The Rushmore Report: Grading Trump’s First Year

It has been one year since Donald Trump’s shocking election as the 45th president of the United States. The night of the election, I told a friend, “This will be like watching a blind discuss thrower. He may not set any records, but he will keep everyone watching.” That’s not to say Trump won’t – or hasn’t – set any records. I’d argue he has. Undeniably, he has kept everyone watching. But when we clear away the fog and dismiss the punditry from all sides, how has the president done so far? Or to borrow a question from President Reagan (1980 election vs. Jimmy Carter), are we better off today than we were one year ago? The answers may surprise.

For five reasons – all clear – we can conclude that America is better off and that the first year has been, to quote Michael Knowles, of The Daily Wire, “wildly successful.” But before we get to that, we must concede the president has not made it easy to grade him positively. His incessant, petty tweets continue to get in the way of his message. Whether we blame that on his political inexperience or personal immaturity, it needs to stop. Someone – anyone – needs to steal his Twitter device and not return it for at least three years.

One more caveat – we are grading the president on the basis of things accomplished, not things said. For the sake of this argument, we are not considering personal character, but policy achievements. That is not to say character doesn’t matter; it matters greatly. But grading another man’s character is above my pay grade. I’ll use this example. I have a great dentist. I know that because he takes good care of my teeth, his fees are reasonable, and he offers gas. Whether or not he is a good husband and father, I can’t say. And it’s not that it doesn’t matter, but that’s not how I judge his work.

So let’s get to it. I argue that President Trump’s first year has been successful – when judged on the basis of any measurable standard.

1. The Economy

Consumer confidence has hit its highest level in 17 years. Over one million jobs have been created. The post-election stock market rally is the greatest since the Kennedy Administration of 1961 – 56 years ago. The first meaningful tax reform since the Reagan years awaits Congressional approval. Unemployment is lower today than at any point in Obama’s eight years.

2. Social Issues

President Trump repealed the Obama mandate that forced states to fund Planned Parenthood. He has reinstated the Mexico City policy that protects U.S. taxpayers from having to fund abortions overseas. Most importantly, the president nominated an originalist justice – Neil Gorsuch – to the Supreme Court. He has also nominated 12 other textualist judges to the lower courts, and many others who await confirmation in the face of Democratic opposition.

3. Immigration

Trump has added more agents to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement. He has expanded deportation priorities, moved to end Obama’s executive amnesty program DACA, and signed an executive order directing the Justice Department to defund sanctuary cities. Illegal immigration has dropped to a 45-year low along our southern border. Additionally, Trump has imposed a five-year ban on lobbying the government by former White House officials and a lifetime ban by foreign governments.

4. Foreign Policy

While his critics have predicted the new president would recklessly plunge us into nuclear war, Trump has achieved trade concessions and collaboration on North Korea from China. He handled Syrian president Bashar al-Assad’s chemical test of American resolve five years after Obama failed to follow American threats with action. Trump has ISIS in retreat for the first time. He approved the Keystone and Dakota Access Pipelines after years of Obama-era red tape, lessening dependence on foreign oil. The days of “strategic patience” with Iran and North Korea are over.

5. Environment

EPA head Scott Pruitt has dismantled 52 burdensome regulations. While a net 13,000 new federal restrictions have been added annually for the past 30 years, under Trump that number sits at zero. The result, according to data supplied by the Heritage Foundation, will be lower energy costs, more growth, and no negative impact on the environment.

Election Night of 2016 was like the moon landing. We all remember where we were. The past year has been fraught with political land mines, to be sure – many of the president’s own doing. But if a person had entered hibernation one year ago, and were to awaken today, he would open his eyes to a nation with lower unemployment, greater wealth, stronger borders, clearer foreign policy, and a more secure Supreme Court. These things matter – a lot. Therefore, for these five reasons, any objective summary of the past year has to credit President Trump with a highly successful year.


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