Feb 20, 2017

What Trump gets most right and most wrong

Andrew Harnik / AP

The Trump presidency is one month old — 47 (or 95) more months to go. So what has President Trump gotten most right and most wrong? After talking to dozens of officials inside and out of the WH, we came up with this list:

Most right:

  1. In policy promises and rhetoric, he has created a fairly strong climate for economic growth, an essential ingredient for first-term success. Voters are more forgiving when they have jobs, wage growth and optimism. Business hates uncertainty, but stock prices are rising and consumer confidence is growing. Hard to see tax cuts, lighter regulations and infrastructure spending doing anything but helping.
  2. Forcing U.S. companies to think harder about creating U.S. jobs. We can argue all day whether most big jobs announcements — Carrier, for example — were overhyped. But you can't dispute that CEOs are looking anew for ways to showcase job creation in America, a good short-term trend for U.S. workers. And very good long-term politics for Trump.
  3. Keeping his promises. Trump, for better or worse, has done precisely what he said he would do in terms of pulling out of trade deals, clamping down on illegal immigration and banning travel from Muslim-majority nations. While it's been sloppy, it has been similar to what was promised. And his Supreme Court pick, Neil Gorsuch, was on the list he shared as a candidate and looks like a virtual lock to win approval. This has kept Republicans solidly in his corner.

Most wrong:

  1. Scaring off talent. Others will argue for what they see as greater sins. But Trump's paranoid, chaotic way of leading has spooked some of the smartest, most capable Republicans who wanted or were willing to work for him (especially in intelligence and defense positions). We know: We've talked to them. We have heard from scores of talented officials who took a pass after watching how outsiders are treated by the existing team — and witnessing the far reach of Steve Bannon and the White House oligarchy. You can't run a great business with mediocrity — or retreads or yes-men. This is a big, long-term risk on many fronts.
  2. Delegitimizing people he will one day need. Mark our word: The moment will come when Trump needs the public or world to believe something "fake news" journalists are reporting, or needs judges to give his idea a fair hearing, or needs the intelligence community to have his back in a tense moment, or needs allies such as Germany or Australia to support him, or needs establishment Republicans to take a tough vote. All five groups could hurt him badly on the Russia investigation (a topic that could easily be #1 on this entire list). Revenge is a human instinct not confined to Trump.
  3. Being consumed with small-ball grievances. This has been a hallmark of Trump going back decades. He allows petty slights to preoccupy his mind, his team and decision-making. This has slowed action on Capitol Hill and obscured the genuine accomplishments listed above.

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