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.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 20573

Reported Deaths: 878
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hennepin6918534
Ramsey231697
Stearns192312
Nobles14572
Anoka116455
Dakota105935
Olmsted55110
Washington50626
Kandiyohi4541
Clay36623
Rice3652
Scott3462
Wright2401
Sherburne2081
Todd1970
Benton1662
Carver1612
Mower1501
Steele1400
Martin1245
Blue Earth1121
St. Louis11113
Pine850
Freeborn840
Winona7715
Carlton730
Nicollet683
Cottonwood620
Polk582
Otter Tail550
Itasca527
Goodhue522
Watonwan500
Chisago481
Dodge430
Meeker420
Crow Wing421
Le Sueur411
Chippewa400
Jackson390
Morrison380
Murray350
Becker320
Lyon310
Douglas290
McLeod260
Isanti250
Waseca240
Rock210
Unassigned199
Fillmore171
Mille Lacs161
Wabasha160
Swift150
Sibley120
Beltrami120
Wilkin113
Norman110
Kanabec111
Cass113
Faribault110
Brown112
Pipestone100
Marshall80
Pennington70
Pope70
Aitkin60
Wadena60
Yellow Medicine50
Koochiching50
Lincoln50
Mahnomen51
Renville50
Lac qui Parle30
Red Lake30
Big Stone30
Redwood30
Traverse30
Grant20
Houston20
Clearwater20
Hubbard10
Kittson10
Lake10
Roseau10

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 17227

Reported Deaths: 456
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Polk3714108
Woodbury255524
Black Hawk167639
Linn92775
Marshall86611
Dallas84914
Johnson5987
Muscatine54339
Wapello5004
Crawford4772
Tama39023
Louisa3347
Scott3319
Dubuque31916
Jasper25616
Buena Vista2310
Pottawattamie2106
Sioux1990
Washington1798
Allamakee1184
Wright1170
Plymouth1080
Warren1060
Story941
Poweshiek888
Bremer676
Henry611
Clinton601
Boone540
Des Moines531
Mahaska526
Cedar451
Guthrie433
Taylor370
Benton371
Jones360
Monroe334
Iowa320
Clarke320
Osceola320
Shelby310
Buchanan310
Clayton303
Marion290
Webster271
Fayette260
Hamilton260
Madison241
Monona230
Cerro Gordo221
Lee220
Winneshiek210
Davis200
Lyon190
Grundy190
Harrison190
Floyd181
Jefferson150
Cherokee150
Butler150
Mills140
Delaware140
Humboldt130
Sac130
Greene130
Keokuk130
Hardin130
Howard120
Hancock120
Appanoose123
Audubon111
Jackson110
Cass110
Ida100
Page100
Clay100
Winnebago100
Carroll90
Van Buren80
Franklin80
Dickinson80
Adair80
Chickasaw80
Kossuth70
Emmet70
Lucas60
Montgomery60
Union60
Adams50
Ringgold40
Fremont40
Pocahontas40
Mitchell40
Palo Alto30
Worth30
Unassigned30
Calhoun20
Wayne10
Decatur00
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