As we approach the end of President Donald Trump’s first year in office, the list of extraordinary things he has done – for both good and ill – is nothing short of remarkable. Trump inspires such deep emotions in his critics and supporters that many have struggled to objectively assess his presidency. Some are so blinded by their hatred of Trump that they refuse to acknowledge the good he has done, while others are so blinded by devotion that they overlook almost any transgression.
I’ve tried to give Trump the credit he deserves when he does the right thing, while calling him out when he does the wrong thing. So, here is my list of the 10 best things Trump has done in his first 11 months. (In a subsequent column, I will give you my list of the 10 worst.)
10. He enforced President Barack Obama’s red line against Syria’s use of chemical weapons. When the regime of Bashar Assad used a toxic nerve agent on innocent men, women and children, Trump didn’t wring his hands. He acted quickly and decisively, restoring America’s credibility on the world stage that Obama had squandered.
9. He has taken a surprisingly tough line with Russia. Trump approved a $47 million arms package for Ukraine, sent troops to Poland’s border with Russia and imposed new sanctions on Moscow for violating the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.
8. He recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Four American presidents promised to do it, but only one actually did. This is why the American people elected Trump. He does what he promises to do, for better or for worse – in this case, definitely for the better. Even Jeb Bush tweeted his approval.
7. He withdrew from the Paris climate agreement. After George W. Bush pulled out of the disastrous Kyoto treaty, U.S. emissions went down faster than much of Europe. The same will be true for Trump’s departure from the Paris accord. Combined with his approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, and opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to exploration, Trump is helping usher in a new age of American energy development.
6. He got NATO allies to kick in $12 billion more toward our collective security. Decades of pleading by the Bush and Obama administrations failed to get NATO allies to meet their financial commitments to the alliance, but Trump’s tough talk and reticence to affirm America’s Article V commitment did the trick. NATO is stronger as a result.
5. He has virtually eliminated the Islamic State’s physical caliphate. Trump removed the constraints Obama placed on our military and let it drive the terrorists from their strongholds.
4. He admitted he was wrong on Afghanistan and reversed Obama’s disastrous withdrawal. In a rare admission, Trump declared: “My original instinct was to pull out. ... But all my life, I’ve heard that decisions are much different when you sit behind the desk in the Oval Office. ... A hasty withdrawal would create a vacuum for terrorists.”
3. He enacted historic tax and regulatory reform that has unleashed economic growth. Trump signed the first comprehensive tax reform in three decades and removed the wet blanket of Obama-era regulations smothering our economy. We are now heading into our third consecutive quarter of above 3 percent growth.
2. He is installing conservative judges who will preside for decades. With his appointment of Neil M. Gorsuch, Trump secured a conservative majority on the Supreme Court, and he is moving at record pace to fill the federal appeals courts with young conservative judges.
1. He, not Hillary Clinton, was inaugurated as president. Trump delivered the coup de grace that ended the corrupt, dishonest Clinton political machine.
There are many other significant achievements that did not make the top 10. Trump has taken a clear, strong stand against the narco-dictatorship in Venezuela, and he renamed the “Asia-Pacific” the “Indo-Pacific” to include India in the larger task of preventing Chinese hegemony in Asia. Trump has made clear that he is willing to use force to stop North Korea from deploying nuclear intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of destroying U.S. cities – which has prompted China to finally put real pressure on Pyongyang. We’ll see if it works.
The record of achievement suggests that, despite the noxious tweets and self-inflicted wounds emanating from the White House, Trump has the potential to become one of the most consequential conservative presidents in modern American history. The question is: Does all this good outweigh the bad? We’ll review the 10 worst things Trump has done in a forthcoming column.