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Monday, April 24, 2017

Judd Gregg: Trump gets his sea legs

Judd Gregg: Trump gets his sea legs
By Judd Gregg - 04-24-17 06:00 AM EDT

No president in our time has gotten off to a more disruptive start than Donald Trump.

The Trump presidency began with an inaugural speech that was a proclamation of pessimism. Its only redeeming quality was that it was short.

This was followed by the debacle of the executive orders on immigration. There is logic for these kinds of orders, in terms of strengthening safeguards on immigration from nations identified as sanctuaries for terrorism. But the administration did not do its homework.

Compounding these troubles was of course the abortive attempt to repeal and replace ObamaCare.

Accomplishing this was a top goal declared by Candidate Trump during his campaign. But someone forgot to tell the president's team that they were doing high-stakes politics, not building high-rise buildings. An entirely different skill-set is needed for politics.

This and other missteps have caused the left - and most of the media - to rejoice.

But their hallelujah chorus may be a bit premature. The president appears to be getting his sea legs.

Firstly, thanks to the guile of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), he has succeeded in placing a young, extremely talented conservative on the bench of the Supreme Court, in the shape of Justice Neil Gorsuch.

It would be difficult to overstate the long-term impact of this confirmation. The president deserves accolades for announcing his list of potential nominees and then nominating someone of such ability. A promise was kept and action taken.

Secondly, he has surround himself with some exceptionally successful and capable people, who are able to give him thoughtful and independent counsel. He seems to be listening and taking advantage of their strengths. Policies are being adjusted to reflect reality.

One of the greatest weaknesses of President Obama's team was to look at the world with glasses tinted by the unreality of the views of the hard left. The Trump team, throughout the transition and into the first period of his presidency, simply changed glasses to those of the unreality of the hard right.

Issues and crises do not respond well to ideologues.

Ideology needs to be an anchor to action, but the action has to be rooted in common sense. Most of the people Trump has chosen to help him seem to intuitively understand this from their prior, broad experiences and successes outside of government.

The leading example of the president's sense of balance came when, during the same weekend, he met with Chinese President Xi Jinping and attacked a Syrian airfield.

The Xi meeting appears to have been a constructive and valuable first crossing of key leaders. China is unquestionably our most important international relationship, since that nation is on the rise and close to becoming our equal both economically and militarily. Getting the relationship right is critical.

By attacking Syria in the midst of the talks with the Chinese leader, Trump and his team made it clear they know how to deliver a message in real world terms.

It also appears that the discussions with Xi could lead to some effort by China to cooperate in managing the North Korean threat.

When Trump backed off his prior claims that China was manipulating its currency, he sent a clear signal that he was willing to accommodate and deal with the reality of politics.

Along with these major league efforts, the administration is successfully leveling the regulatory playing field for employers. Eight years of progressive Democratic governance had massively tilted the regulatory system against those engines of economic growth.

One big item left on the agenda that will test Trump's "sea legs" is tax reform. There is no more testy exercise then passing a major tax reform bill, especially if it must be essentially revenue neutral, as this will have to be.

If he and his people engage on this well, they could reach a bipartisan bill. Such bills have been done before. Reagan-Rostenkowski was the most recent 'final product,'  but Simpson-Bowles and Wyden-Coats also showed that bipartisanship is possible.

To do this, the president personally will have to draw in responsible Democrats, of which there are a number in the Senate.

Enacting tax reform will lift the enthusiasm of the doers in our nation. They will create jobs and make us even more internationally competitive.

For the president it would confirm that he has settled into the job and gotten himself on firm, winning ground.

This is something we should all want.

Judd Gregg (R) is a former governor and three-term senator from New Hampshire who served as chairman and ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, and as ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Foreign Operations subcommittee.

The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill. 

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