Opinions diverge widely, and dramatically, about whether President Donald Trump’s first 100 days in office have been a success or a failure. (The deciding factor seems to be the partisan loyalties of the observer, rather than the facts about what Trump has, or has not, done.)
But there is agreement — however fragile, and grudging — on one thing: President Trump has generally fulfilled his promises. Even those who don’t like his promises seem to acknowledge that.
A poll on Trump’s first 100 days by USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times — the only major public poll to predict, correctly, that Trump could win the 2016 election — revealed that 53% of respondents believed Trump was keeping his promises, and 51% said “Trump has accomplished as much or more than promised.”
No, he has not achieved everything he said he would. And yes, he has broken a few promises. But on most substantial issues, he is delivering what he offered.
In The Art of the Deal — a book published 30 years ago, yet still relevant to business, and to understanding the 45th president — Trump outlined several rules for successful negotiation. One of them was: “Deliver the Goods.”
“You can’t con people, at least not for long,” Trump wrote. “You can create excitement, you can do wonderful promotion and get all kinds of press, and you can throw in a little hyperbole. But if you don’t deliver the goods, people will eventually catch on. ”
By and large, Trump is delivering.
He promised he would nominate conservative judges to Supreme Court vacancies — and with Neil Gorsuch, he delivered. He promised he would roll back regulations — and through his executive orders and his use of the Congressional Review Act, he delivered. He promised he would restore the place of the United States in global leadership — and through air strikes against the Syrian regime for using chemical weapons, he delivered.
No, he has not signed a bill to repeal and replace Obamacare. And he has not passed tax reform. But he made progress towards both.
In the last few days before 100, Trump — while dismissing the 100-day benchmark as “ridiculous” — rolled out the biggest tax cut ever proposed.
Critics mock him for rushing towards the deadline. So what? That is what deadlines are for — and he delivered, again.
Even when he hasn’t delivered, Trump has made progress. He dropped his demand for border wall funding in next year’s budget. Yet illegal border crossings are already down 64%, because the world knows he is serious about enforcement.
He continued to push Congress to repeal Obamacare after the American Health Care Act failed. He will continue to push in the months to come, despite the late failure of a second effort this week.
He has not moved the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem yet, but he has dropped the two-state solution as an absolute demand.
Trump’s most vocal critics, both right and left, are not worried that he will not fulfill his promises — though they seize on every stumble along the way. Rather, they are more worried that he will, in fact, do what he said he would.
Amidst the shock of his executive order on January 27 suspending travel from seven terror-prone countries, it suddenly dawned on his opponents that he might mean what he says. The order was no more and no less, after all, than what he had promised voters on the trail.
Not everything may work out as hoped. The Wall Street Journal slammed Trump’s retaliatory tariff on Canadian lumber, for example, saying it would raise the cost of American housing and hurt construction. That is, indeed, what Economics 101 would predict: a tariff hurts foreign producers, but it also raises prices for domestic consumers (not yet, but eventually).
Still, Trump did what he said he would do, pushing back against perceived unfair practices by our trading partners.
The mainstream media tell us Trump has eroded the credibility of the presidency through controversial statements, incorrect factual claims and errant tweets. But Trump’s actions are more important than his words.
As conservative radio host Mark Levin — who opposed Trump in the GOP primary, and rejects Trump’s “populist nationalist” approach — said this week: “He’s done more as president than the Republicans in Congress have done, controlling both houses of Congress. And I’m not talking about fiats — I’m talking about what a president constitutionally and legitimately can do. He’s doing it!”
Cartoonist Scott Adams, of Dilbert fame, who has gained notoriety as an amateur political pundit, tweeted in February: “Watch for Trump’s critics to migrate from ‘Trump is Hitler’ to ‘Trump is incompetent’ by summer. Later: ‘Competent, but I don’t like it.'”
That progression has happened even more quickly than Adams anticipated. Already, there is a “fourth stage” of Trump criticism: “Well, I may like it, but Trump is getting lucky.”
One could argue, from a left-wing viewpoint, that Trump is a bad president. But no serious observer could claim he has been an ineffective one.
As Byron York of the Washington Examiner notes, where Trump has been able to wield executive authority, he has generally succeeded. His few failures have not been entirely his fault: Congress frequently dropped the ball on major new legislation, and the courts arguably overstepped their authority in blocking his executive orders on immigration.
With the history of past presidents in mind, we may grade Trump’s first 100 days.
First, there were no disasters. That alone earns him a passing grade — say, 60%.
Add 10% for the Gorsuch nomination — which, perhaps, any Republican might have done. That takes him to a “gentleman’s C.”
But there is more: Trump earns 10% credit each for his bold foreign policy and his aggressive repeal of federal regulations.
That takes him up to 90% — to the cusp of an A grade. Perhaps not an automatic “A,” given the troubled rollout of the executive orders on immigration, and the repeated collapse of efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare. But close enough for a case to be made.
Whether you think Trump deserves that A will depend on how seriously you take some of his administration’s shortcomings — most of them, at least so far, rather inconsequential: the personnel shuffles, the gaffes, the compromises, the alleged conflicts of interest, the squabbles with the press.
Though the opposition — the so-called “resistance” — is desperate to inflate these to impeachable offenses, few of these distinguish him from his recent predecessors in the Oval Office.
Despite his record of delivery, Trump’s supporters fret that he will move to the left, pulled by his aides and his family, and pushed by the relentless pressure of the mainstream media.
But Trump’s opponents have a bigger problem, which is that he may continue to do well.
They have refused to work with him, and tried everything to destroy him. The moment his polls cross firmly into positive territory, the “resistance” will be lost.
That moment seems more likely now than it was on January 20. President Trump’s first 100 days have been that strong.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named one of the “most influential” people in news media in 2016. He is the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak