At the 100-day mark of President Trump’s administration, Republicans and conservatives hoping for a successful tenure could point to a new Supreme Court justice, a rollback of the last sprint of Team Obama’s regulatory zeal, a fusillade of cruise missiles sending a message to Syria’s Bashar al-Assad and the beginnings of repeal of anti-free-market rules at the Environmental Protection Agency and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
The more die-hard #NeverTrumpers delighted in tweeting a picture of a green street sign standing barely above cresting floodwaters, reading “Gorsuch.” It was a joke that never got old for those who had gotten famous hating Trump.
The more serious conservatives who have been at it in and out of government for decades but were not part of Team Trump resolved to wait it out, call balls and strikes, and hope for the best while discouraging the worst. Now as Day 400 approaches, the picture is much better than at Day 100.
“2017 was the best year for conservatives in the 30 years that I’ve been here,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said recently. “The best year,” he continued, “on all fronts.” McConnell can be forgiven for forgetting that 1989 saw the collapse of the Berlin Wall, but that year aside, he’s right. To review:
Business and consumer confidence is peaking at home, boosted by the massive tax cut and long-overdue tax reform that included significant simplification. The real results of this bill are appearing in paychecks and pay and benefit increases across the country.
Sen. Tom Cotton’s (R-Ark.) addition to the tax bill repealed the worst part of Obamacare, the individual mandate. Now the bipartisan spending bill has shuttered the Independent Payment Advisory Board while postponing or repealing some of Obamacare’s most destructive tax features. The old law is effectively gutted.
The United States is out of the one-sided Paris accord while open to steps toward genuine protection of the climate. The EPA is refining its rulemaking process in ways that rule-of-law conservatives hope will conform the agency’s new rules to the designs and ends Congress intended for them, reversing the warped power grabs of the administrative state they had become.
More than a dozen superb originalist conservatives have been confirmed to lifetime appointments on the federal courts of appeals. Religious liberty is being defended before the Supreme Court and in regulations across the government. The absurd “blue slip” rule, which let senators hold up qualified nominees to federal appeals courts without reason, has been effectively done away with.
Pentagon funding has returned to a sane-if-still-too-slow trajectory upward, with the sequester broken as well as the absurd dollar-for-dollar rule on spending hikes for the military matched equally on spending hikes for domestic programs. In the field, Trump has let the U.S. military change the rules of engagement with the Islamic State. All but a tiny slice of the physical caliphate has been destroyed.
The United States has recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and has abandoned “strategic patience” with the vast prison camp otherwise known as North Korea. A new National Security Strategy, a new National Defense Strategy and a new Nuclear Posture Review have been completed and will combine into a coherent framework for the nation’s defense that includes respect for allies and notice to Iran that the Islamic republic is out of compliance with the nuclear “framework.”
The president’s speeches last year in Riyadh and Warsaw and this year at Davos clearly and succinctly laid out America’s demands on the world and its commitments to freedom. This trio of speeches matters as much as any three given abroad since President Ronald Reagan’s challenges to Europe and the Soviet Union.
So the president, McConnell, House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) and their teams are smiling about their legislative achievements even as they confront the opioid epidemic and yet another school massacre. They should be. November will offer a clear choice of growth, freedom, clarity and security or a return to the Obama-Pelosi-Reid years. With some luck there might even be a path to citizenship for 1.8 million people in the country illegally and more border security if bipartisanship wins out after the failed first effort. But regardless, if one is fair, one cannot ignore the president’s accomplishments.