Earlier today, President Trump did what he's probably itching to do every morning: Phone into Fox & Friends for an extended chat with the gang. Over the course of a lengthy, wide-ranging discussion, Trump was asked what letter 'grade' he'd award his presidency thus far. His response? The most predictably Trumpy answer imaginable, of course:
"Look, I'm fighting a battle against a horrible group of deep-seeded people, drain the swamp, that are coming up with all sorts of phony charges against me and they're not bringing up real charges against the other side," Trump said. "So we have a phony deal going on, and it's a cloud over my head. And I've been able to escape that cloud because the message now, everyone knows, it's a fix, okay? It's a witch-hunt. And they know that. I've been able to message it." Trump said he would give his presidency so far an "A-plus," despite the Russia investigation. "I would give myself an A-plus. Nobody has done what I have been able to do, and I did it despite the fact that I have a phony cloud over my head that doesn't exist," Trump said. Trump added that Democrats are using the Russian investigation as an excuse for losing the 2016 election.
Early in his first term, President Obama gave himself a "solid B-plus" for his job performance, drawing heckles and groans from conservatives, including yours truly. The best answer for any public servant on this question is something along the lines of, "that's for the American people to decide -- I'm just going to keep doing what I think is right on their behalf." But that wasn't O's style; nor is it T's, and neither man's self-assessment aligned with the public's view. But what grade does Trump deserve? In terms of policy, Rich Lowry (a frequent Trump critic from the right during the campaign) gave the president high marks for his early-term accomplishments:
As the year ends, President Donald Trump is compiling a solid record of accomplishment. Much of it is unilateral, dependent on extensive executive actions rolling back President Barack Obama’s regulations, impressive judicial appointments, and the successful fight against ISIS overseas. The tax bill is the significant legislative achievement that heretofore had been missing. For much of the year, Trump’s presidency had seemed to be sound and fury signifying not much besides the welcome ascension of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court; now, it is sound and fury signifying a discernible shift of American government to the right. It’s hard to see how a conventional Republican president would have done much better, except if he had managed to get Obamacare repealed, which was always going to be a dicey proposition given the narrow Republican majority in the Senate...If any Republican would have done much of what Trump has, three acts stand out — pulling out of the Paris accords, decertifying the Iran deal, and declaring Jerusalem the capital of Israel. All three demonstrated an imperviousness to polite opinion that is one of Trump’s signature qualities.
Lowry's piece did end with a fairly signficiant caveat: "None of this is to deny Trump’s failings. Congressional leaders often have to work around his shambolic governing style. Next year could bring a bout of protectionism, and his opposition to entitlement reform during the campaign makes it unlikely Republicans will get a handle on spending. His toxic persona could drive a Democratic wave in the 2018 midterms." That was written in late December. Since then, the "shambolic governing style" has continued apace, and arguably gotten worse. The bout of harmful protectionism has arrived, the denialist opposition to entitlement reform remains unchanged, and the midterm picture looks worrisomely murky at best. I'd add a number of really bad moments and impulses to Trump's rap sheet, too. All in all, he gets an A-minus on policy (despite a handful of strong disagreements), and a C-minus on comportment and temperament (I'm feeling generous today) in my book. It's also probably worth pointing out that to millions of people, any day that this woman is not president is an A-plus day.
But one of Trump's weaknesses is maddening lack of self-discipline, even in cases in which restraint is in his own interests. During the Fox & Friends interview, he made a number of off-handed remarks that are already being seized upon by critics, legal opponents, and even government lawyers. Given the very delicate legal dynamics of the Stormy Daniels case, 'no comment' is almost certainly the best thing Trump can say in response to certain direct questions. But again, that ain't T's style:
The smart thing to do when you’re a jam like that is to decline comment and let your lawyers handle it. The Trump thing to do is to chatter about it on national television during a live interview with “Fox & Friends.” Which brings us to this surreal scene — the president of the United States, admitting that Cohen *did* represent him on the Daniels deal...Trump says at one point that Cohen handled only a “tiny fraction” of his legal work. If that’s true, it strengthens the U.S. Attorney’s case that maybe there isn’t as much privileged material in Cohen’s files as he’s implied and therefore those files can stay with the “taint team.” Lo and behold, the feds have already flagged Trump’s soundbite in a letter to the court this morning...The president is undermining his own potential defense and that of his friend Cohen and doesn’t even seem to understand that he’s doing it. If you were his lawyer, what would you do? He needs to stop talking. And yet, he won’t stop talking.
Between that exchange and Trump's hinting at some potential future meddling at DOJ (maybe involving Mueller?), he's teed up another round of lit news cycles. Although, quite honestly, I'm not sure anything will ever match yesterday's magical litness:
Tfw when you’re off Twitter for a few hours, then you come back and IT’S SURREAL AND LIT AF ???????????????????????????????? pic.twitter.com/RLBaQVRlG0— Guy Benson (@guypbenson) April 26, 2018