Sunday, December 10, 2017
Opinion

Column: Trump paints a rosy picture of his success so far. Here's where he's right and where he isn't.

How are things going? Why, President Donald Trump is glad you asked.

"The mood in the White House is fantastic," he told Reuters in an interview. And why wouldn't it be, given the list of accomplishments Trump then outlined:

The stock market has hit a new high. Job numbers are the best they've been in 16 years. We have a Supreme Court judge already confirmed. Energy is doing levels that we've never done before. Our military is doing well. We're knocking the hell out of ISIS, which Obama wasn't. There's not a thing that we're not doing well in. The White House is functioning beautifully, despite the hoax made up by the Democrats.

Trump likes to complain that the media doesn't report on his successes. Those are his successes, he is asserting, so allow me to report on them.

• "The stock market has hit a new high."

There's truth to this. On Thursday, the Dow Jones industrial average closed at 21,553.09, higher than it has ever closed before. The prior record-holder was the close on Wednesday, at 21,532.14.

The market has hit new closing highs 24 times during the 120 days the markets have been open during Trump's administration. That expansion is second only to the post-inauguration growth seen by Herbert Hoover when he was inaugurated in 1929.

However, it's worth noting a few points that modify this slightly. The first is that 17.5 percent growth, which is what the Dow's seen since the election on Nov. 8, is not unprecedented. On 226 days that the markets were open during President Barack Obama's two terms, the Dow had grown the same amount over an equivalent period. Also, let's all hope that the Dow's performance doesn't continue to mirror what happened under Hoover.

• "Job numbers are the best they've been in 16 years."

There's truth to this. By "job numbers," Trump is referring to the unemployment rate. It's basically true that the rate hasn't been lower than at any point since early 2001. (The May unemployment rate was slightly lower than the rate in June, but that's in part a function of more people returning to the job market.) However, Trump can't claim too much credit for this. The decline in unemployment began after the recession in late 2009.

• "We have a Supreme Court judge already confirmed."

There's truth to this. Justice Neil M. Gorsuch was confirmed in April, less than three months after Trump took office. However, this was not a tough political fight.

• "Our military is doing well."

We'll let this claim rest, since it's hard to evaluate.

• "We're knocking the hell out of ISIS, which Obama wasn't."

There's truth to this. It's true that the Islamic State (also known as ISIS) has suffered sharp setbacks recently, including, most significantly, the recapture of the Iraqi city of Mosul by Iraqi government forces. However, the battle for Mosul began in October. The Islamic State's decline, by nearly any objective measure, began on Obama's watch. Whether Obama "knocked the hell" out of them is, I suppose, subjective.

• "There's not a thing that we're not doing well in. The White House is functioning beautifully, despite the hoax made up by the Democrats."

The "hoax" here is, of course, the investigation into Russia's attempts to influence the 2016 election and any ways in which the Trump campaign might have tried to aid that effort. This week, Trump's rhetoric in that regard was dealt a blow, with his son's admission that he'd sought out negative information from the Russian government.

More broadly, though, what's evaluated above are the president's self-proclaimed successes, not an analysis of the vast sweep of his administration. Unmentioned by Trump were a number of points of possible frustration among White House staffers:

The mostly stymied attempt to block new immigrants to the United States;

The slow pace of appointments to important government positions;

The critical response to Trump's foreign policy efforts;

The failure to pass any significant legislation including on health care or tax reform;

The president's deep personal unpopularity;

And, of course, the special counsel's investigation into the Russia matter and possible obstruction of justice.

© 2017 Washington Post

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