Time to admit that Trump is doing a good job
It's been drilled into everyone that "past performance is no guarantee of future results." That piece of wisdom is a double-edged sword. Most Trump critics, be they Democrats or NeverTumps, miss the second edge. However bad Trump's pre-election behavior is perceived to be, it has almost no value in evaluating the obvious success of his presidency.
Just as there are naïve investors who are incredulous when a surefire opportunity becomes a money-loser, there are pundits who, in their own minds, know that a person or a policy will lead to disaster. They are unable to grasp when reality makes their predictions worthless.
It is not a surprise that Trump was sexually active prior to his election. For some people – surprisingly, mostly on the left – that is a sign of our downfall as a civilization. They ask how they can explain it to their children. In the post-New Deal era, the following presidents have been sexually promiscuous while actually in high office: FDR, Kennedy, Johnson, and Clinton. There is no sense in which the Trump presidency is any less a model of propriety than that of either Bush or of Obama.
For people living in the past, Trump is a bigot for preventing all Muslims from entering the country. His actual policy is a ban on Muslims coming from five countries that contain 8% of the world Muslim population. When the decision is viewed in those terms, it is perfectly reasonable. What he said before the election is irrelevant.
During the campaign, Trump scared me and many other free-traders. He kept saying he was a free-trader but wanted to impose some tariffs to compensate for unfair trade practices and to motivate trading partners to respect American intellectual property. He argued that tariffs would not be permanently in place to stifle free trade. They would be negotiating tools to facilitate trade. Turns out he was right. In fairness to the laissez-faire crowd, free trade probably would eventually solve these problems. It is also true that eventually is a very long time.
Trump's negotiating style is the key to understanding his success. During the campaign, Trump-supporters continued to emphasize his business acumen. Many people found the claim absurd. I was certainly among them, but the group included highly successful investors like Mitt Romney. Trump's investment decisions were certainly erratic. My point was and is that no one should take investment advice from this guy.
Trump-supporters had the stronger case. Their man's specific business skill is as a marvelous negotiator. There is no doubt that he is ruthless and relentless in his willingness to leverage American power. America has desired outcomes all over the world. Trump has proven to be the best available agent to achieve those outcomes. Here are a few examples:
1. The already mentioned trade concessions from people previously all too happy to take advantage of previous administration weakness.
2. Getting our allies to carry a heavier load. Most NATO nations are now meeting their obligations for defense spending. Middle Eastern countries are moving more aggressively to counter terrorism and to stand against Iran.
3. Russia is no longer buzzing our planes and ships and otherwise testing our troops or our border.
4. North Korea has agreed to stop testing nuclear weapons and missiles. It has agreed to talks and to accept a peaceful end of the Korean War, rather than just the prevailing ceasefire. It is true that the North Korean nuclear test site may no longer be usable. For those who think that if Obama were still president, Kim Jong-un would not merely test above ground or even use aerial testing, I repeat my longstanding offer to sell some of my Florida orange groves. They are wonderfully green.
No one needs advice to understand the value of these achievements. It took Trump to make them a reality.
Trump moves in mysterious ways. Some of his moves are likely to fail, but some of even the oddest of them work. When he was still head of the CIA, Mike Pompeo made it clear that Trump's tweets affect our adversaries. Measurable favorable behavioral changes were observed by our intelligence community. Sometimes there is a method to apparent madness.
What can be criticized about this president's actual performance? There are criticisms of the tax cut. They are lame. With no modesty at all, I recommend this as an antidote. There are hopes and prayers among a dwindling number of partisans that the Mueller investigations will turn up wrongdoing of some sort. Let's just wait and see.
While we wait, it will add to the health of our republic if we judge our president by what he does as president rather than by what people predicted he would do or predict that he will do. There are people who call this approach being reality-based.