Any overview of the first 1,000 days of President Donald Trump’s administration must be centered around one word: change. The political outsider elected by some 60 million Americans to be a one-man tsunami flooding over an out-of-touch establishment will ultimately be judged by history on how effectively he charted a new course in the power corridors of Washington, DC.
It was never going to be a smooth ride. Trump hit town having to battle a savagely hostile Democratic opposition party. He has also had to deal with obstruction of his agenda by elected officials and important staffers from what is supposed to be his own side of the aisle. Add baked-in enmity within powerful government agencies – such as the FBI and CIA – throughout the aptly named Swamp, and the array of forces aligned against the incoming president was formidable.
United Swamp Congress
Focusing on politics alone, those who would chastise Trump for failing to enact more fully the major policies he ran on cannot ignore the fact that he has dealt with entrenched bipartisan loathing of his agenda on an unprecedented scale since the day he first announced his candidacy in June 2015.
The centerpiece of Trump’s “America First” administration is and always has been the construction of the Wall on our porous southern border. Democrats and their fully engaged allies in the dominant media have hastened to paint the president as a virulent racist and nativist oaf for seeking to fulfill one of the most basic requirements of any nation-state: demarcation and enforcement of borders. Yet despite the ceaseless bombardment of vitriol against Trump from foes on the left, it can be argued that Republican establishment figures have been far more culpable in thwarting the Wall. This was especially true during the crucial first two years of his administration, when the GOP controlled both houses of Congress. A party united behind the expressed will of the Republican voters who put Trump into the White House had all the means necessary at its disposal to fully fund the Wall.
But there is no Wall. Why? Trump stated that he had struck a deal with then-House Speaker Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) in which the president signed the Wisconsin GOP stalwart’s massive $1.3 billion spending bill in March 2018 in return for Ryan getting the Wall funded. ‘Well, I was going to veto the omnibus bill and Paul told me in the strongest of language, ‘Please don’t do that, we’ll get you the wall,'” Trump told The Daily Caller in January. “And I said, ‘I hope you mean that, because I don’t like this bill.'”
But Ryan did not mean it. He welched on his part of the bargain and then resigned from Congress. He will no doubt soon be richly rewarded for his actions as soon as his one-year lobbying restriction for ex-members of Congress expires.
Ryan represented a class of incumbency-ensconced Republicans on Capitol Hill dedicated to obstructing the president. A reliable coterie of GOP senators is ever-ready to condemn Trump’s use of tariffs as a weapon in negotiating trade deals and his scrapping of globalist trade pacts such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
But the Bush-McCain Republicans are a dying breed. Unlike Trump, they have no true national base of support. Ryan read the writing on the crumbling RINO wall and reached for his golden parachute. He now sits on the board of Fox News. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), a frequent Trump-basher, also decided against seeking re-election. He has a cozy “analyst” job with CBS News. Assuming Trump can win re-election against whoever emerges from a remarkably weak Democratic primary field in 2020, time is on the president’s side in his ongoing battle against a fading Republican establishment on Capitol Hill.
Trump’s redirection of portions of military funding toward Wall construction shows that he remains determined to keep his chief campaign promise. His successful use of the tariff threat led to successful negotiations on the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement that will replace NAFTA. Yet that fact did not deter his political and media opponents from accusing Trump of threatening to derail the very treaty he secured via this potent weapon if he dared to enact more tariffs. In May, Trump vowed to impose severe tariffs on Mexico unless that country did more to prevent the floodtide of migrants moving toward our southern border from Central America. A universal big-box media party line dutifully echoed by elected officials from both parties slammed Trump for the “reckless” maneuver. As they were doing so, a startled Mexico promptly began cracking down on the migrant caravans winding their way toward the US.
Bringing the Troops Home
Trump also has remained true to his campaign pledge to keep America out of costly overseas wars. Once again leading Republicans in the Swamp are furious at the president, this time for pulling US troops out of Syria. But this issue seems to bring the best out of Trump. One of his most eloquent presidential moments to date came in defense of his administration’s determination to avoid fighting “endless” wars abroad. On Oct. 9 Trump strikingly detailed the high personal cost of the engagements:
Trump talks about soldiers who are brought back to their families in coffins:
"Sometimes the mothers or wives will run to the coffin and jump on top of it, crying desperately. And this is from the endless wars that never stop. There's a time and a place, but it's time to stop." pic.twitter.com/ql6FIuRiIt
— Alex 🇺🇸 (@SoCal4Trump) October 9, 2019
Agree with the president’s position or not, it was a moving statement that very effectively expressed the sentiments of tens of millions of Americans who want to bring our soldiers home. “Bipartisan” cackling and the pained disapproval of media talking heads pale in comparison with stark and brutally honest pronouncements made from the lectern of the presidency. This kind of language reaches the American people unfiltered. And Trump knows it.
The president has stated his strong desire to avoid war with Iran, his hope to work with Russia if at all possible rather than continuing to present a hostile face toward that nuclear power, and has even held discussions with pariah North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un. This is all done with the higher goal of keeping the United States out of bloody and exorbitantly expensive military conflicts that do not endanger the core national security interests of the country. Establishment framing to the contrary, it is a coherent and consistent foreign policy objective.
These were the linchpin policies at the heart of President Trump’s change agenda in 2016, and they remain so today. The effectiveness of the administration on other important issues, such as the economy and dealing with the disturbing squelching of free speech by social media giants such as Facebook and Twitter, is open to skepticism. Trump touts US employment numbers in a way that downplays the growing insecurities Americans face in the job market today. Too many Americans are working longer hours for less money and far fewer (or no) benefits. Hiding the underemployed among the working only conceals this dire problem. What is the use of a Republican Party claiming to champion family values if it cannot help assure that Americans can afford to raise families?
But when all is said and done, border security, the dismantling of globalist economic models that have destroyed the manufacturing base in this nation, and the dialing back of US military adventurism abroad will be the markers of any lasting change a Trump administration effects. These key planks in Trump’s America First agenda, if successfully implemented, will also go a long way to easing the economic and socio-cultural woes plaguing the nation. The president has stood by these goals amid the howling indignation of an irate establishment. That is the most important achievement of his first 1,000 days in office. Nevertheless, much work remains.