Grading the God-Emperor

The media grades the performance to date of President Trump


Not doing the work: From a conservative perspective, the president had fewer wins in his sophomore years. But there were certainly some. Presidents often get credit for things they have only passing responsibility for. And if it was acceptable practice for past presidents, there’s no reason to expect differently from this White House. So they have every right to crow about great employment numbers and the like. They have a better case to boast about the continuing line of conservative judges and justices he has appointed to the bench, most significantly Kavanaugh. His foreign policy accomplishments in Year Two tend not to improve with scrutiny. The overtures to North Korea looks more like a hollow PR stunt every day, and his decision to pull out of Syria with no real plan in place could be disastrous. This points to the real reason I am giving him an incomplete. He’s not really doing the work. He’s not governing like the president of the whole country, or even making the effort to appear that way. And he faces every test like a student who prides himself on his refusal to study. Sometimes it works out for him. Sometimes it doesn’t. But for a guy called a “chessmaster” by his fans, he seems incapable of planning more than one move ahead. Which is why he stumbled into the longest government shutdown in U.S. history.

— Jonah Goldberg, National Review contributing editor


Room for improvement: To get there, he’ll have to help Republicans recapture the House and hold the Senate in 2020 — and get re-elected himself. We’re at or above full employment overall, and black and Hispanic unemployment numbers are especially good. Jobs for blue-collar workers are also expanding. He has achieved a de-escalation that could lead to peace in Korea and a realignment of Middle East affairs that is in the U.S. interest, particularly with Iran being brought under pressure from Saudi Arabia, Egypt and other Arab allies. He has renegotiated the North American Free Trade Agreement that is much more favorable to the United States than the agreement it replaced. Trump stuck it out with Kavanaugh when other GOP presidents would probably have folded, and he has confirmed a lot of other judges. The tax cuts he passed have helped to fuel economic growth. Beyond that, not much. The do-nothing GOP House lost the voters’ confidence, and now Trump has to deal with an obstructionist Democratic House. The worst commentary on Paul Ryan’s Republicans is that Trump might not see much difference, except for the blizzard of subpoenas. As I commented in the early days of his administration, Trump and the congressional GOP should have had bills lined up like airplanes on a runway. Instead, they squandered a rare opportunity. You can blame Ryan if you want, but Trump was the head of the party.

— Glenn Reynolds, University of Tennessee law professor

My grade is an A-. Best U.S. president since Chester Arthur. Hasn’t fully delivered on either Build the Wall or Drain the Swamp, but kept the USA out of war with Russia over Ukraine joining NATO, kept the insane Neo-Palestinians in check, made real progress on the Korean Peninsula, defanged the globalists on the climate and trade fronts, has begun the retreat from Middle East empire, and showed the Republicans the benefits of not cucking every time the Democrats throw a media-enabled hissy fit. May not be a wartime consigliere, probably does not have the will or the understanding to save the USA intact, but don’t make the mistake of counting him entirely out yet. Weakened by his civic nationalism, his advisers, and his continued reliance on establishment figures, but his strategic instincts tend to pull him out of tactical danger time and time again.