NeverTrumper Rich Lowry: I'd give Trump an A+ on his agenda the first year

It’s hard to justify an A+ when ObamaCare hasn’t been repealed — although the individual mandate has — but yeah, there’s plenty to like. I flagged two likable new policies myself three days ago. President Trump has been far less of a Bernie-style populist than candidate Trump was. There’s been no trade war — yet. There’s been no abandonment of NATO — yet. There’s been no trillion-dollar infrastructure boondoggle — yet. Instead we’ve gotten tax cuts, some deregulation, a crop of mostly solid judges capped by Neil Gorsuch, the continued eradication of ISIS, and a Dow that seems to set a new record every week. There were various worst-case scenarios NeverTrumpers like me could have painted for you circa summer 2016, ranging on the more mild end from Trump governing like a Democrat to the spicier end of Trump defying court rulings, issuing illegal orders to the military, etc etc, with the full support of executive-branch cronies. None of those scenarios look like the first year we’ve just experienced. Worst-case-scenario Trump would have been holed up in the Oval Office with Steve Bannon, plotting some sort of nuclear sneak attack on China. The Trump we have just dropkicked Bannon out of the White House and spent the weekend dispatching aides to knife him repeatedly on television. Things could be worse.

There’s one exception, though. Worst-case-scenario Trump would have sounded like a nut at times on Twitter raging against his many enemies, annnnnnnd … yeah. Lowry mentions that too. When he’s in a big spot and stuck with a script, as he was last February during his address to Congress, POTUS is usually fine. But hand him his phone and wind him up and before you know it he’s tweeting about the size of his “button” at the lunatic who runs North Korea. He’s less “presidential” now, arguably, than he was during the campaign when he swore the opposite would be true. But here’s the kicker: In order to enjoy the benefits of Good Trump, we may have to tolerate the vices of Bad Trump. Bad Trump just wants to tweet, watch “Fox & Friends,” and BS with his buddies on the phone all day — but the more he does that, the freer a hand Ryan, McConnell, and his foreign-policy team have to run things their way, with little populist interference. The White House has even adopted a cutesy nickname for Trump’s daily work breaks: “Executive time.”

The schedule says Trump has “Executive Time” in the Oval Office every day from 8am to 11am, but the reality is he spends that time in his residence, watching TV, making phone calls and tweeting. Trump comes down for his first meeting of the day, which is often an intelligence briefing, at 11am.

That’s far later than George W. Bush, who typically arrived in the Oval by 6:45am. Obama worked out first thing in the morning and usually got into the Oval between 9 and 10am, according to a former senior aide.

Trump’s days in the Oval Office are relatively short – from around 11am to 6pm, then he’s back to the residence. During that time he usually has a meeting or two, but spends a good deal of time making phone calls and watching cable news in the dining room adjoining the Oval. Then he’s back to the residence for more phone calls and more TV.

Six months from now, the daily routine may be down to two hours of meetings, a round of golf, and then eight hours of Fox-watching. The Dow could be at 36,000 by then. I whine about his tweets as much as any NeverTrumper but the thought is never far from my mind: What would you rather have him doing? If he’s going to delegate most of his duties to deputies and rubber-stamp virtually any conservative policy laid in front of him, from tax reform to judicial nominations, that’s close to the best-case scenario for a Trump presidency that a Trump-skeptic could have imagined. All he’d need to do to pass with flying colors is find a different hobby besides Twitter.

For some reason I can’t embed the video of Lowry, so click the image below to watch.