Morgan10715
Walker91424
Elmore90314
Franklin88914
Dallas8799
Baldwin8469
Etowah72713
DeKalb7075
Butler62428
Chambers62427
Tallapoosa58869
Autauga58312
Russell5450
Unassigned50323
Lauderdale4896
Limestone4810
Houston4794
Lowndes46721
Cullman4394
Pike4205
Colbert3916
Coffee3732
Bullock36810
St. Clair3662
Covington3547
Barbour3472
Escambia3376
Calhoun3325
Hale31021
Talladega3037
Marengo30211
Wilcox2908
Sumter28412
Dale2820
Clarke2736
Jackson2682
Winston2543
Chilton2392
Monroe2342
Blount2301
Pickens2276
Marion21913
Conecuh2047
Randolph2009
Choctaw19512
Bibb1871
Macon1859
Greene1838
Perry1701
Henry1323
Crenshaw1253
Lawrence1070
Washington1057
Cherokee857
Geneva790
Lamar751
Fayette681
Clay642
Coosa581
Cleburne361
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