This week’s White House report card finds President Trump wrapping his first major trip to Asia, where messages were mixed, and returning to a new political world that includes a new Democratic political surge and disarray on his tax reform agenda.
Foreign trips by U.S. presidents are supposed to be triumphant, exhilarating, and useful diversions from problems at home. President Trump's trip to Asia is none of those. His dominant message of “America First” is not winning over Asians and his rhetorical “red line” with North Korea is, to say the least, not soothing to Americans nor citizens of of everywhere else. Nor was it credible. Is he really going to bomb the Hermit Kingdom?
Our visit to the @USSArizona memorial at #PearlHarbor was very moving. May those we lost always Rest In Peace. Thank you to all who serve. pic.twitter.com/11F9ituH8O— Melania Trump (@FLOTUS) November 4, 2017
Meanwhile, Mr. Trump took an absolute drubbing at the polls this past week. The major victories by Democrats on Tuesday were clearly anti-Trump, anti-GOP as Democrats rallied their base, piled up larger margins in Democratic counties in Virginia, and picked up at least 15 new seats in the legislature. While Mr. Trump can claim that Ed Gillespie, the GOP nominee for Virginia governor was not “Trump enough,” fact is that voters selected the Democrat because of his support for Obamacare and his opposition to Mr. Trump. While the Democrats have time to blow themselves up, for now they may even pick up a Senate seat in Alabama.
Economic indicators are good, but there is no way to spin this into a good week for the president.
President Trump had a good week abroad that didn’t make up for a really lousy week at home.
Trump was quick to pass the buck for Republican Ed Gillespie’s eight-point loss in the Virginia governor’s race to the low-wattage candidate, telling the press that Gillespie lost because he didn’t embrace Trump or his policies sufficiently. Not only did Gillespie lose, but Republicans lost more than a dozen seats in the state legislature. A substantial anti-Trump vote, coupled with a significant lack of Republican turnout was the reason for the loss.
The president spent the week overseas, stopping first in Japan and proceeding to South Korea, China and Vietnam. Trump’s speech in South Korea, ignored by the media, was a superb defense of freedom and castigation of the dungeon that is North Korea. It wasn’t quite Reagan calling on Gorbachev to “tear down this wall” but it was excellent. Of course, the media ignored it.
In China, President Xi Jinping rolled out an extravagant celebration for Trump. Though he had demanded better trade with the region in his address in South Korea, Trump seemed to trade that off for a promise by Xi to get tough, at long last, with North Korea. Trump and Xi said that they had agreed to pursue the denuclearization of North Korea together and wouldn’t repeat the mistakes of the past. If Xi lives up to that promise — a very long long shot -- Trump will have made a good deal.
The Republican tax bill is still evolving in the House and may or may not soon pass. The Senate reportedly wants to take very different approach than the House has, delaying the corporate tax cut and fiddling with rates and brackets. The end-of-year deadline is fast approaching. If congressional Republicans fail on the tax bill as they have on everything else (with the exception of the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court) Trump will share in, and suffer from, their year-long near-total failure.
The voter anger that propelled Trump to the presidency hasn’t decreased since 2016, but it’s now directed at Congress. Simply put, the Republicans, holding the Senate, the House and the White House, are out of excuses. They have to produce or they will suffer massive defeats in next year’s midterms. If they do, Trump’s now-moribund agenda will be most sincerely dead.
Jed Babbin is an Examiner contributor and former deputy undersecretary of defense in administration of former President George H.W. Bush. Follow him on Twitter @jedbabbin
John Zogby is the founder of the Zogby Poll and senior partner at John Zogby Strategies. His latest book is and author of We are Many, We are One: Neo-Tribes and Tribal Analytics in 21st Century America. Follow him on Twitter @TheJohnZogby
Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org