I’ve asked a few knowledgeable friends to join some of TCR’s contributing editors to comment on the leadership of President Trump’s first year in office. I’ve added identification where I deemed necessary.
Dr. Deal W. Hudson
On February 21, 2016, I wrote a column under the title, “Will Pro-Life Catholics Vote for Donald Trump?” This was the moment in the presidential campaign when the momentum of Sen. Ted Cruz had stalled. Many Cruz supporters, especially among Catholics, were frantically trying to prop Cruz up and refused to acknowledge that Trump was the candidate who would be nominated, and, as I argue, would be able to defeat Hilary Clinton.
Trump was fresh off his victory in the South Carolina primary. I admitted Trump was the least popular candidate among Catholics according to the polls and that the comments by Pope Francis about the “wall” were an obstacle to be overcome. I argued pro-life Catholics would not be able to vote for Clinton or Sanders, and they were “infected with the same sense of tribulation that is fueling the Trump candidacy in the first place.”
Disappointed Cruz and Carson supporters were making philosophical arguments on why the best choice would be to not vote at all. Leading Catholic pro-life leaders mounted a campaign to nominate “anyone but Donald Trump.” On May 7 in National Review, Robert George and George Weigel would pen a public letter saying Trump was “morally unfit” to be president. Fortunately, the pro-life Catholic voters at the grassroots paid no attention to them.
In my February 21st column, I wrote:
“Trump has not claimed to be pro-life in the past, but he claims to be now, and he promises to sign a bill defunding Planned Parenthood. Skepticism towards Trump’s new position on abortion is warranted, and even some scoffing can be understood. Yet, on election day in November Catholic voters will be faced with two choices. One candidate will be resolutely pro-abortion and linked arm-and-arm with Planned Parenthood, NARAL, NOW, and EMILY’s List.
“The other candidate, if it is Trump, will be someone who has declared himself a recent convert to the pro-life cause. A candidate who, since his change of mind, has continued to defend his position in the face of incredulous questioning from the liberal media and the pro-life community.
“There’s no doubt in my mind how I will vote, as a pro-life Catholic. To hand the White House over to the Democrats for another four, or eight, years will destroy our nation’s character for at least one hundred years. This would be a disaster from which America might never recover.”
On election day, Donald Trump won 52% of all Catholic votes and stunned the media, the pundits, the bishops, and the virulent never-Trumpers among Catholics.
A year later, President Trump is being called, the “most pro-life president in U.S. history,” by Vice President Pence and other pro-life leaders.
Those of us who took Trump at his word took a chance, no doubt, but all the signs were there that he was sincere in making the promise to protect the unborn.
Father Frank Pavone
I am privileged to serve on two advisory commissions for the President, one that handles Catholic issues, and the other which handles pro-life issues. From the beginning, I was told that Donald Trump, if he were elected, would “do everything that previous pro-life presidents have done, and more.” That has proven true.
The first and greatest thing he did for the pro-life movement was to keep Hillary Clinton out of the White House!
Before we consider policy advances, which are many, we should consider how the Mr. Trump — both on the campaign trail and once he became President — has strengthened and encouraged the pro-life movement just by the way he speaks about abortion. The way he describes the procedure (such as during his third debate with Hillary, talking about ripping the baby from the womb), and challenges the extremism of the other side is exactly what is needed. Because he is a fighter who speaks his mind directly, he cuts through the evasion and vagueness that so characterizes the way so many deal with the abortion issue.
Regarding policy, the President and his team have used both legislation, executive orders, and administrative decisions (even in regard to the language used to refer to the unborn in policy documents) to advance the cause of the unborn, both domestically and internationally.
Then, right after his inauguration, he reinstated the Mexico City Policy that prevents international family planning funds from going to pro-abortion groups. Moreover, he became the first President to expand that policy to cover virtually all foreign aid.
What’s more, he defunded the United Nations Population Fund so that no U.S. money will go to help China’s tyrannical forced abortion program. He also signed legislation to allow states to divert taxpayer money away from the Planned Parenthood abortion business!
President Trump fulfilled a major campaign promise by naming pro-life judge Neil Gorsuch to be a Justice of the Supreme Court. He has appointed a record number of similarly minded appeals court judges.
The list goes on, but we also have to mention President Trump’s efforts to protect religious liberty. Not only did he sign a historic Executive Order on religious freedom (and then gave his signature pen to Priests for Life’s Alveda King), he revoked and rewrote the HHS mandate so that faith-based non-profit groups like Priests for Life will no longer be attacked by the government for practicing our faith.
Moreover, he has given added strength, freedom and courage to the pro-life movement by pointing out the unjust requirements of the “Johnson Amendment” that make pastors and pro-life not-for-profit groups feel like they cannot speak their mind regarding elections. This often translates into feeling they cannot speak about abortion. The President, by Executive Order, has instructed federal agencies to respect the freedom of these groups to speak freely about political matters.
He has also taken many other administrative steps – too numerous to mention here – to advance recognition of the unborn in the policies and activities of various federal agencies.
The direction of the Trump Administration on pro-life is exactly what we need it to be.
Rev. Gerry Lessard
The warmth of spring and a vernal mist welcomed the 45th President. It was an honor to witness his inauguration, for it was not only a historic event but a turning point in our nation’s relationship with God. For eight years, it seemed as though the Lord had abandoned us. The baby-killing, perversion-spreading, racist, socialistic tribalism of his predecessor moved me to write a series of sonnets on the demise of civilization, but suddenly, we had a man with the strength of Saint Michael to conquer and build.
If all Donald Trump did for four years, or rather eight, was to undo everything that Barak Hussein had done, that would bring society back up to the surface where we could breathe again, but he has already taken us higher than we hoped. Such inexplicable blessings are blatantly miraculous. Even before he put his hand on the Bible to swear the oath, the economy took flight. The number and frequency of the stock market’s records have been eye-popping, but the tax reform, which has brought jobs to America and put cash in the pockets of its citizens, has now exposed his adversaries as economic numbskulls.
His seat in the Oval Office was hardly warm before he defunded International Planned Parenthood and other organizations that kill innocent children. Vice President Pence speaking at the March for Life greatly heartened the faithful. The appointment of Pro-Lifers to replace anti-lifers has invigorated like a transfusion of new blood. Of course, Neil Gorsuch is the consolation for the tragic loss of Antonin Scalia.
Almost daily, we have giggled with glee as the president has withstood a tsunami of injustice like Gibraltar while Making America Great Again. The propaganda of the media has been discredited thanks to his ingenious out-flanking maneuvers. President Trump has cowered neither before tyrants nor terrorists. He set the military free to destroy ISIS.
Meanwhile, respect for police officers grows. He also liberates us from the globalistic cosmopolitan thinking that has strangled us like a boa constrictor. Now, the United Nations must learn that pious patriotism is not fascist nationalism. Trump has moderated environmental alarmism and is renegotiating fair trade. The despotic administrative state has been removed from its pagan altar while personal compassion and charity has been demonstrated to victims of natural disasters.
Senator Mack F. Mattingly*
THE PLUS of the first year:
INCREASED JOB CREATION
THE NEGATIVE of the first year:
DOES NOT ALWAYS WORK AND PLAY WELL WITH OTHERS
*Sen. Mack F. Mattingly was the first elected Republican Senator in Georgia, 1981-87; served as Ass’t Sec Gen Defense Support for NATO, 1987-90 and as a US Ambassador 1992-93, 1994, in addition to being an entrepreneur and rainmaker.
Dr. Carl Curtis
The mainstream media has found the first year of Donald Trump’s presidency outrageous. No surprise: they thought that of his first day. However, as a conservative, I have to admit perplexity in assessing “the Donald.” His accomplishments are real and, in some cases, admirable, but so are his failures. Without going into exhaustive detail, let’s look at these.
First, the good. Many cabinet and judicial appointments have been unexceptionable: Gorsuch on SCOTUS, Mattis to DOD, DeVos at Education, and Pruitt at EPA. Trump’s countermanding of dozens of Obama’s executive orders has been swift and beneficial. Placing the conduct of war back into the hands of officers in the field has destroyed ISIS as a political entity. The new tax bill (really the work of Congress) leaves eighty percent of taxpayers with more of their own dollars; businesses have responded quickly to the promised rates with bonuses and raises for thousands of workers. The Stock Market is soaring. Stronger control of our border and better policing have stemmed the tide of illegal immigration. We’re out of the Paris Climate Accord.
State and DOJ are both mild disappointments. Tillerson, although he gives us relief from years of Hillary- and Kerry-inspired policy disasters, may not be up to the daunting task of restoring our European allies’ confidence. Sessions appeared an excellent choice, but he has been tentative from the start, especially in recusing himself from the Russian “collusion” inquiry. Both men may prove sound choices in the long run; then, again, both may resign before they have time to prove their mettle.
But the good things are undeniable. They’re also just what one would have expected of any Republican president. Trump’s followers were counting on the unexpected, and for that, they have Trump himself whose very existence is an affront to the political establishment. Even we #NeverTrumpers can applaud that.
Now for the failures. Trump was going to build the wall and make Mexico pay for it. He was going to repeal Obamacare. He was going to deport millions of illegals (and, don’t forget, re-admit them). He was going to put “Crooked Hillary” in jail. Eliminating fraud and waste was going to cure the deficit. (Fat chance: the tax bill will increase it.) The humming economy has done nothing to boost Trump’s anemic popularity. Republican control of Congress in is jeopardy. Trump’s rude, boorish manner along with compulsive, embarrassing Tweeting has done little but reveal an adolescent hypersensitivity to criticism. On policy matters, he is shallow and either unaware of his ignorance or careless. In state elections, his coattails have torn. He has replaced Obama’s insufferable moral preening with his own equally insufferable bullying and blather. All told, he’s done nothing to restore dignity to the office, which badly needs restoring.
As I said earlier, I’m perplexed. Give him a C-minus. Not bad after eight years of Obama, but if Trump can’t convince the broader populace he’s more than an apprentice, we might end up with Bernie in 2020.
Deacon Kevin Bezner
I applauded the failure of Hillary Clinton to win the presidency for two primary reasons. The first was the Clinton campaign’s cynical attack on authentic Catholic faith capped by the choosing of a leftist Jesuit companion as a running mate. The second was Clinton’s unequivocal commitment to an agenda that undermines traditional Christianity and promotes vice, confusion, and untruth.
I applauded the election of Donald Trump as president, despite his flaws, primarily because he exposed the media’s leftist and anti-Christian bias and collusion with the Clinton campaign and instead promoted an agenda that protected elements of traditional Christian morality and virtue.
A year later, the media elite and the left are more biased and anti-Christian than ever. Their lies and propaganda are on display in every area of popular culture, from daytime talk shows to the evening news, from professional sports to late night television shows.
In a recent article, “The Left’s Big Mistake on President Trump,” Newt Gingrich writes of Trump’s successes in life and essentially speaks of how the left and the media elite “disparage a person he or she could never compete within business, politics, or even on the golf course.”
Unaware of their sickness of soul, the media and the left continue to promote untruth and confusion in their efforts to denigrate President Trump and depict him as incompetent, unfit for office, irresponsible, virtually a traitor, and unhinged in mind.
Alexander Elchaninov (1881-1934) who emigrated to Nice, France, with his wife and daughter in 1921, witnessed the cultural and religious upheaval and decline of those difficult years. In a comment in his The Diary of A Russian Priest (St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press), he speaks of the harm an actor does to himself through his participation in the “sham, ambiguity, and falsehood” of “theatrical shows”:
“…the greater his passion in performing, the greater the harm he causes his soul, allowing confusion and untruth to take up their abode in it.”
This is the fate and reality of our passionate media elite and leftist politicians.
In the 2016 election, the majority of Christians were not fooled by Hillary Clinton, the left, and the media elite. They voted against this confluence of leftist and anti-Christian propaganda to elect a flawed and worldly man they believed would represent their values, regardless of how he is belittled and defamed in popular culture.
So far, they have been correct.
From the perspective of communications and messaging, President Trump’s first year in office has been an almost unqualified triumph, much to the chagrin of his many detractors.
On every issue where Trump has led White House messaging (often through his much maligned but highly effective early-morning tweeting), he has controlled the debate and usually trounced his baffled and often clueless opponents as a result of his ability to connect directly with his voters. But where he has allowed himself to be guided by DC’s professional Republican class, with their supposedly indispensable knowledge of how governing and legislating actually work, Trump has met with debacle after debacle for his agenda.
In large part, this is because the agenda of establishment Republicans inside the Beltway is still completely at odds with that of the man that won them the White House by ignoring stale GOP policy priorities and pushing a populist agenda that carried him over the top in Rust Belt states that hadn’t voted for a Republican presidential candidate in a generation.
The sad truth is that the people who control this administration’s overall strategy are more representative of the policy priorities of GOP Hill leadership and their all-powerful donor class than they are of the economic populism Trump ran on. Hugely popular Trump agenda items like building the wall, the renewal of our crumbling national infrastructure and tougher trade and immigration measures have, time and again, been shunted aside in favor of failed and unpopular attempts to rehash the debate over repealing Obamacare.
The coming year offers great promise to build the wall, reform immigration to fully realize campaign promises, continue the massive deregulation already begun, and fix our nation’s crumbling infrastructure.
*Robert Wasinger served in senior advisory and liaison roles in President Donald Trump‘s campaign and transition team, after extensive experience on Capitol Hill.