This article first appeared in the Toronto Star on January 21, 2018.
Donald Trump can be credited with a number of impressive legislative accomplishments that go unrecognized thanks to all the noise and nonsense.
The spectacle continues.
It’s fair to say that the presidency of Donald Trump looks, from the outside, to be nothing short of a circus.
The last week alone served up a heaping helping of the ridiculous. The president referred to a handful of nations as “s—hole” countries, which the media gleefully plastered as headlines all over their products and platforms, right before roundly condemning the president as racist and ignorant.
Credible media outlets also obsessed over whether President Trump is six-foot-three or actually six-foot-two, and whether he could be defined as obese or not (should this now be known as the “girther” movement?).
The noise is inescapable; a frantic cycle from which we can’t escape morning or night:
First, Trump makes an absurd, flippant remark. Media outlets blare headlines about the comment. The analysis from pundits frowning and condemning politicians begins. The final step: Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Trump‘s unshakable and inscrutable press secretary, stands in front of a room of incredulous journalists and denies that the events ever took place with a look of earnest belief.
Wash, rinse, repeat.
These occurrences have been presented as evidence of the incompetence of the White House, or as failures of the president more generally. And, indeed, there have certainly been failures.
For example, the White House regularly sends news releases out with incorrect information or misspelled names. It is the sort of detail that no other White House in history would have missed – and it stands, or at least is interpreted as, an indictment of the “back office” behind the current administration.
If it can’t get the little things right, how on Earth can it get the big ones right?
And yet, a record is emerging.
There are actually a number of impressive legislative accomplishments that go unrecognized, thanks to all the noise and nonsense.
For instance, a comprehensive tax reform bill that once appeared doomed due to its unpopularity recently passed the House and Senate despite the hysterical outcry of Democrats.
In fact, recent polling indicates that Americans have begun to take a shine to the once-unthinkable bill, and corporations have been making high-profile announcements about returning capital and jobs to the U.S., crediting the changes.
But perhaps Trump‘s most shocking contribution has been on the foreign policy stage. Trump‘s aggressive foreign policy has had significant and positive impact on the world that has received little recognition in public discussion.
His tough talk on North Korea, for instance, has been roundly mocked as unbecoming of a leader. But one of North Korea’s highest-ranking diplomatic defectors went on the record to point out that North Korea looked at former presidents as considerably more “gentle” than Trump, and that his rhetoric likely has spooked the regime into inaction.
Indeed, it is notable that the rogue state has significantly slowed its aggressions since the war of words escalated.
Similarly, Trump‘s address to the United Nations criticizing the Iranian regime was derided. Pundits argued that it did nothing to unsettle the regime, and had actually united Iranians behind their government. However, just a few short months later, Iran is being rocked by the strongest anti-regime protests in nearly a decade.
The declaration that Jerusalem was the capital of Israel ignited a similar furor. Allied nations and pundits were united in their condemnation that the move would cause unrest in the region.
Instead, protests in the region were relatively minor. While as expected, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and a host of other countries condemned the move, behind the scenes, it has been reported that those countries continue to ally themselves ever-closer to the United States than they had been in years past.
It is a foreign policy record that many U.S. presidents would have liked.
So, don’t be fooled by the foolishness. Despite the blaring headlines and constant outrage, this presidency has made significant lunges towards its goals.
Voters are noticing. Trump‘s approval ratings improved last week to a seven-month high, according to poll aggregator FiveThirtyEight, though his ratings are much lower than those of other presidents at this point in their tenures.
This is not to say that the Republicans will not be shellacked in the mid-terms, as governing parties so often are. But it may yet be premature to write Trump‘s obituary as a one-term president.
CNN may just be had, yet again – 2020 awaits.
Jaime Watt is the executive chairman of Navigator Ltd. and a Conservative strategist.