Trump’s First Year: Circus and Substance

By Al Perrotta Published on January 19, 2018

Saturday marks President Trump’s first year in office and it’s all been one giant yawn. He’s made Calvin Coolidge look like David Lee Roth. 

Of course I jest. His first day started with fights about crowd size, fake news about the MLK bust in the Oval Office, and radicals setting fires. His first full day had half a million women yelling in his back yard, led by Madonna wanting to blow up the White House and Ashley Judd purring that she was a “baaaad girl.” That was just the opening act. It hasn’t stopped a day since.

Remember Reince Priebus? Remember Sean Spicer? Remember Melissa McCarthy’s hysterical impersonation of Sean Spicer? Remember “The Mooch”? Crazy Mika? Psycho Joe? Sleazy Dianne Feinstein? Thankfully, we still have “Mad Dog.” And Justice Gorsuch. 

Remember the viral video of Trump pounding on CNN at a pro-wrestling match? He’s still pounding on CNN. (Just last night they earned four of his coveted Fake News Awards.) Remember Sarah Sanders being accused of not really baking a pie? Remember Stephen Miller having CNN’s Jim Acosta for lunch? The Great Melania Shoe Scandal?  “Covfefe”? “Drive them out!” The firing of Comey? Re-igniting the NFL protests? The damaging leaks? The Obama wiretapping claim?

And no one’s ever going to forget Trump’s Twitter feed.

What Counts

It’s fun to revisit the circus, but at this one year anniversary perhaps we can look a bit at the substance. We know we’ve got our money’s worth out of Trump in terms of entertainment and intrigue, but what did he do? One question matters: Is America better off today than it was a year ago? The answer is yes. 

Argue all you will about whether Trump is Making America Great Again. At the very least, he is making Americans Walk and Talk and Think in terms of Greatness Again. Not just America’s, but their own.

Two quick examples can be our guideposts: First, the economy is on fire, optimism is building, opportunities are exploding, salaries are rising. What’s supposed to be going up is going up. What’s supposed to be going down is going down. Government is shrinking.

Second, the North Korean threat is reduced. President Obama told President-elect Trump the biggest problem he’d have to face is North Korea. Nothing past administrations tried worked. Kim Jong Un has built nukes, miniaturized them and has been developing bigger and more accurate missiles. In a year, Trump has wrestled strong sanctions out of the U.N., with Chinese and Russian cooperation.

The squeeze is working, if imperfectly. He’s done everything short of attacking to make clear he will defend America in a brutal manner. Today, North and South Korea are talking. They’re even unifying for the Olympic opening ceremonies. South Korea’s President is giving Trump much of the credit. Is the North Korea danger resolved? No. Progress yes. 

Domestically, America’s moving into high gear. (Just today came news unemployment claims hit a 45 year low.) Internationally, America’s putting America’s interests first … with no apologies. The old leading from behind, letting enemies cross our red lines in the sand, business is over. Ask the military how things are going. Ask ISIS. 

I must add a third guidepost, some would say the most crucial: With President Trump, the cause for life is on the March. 

A More Subtle MAGA Moment

It’s not scientific, but it seems America takes on the characteristics of her presidents. (At least the interesting ones.) Reagan’s America bounced with a good-natured optimism.  (Just listen to the music.) The Clinton 90s were bright, colorful, inventive … and sloppy. Obama’s America beat with the heart of an agitator. It was a time of intellectual snobbery and indifference to the opinion of others, mixed with an aversion to taking responsibility.

Trump, for all his faults, has this to say about him: He’s big. He’s bold. Believes in our greatness. Fearless. For two years he’s taken hits and met challenges that should have left him curled up in a ball at the top of Trump Tower. He’s not only still standing, he’s thriving. He comes out every day fighting just as hard, just as loud. Unbowed. 

This past year, America has gone through an unprecedented run of massive hurricanes, devastating fires, historic floods. We’ve endured the Charlottesville riots, the Vegas massacre and two horrific church shootings. Harvey alone should have knocked us on our tush for a year. Taken together, we easily could have entered 2018 a mess. But look at yourself, America. You’re not only standing, you’re thriving and fighting just as hard and just as loud. Unbowed.

You now weigh in at 6’3″, 239-pounds. And you’re not about to hit the canvas for anything. 

Average Folks Watching, Talking and Yelling About Policy

Trump is also responsible for a fascinating development. Could you have ever imagined that the year’s most compelling, talked about TV viewing would come out of the White House? Last week’s extraordinary immigration meeting was reality TV at its finest. The White House briefings are better than anything else on daytime TV. Tuesday’s briefing on the President’s health exam was funnier than late night. 

But more importantly, the average folks, the forgotten people, the newly interested people, are passionate and engaged to a degree I’ve never seen. As much as I despise the tone of the discourse, sigh at the level of stupidity, and scream about how many unbelievably important things are getting ignored by the media (and thus an uniformed public), I do cheer that people are paying attention to what Trump and other leaders are up to. And making their voices heard. 

The marketplace of ideas isn’t made for the stuffed-shirt academics and erudite anchors in their media bubbles. It’s made for us. Because it’s made for us, for all of us, it’s made to be messy and vibrant. And loud. As loud, one can say, as a New York construction guy.  

Argue all you will about whether Trump is Making America Great Again. At the very least, he is Making Americans Walk and Talk and Think in terms of Greatness Again. Not just America’s, but their own.

Perhaps that’s Trump’s greatest triumph thus far: Helping Americans believe greatness matters.

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