I almost got a few seconds of my 15 minutes of fame yesterday. The PBS News Hour called me late in the afternoon about a panel they were putting together for that evening — editorial page editors from around the country talking about Donald Trump's first month in office. They wanted me as a replacement for a last-minute dropout. But because it was so near the broadcast time, and I had to get to the local PBS station and the News Hour representative had to make certain a studio was available, it didn't work out. So PBS' armchair liberal audience was denied a dose of folksy wisdom from the Heartland.
But that did get me to thinking about Trump's first month, which I really had not before. Even the first 100 days mark too little time in which to judge a presidency. A mere 30 is absurd.
What I ended up thinking, and would have said on the air, was: mixed review.
He's made some terrific Cabinet appointments., and his pick of Neil Goresuch for the Supreme Court was outstanding. As a longtime fiscal conservative, I really like his executive orders freezing federal hiring and ordering the cutting of two old regulations for the creation of every new one.
On the other hand, I'm'm bothered by his protectionist approach to trade. I can see a tit-for-tat tariff war ahead that could threaten many jobs and send the cost of almost everything we buy higher.
And his temporary ban on travel from seven terror-compromised countries, in addition to being so recklessly implemented, seemed like more symbolism than substance. If they want to toughen the vetting process, they can do it. The ban was just for show.
I'm impressed so far that Trump seems to have a commitment to federalism. His order to resume a stricter enforcement of immigration law reasserts federal control over an area well within its jurisdiction. His canceling of federal "guidance" over transgender bathrooms gets Washington out of an area that should have been left to state or (preferably) local jurisdictions.
Generally, the president deserves credit for doing what he said he would do in his campaign. That has not always been the case. In fact, it's almost rare enough to be the exception to a rule. That's admirable even if I don't agree with something. (Like his plans for trade. I don't like his approach, but he made it clear over and over again in the campaign that he would do it that way.)
But all of that is small stuff. We won't have the information with which to really judge his presidency until his big plans come out of Congress. What will Obamacare repeal and replace look like? What tax reform plan will get settled on? What will comprehensive immigration reform do? It's time he picked one of those (or urged Congress to pick one) and start working on it and getting it done. Should have been done already. After criticizing President Obama so much for his executive orders, Trump can't keep being an "executive order president" himself.
The fact is that people are judging President Trump already, even though there's little to base a judgment on. It's mostly a form of confirmation bias, I think. The people who don't like Trump find fault with every single thing he does. The people who do like him overlook his faults. What they're in essence doing is judging him for his personality. Listen to Joe Scarborough:
Colbert then called him out for referring to Trump as "Donald" instead of "Mr. President."
"We’re in a transition. We as a country are in a transition," Scarborough joked. "I’m trying to figure out — he’s been Donald Trump forever, he’s been Donald forever. It’s kind of hard to start calling him 'Mr. President.'"
"And I’ll be really honest with you, the way he’s acted over the past month has made it even harder to call him Mr. President."
Scarborough pointed specifically to Trump's criticism of the judiciary following a judge's ruling on his travel ban, and to his attacks on the media as examples of some of his erratic behavior.
Yeah, a lot of us wish he would stop being so impetuous and brash and vulgar. We wish he'd think before he tweets. We wish he would quit saying the first thing he thinks of without considering the implications. We wish he would stop compensating for his insecurities by always having to boast about his own status. We wish he would stop telling such easily documented lies.
But that's asking Donald Trump to stop being Donald Trump. Not gonna happen. So we just have to keep cheering for him to do the right things while holding our breath waiting for him to stay the next stupid thing. We are watching the Bobby Knight of presidents. His biggest supporters will have to tout his successes in between making apologies for him.
The trouble with people getting so exercised this early with bashing Trump or praising him is that they won't have anything left when the big stuff does come along, and, worse, won't even be inclined to study the issue objectively.
So my final assessment? We should all just calm the hell down.