Perhaps a better way to put it would be pleasantly surprised. Carl Hulse of the New York Times asked Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to rate the beginning of the new administration of Donald Trump. McConnell, who is tasked with getting Trump’s policymakers into office, tells Hulse that he and his caucus have “a high level of satisfaction” with the first three weeks of Trump’s presidency — at least on policy results:
While there is plenty of anxiety in Washington about the shaky early performance of the Trump administration, don’t count Senator Mitch McConnell among the hand wringers.
Mr. McConnell, a Kentucky Republican and the majority leader, says he and his Senate Republican colleagues are quite satisfied with the Trump team so far. In fact, he said, they are reassured by signs that President Trump is going to hew to a conservative agenda after early fears that the president — a relatively unknown quantity to most elected Republicans — might not really be one of them. …
“I think there is a high level of satisfaction with the new administration,” he said, dismissing concerns about dissonant eruptions from the new president and some of his top staff members. “Our members are not obsessed with the daily tweets, but are looking at the results.”
He added: “No matter what sort of theatrics that go on around the administration, if you look at the decisions that are being made, they are solid — from our perspective — right-of-center things that we would have hoped a new Republican president would have done.”
This mirrors my post from last Friday on the two-week mark of Trump’s administration. On policy results and Cabinet picks, it’s tough for conservatives to be disappointed, even those who may have been skeptical of Trump’s true ideological leanings. In my column from The Fiscal Times last week, I noted that the wins for the Right went well beyond Neil Gorsuch’s nomination to the Supreme Court. Reinstating the Mexico City policy, restarting the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines, and actions aimed at rolling back ObamaCare and overregulation were music to long-deprived conservative ears.
Not all the surprises have been pleasant, however. Trump fumbled the rollout of his “travel pause” executive order badly enough to have potentially undermined its legitimacy, and has continued to create controversy with his statements on Vladimir Putin and the courts. The Wall Street Journal notes that Republican leaders have tried to distance themselves from Trump’s statements, including … well …
Mr. McConnell on CNN said he didn’t want to “critique the president’s every utterance,’’ but offered a very different take on Russia and Mr. Putin: “He’s a thug. He was not elected in a way that most people would consider a credible election … I don’t think there’s any equivalency between the way the Russians conduct themselves and the way the United States does.’’
Asked about Mr. Trump’s recent reference to the “so-called judge’’ that ruled against the president’s executive order on immigration and refugees, Mr. McConnell again distanced himself from the White House. …
Mr. McConnell also poured cold water on the pledge by Mr. Trump to launch a national investigation of voter fraud. The president has claimed, without evidence, that millions of people voted fraudulently in the presidential election.
McConnell’s judging Trump by his actions rather than his words. That’s easier to do with a private citizen, even a multi-billionaire tycoon-turned-political candidate, than it is with a president. Words do matter in that position, as Trump’s legal team discovered during yesterday’s Ninth Circuit oral arguments on his EO, when the panel began demanding explanations of Trump’s earlier pledge for a “Muslim ban.” Hopefully the new president will learn those lessons without doing too much damage to himself or his surprisingly conservative agenda. We are just three weeks into a 208-week term, so there is still plenty of time for those adjustments to be made.