A Year in Review
The Trump Presidency, Year One

Five takeaways from the first year of the Trump presidency.

Published on: January 19, 2018
Michael Mandelbaum is the Christian A. Herter Professor Emeritus of American Foreign Policy at The Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, and a member of the Editorial Board of The American Interest.
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  • FriendlyGoat

    A man whose life was the contradiction (if not mockery) of religion in every observable sense has now been put in charge of it. Most of the followers don’t even know this capture has occurred. But, covered by the smoke emitted from this haphazard spectacle, the non-religious sharpies are having the field day of their lives—–vacuuming up wealth and power beyond their wildest previous imaginations.

    • Micah718

      Should anyone tell Comrade FG of all the ordinary workers getting jobs and more money because of the tax law? Or all time market highs? I say nay. Let him wallow in his misery while the rest of us thank God for our good fortune.

      • Dale Fayda

        I concur. Something or someone in the Evangelical movement has really damaged his fragile liberal psyche, so religious voters have become his idee fixe. That and his obsession with “high-end tax cuts”.

        He’s a sad, bitter man, really. Let him stew – misery becomes a Progressive.

        • Micah718

          In Comrade FG’s opinion, it is he and only he that determines who gets into Heaven. I repeat my call to thank the Lord, this time for keeping Comrade FG and people like him from having power. Living in blue hell hole of NJ, I have never been more glad that I own a gun. A lot of loonies out there.

          • Jim__L

            In Comrade FG’s opinion, only the Democrats’ party platform determines who gets into heaven. He has no ability whatsoever to exercise independent judgement.

          • Micah718

            Let us thank the Lord that Comrade FG’s opinion is irrelevant on this and all other subjects.

          • Jim__L

            No more relevant than any other non-thinking D-side supporter, of whom there are entirely too many in this country.

        • Everett Brunson

          Dale, without even going to the site I’m guessing you’re talking about the Old Goat–er, I’m mean Friendly Goat. Chuckle.

          • D4x

            Continuing my reply to Micah718 to add to you: Can not believe I read this miserable excuse for a review of
            the Trump presidency. Truly frightening that this ‘Professor Emeritus of American Foreign Policy at The Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, and a member of the Editorial Board of The American Interest’ is so ignorant, incurious, and poorly read that he starts with “an unattractive personality poorly suited to the job he holds: ignorant, impulsive, indolent, and intellectually out of his depth in the Oval Office.” and shallowly claims “In foreign policy the gap between the President and his presidency is perhaps widest”.

            America is charred toast if this is what passes for credentialed expert influencing the education of the third generation of snowflakeEloi.

          • Everett Brunson

            Yes, I read about the recent (Friday) up-welling of the conflict. Carrion circling for the spoils and strategic position. Turkey needs to be expelled from NATO. Iran seems to be busy build an arc of influence for access to the Med. As one conflict dies down another takes its place.

          • D4x

            Afrin has been a haven for more than 300,000 internally displaced Syrians, untouched by the civil war. Turkey started air strikes, in addition to artillery strikes, this morning. This has nothing to do with NATO, and it is far worse than what Qaddafi was threatening to Benghazi in 2012. It is a genuine war crime in real time, by Obama’s bff Erdogan. The Democrats in Congress, especially those on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, are responsible for hobbling the Trump administration from working with Russia to protect the Kurds, and so many other Syrians, in Afrin.
            01 20 2018 9 am EST Town of Afrin also directly hit by Turkish Air Force. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/35cbc68d6c91b070178bb00745c515928d8fa621c00e97a0698d060b64c6571a.jpg https://syria.liveuamap.com/en/2018/20-january-town-of-afrin-also-directly-hit-by-turkish-air

            Shameless, hypocritical Quote of the decade: 10 AM EST – 39°55′N 32°51′E Ankara, Turkish Armed Forces: Afrin operation to ‘protect our borders, eliminate terrorist groups, save our brothers from oppression’ https://syria.liveuamap.com/en/2018/20-january-turkish-armed-forces-afrin-operation-to-protect

            Only Turkey considers Syria’s YPG to be a ‘terrorist’ group. In Idlib, Turkey is allied, & supports the opposition to Assad, that ‘Euphrates Shield’ FSA includes Al-Qaeda affiliates.

            The residents of Afrin are in underground bunkers while Turkey, using their F-16s, commits war crimes.

          • Everett Brunson

            As long as Turkey is a member of NATO aren’t the hands of the US limited in what aid they can provide to stem this tide of genocide?

            At the moment I have one ear tuned to Fox news listening to Schumer and McConnell each pointing the finger of blame at the other.

          • Curious Mayhem

            NATO needs to a way to kick Turkey out.

          • Everett Brunson

            I recently learned there really isn’t a provision in the NATO Charter to “kick out” a NATO member. A member can leave on its own. France came the closest during the De Gaul period. It’s almost like a marriage without the ability of a divorce.

          • D4x

            It might be possible to find a clause in the NATO charter to expel a member openly boasting ‘Lebensraum’.
            This has been quite a read, and thread: Fehim Tastekin January 26, 2018 “Erdogan’s plans for Afrin might not sit well with Syria” [or anyone in NATO, EU, Russia] https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2018/01/turkey-syria-does-erdogan-want-to-settle-in-afrin.html After discussing Turkey’s Water War angle, still reading this from 2013 to understand the Orontes/Afrin River watershed (terrific map on page 3, which explained Turkey’s bombing targets today): https://waterinventory.org/sites/waterinventory.org/files/chapters/Chapter-07-Orontes-River-Basin-web_1.pdf

            I moved on to checking whether the airstrikes are destroying archaeological sites, which is what first got my attention last October. The Monument Men have been documenting since 2011: http://monumentsofsyria.com/

            Good analysis getting through the search algorithms: https://www.worldpoliticsreview.com/articles/24058/with-turkey-s-rush-to-war-against-syrian-kurds-what-is-the-endgame-in-afrin “With Turkey’s Rush to War Against Syrian Kurds, What Is the Endgame in Afrin?” Aron Lund |Friday, Jan. 26, 2018
            Russia can stop this, and must be tempted to do so now that the weather has cleared, the Kurds are not going to Sochi, except for giving Erdogan more time to say stuff while the ROW learns how stable and peaceful Afrin was until Jan. 20, 2018. I just watched CBS’ new series SEAL Team. One of the wives is…Kurdish, just had a baby.
            In other news, Turkey invited Brad Pitt to be the face of their new ad campaign to reboot tourism. Just as his divorce and custody deal with UNCHR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie is pending. On Jan. 21, a Danish film “Holiday” opened – depicts one of Turkey’s best tourist cities as a place where organized crime sadists go on vacation. That is how clueless they are.
            I restrained myself from commenting on the damage to the olive trees. Afrin is such a beautiful place.
            See you Monday, Day Ten.

          • Curious Mayhem

            It is shocking. The Trump foreign policy people are slowly coming around to seeing what Turkey has really become. Certainly, the attitude is very different from a year ago.

            The only error here is that Russia is there to help the Kurds, which is laughable. They’re there to sell weapons to Iran, Syria, and Turkey (and Qatar, another supposed ally). That’s it. They were also not in Syria to stop IS; they were there solely to save the Assad regime, full stop, nothing else. I think Trump has largely abandoned his earlier bromance with Putin. We’ll see.

          • D4x

            Lower left hand corner of the map, you can zoom in + or out -. On the right hand, you can scroll up to read each post in sequence. If you click on the icon on the post, the icon is outlined. I scroll up through the posts, and click ‘comments’ in the upper right hand corner. That pops the post full screen, the URL can be saved, and, scan the comments. Half a dozen pro-Kurd/not anti-Israel commenters are interesting.

            01 20 2018: join us here: https://pjmedia.com/trending/turkey-begins-assault-us-backed-syrian-border-force/

          • Dale Fayda


            I’ve been leaving comments on this site several years now and FG precedes me here by a while still. He is nothing is not consistent in his obstinate lunacy.

          • Everett Brunson

            Good timing Dale. I just sat down at the computer again. FG has said he has blocked me so I doubt he will see my comments. He has one friend with Anthony. That’s okay by me. Everyone needs a friend–even FG. I’m actually a little saddened by his circumstance–For me life is a joy. It’s fine to be or become passionate about politics, but there is more to life.

          • Gary Hemminger

            I think FG is not real. It is a computer spitting out words that do not necessarily have any sense to them. but sometimes they make sense. Like a 100 monkeys banging on keyboards. Sometimes a sentence or two comes out okay, but mostly it is gibberish.

          • Curious Mayhem

            Are you accusing FG of being a poorly programmed ‘bot? I mean, I often disagree with him. But he seems harmless enough.

          • D4x

            Hi – we got cyber-tagged simultaneously in two different websites on two totally different topics by same photo posing as googlespam different names. similar disqus registration. I flag them inside disqus, and the moderator deletes them, but she pops up with different name & registration, always April or August 2017. Have been trying to figure out which country because they are relentless in tagging me, but my advice is to report in disqus, maybe they will finally delete the whole batch with that photo 🙂 I also flag them in the website, but the moderators ‘ confirmation bias just thinks spam. no – too targeted – it is a cyber-tag, always for rational, thoughtful commenters who still think critically. Perhaps the intent is harassment to discourage commenting, not nefarious. Thenefarious are always upvotes from odd names whose profile likes anime and ‘girls’. they only upvoted me on specific topicpersian. I did stop using those keywords.

            end of cryptic comment, just tired of seeing same photo at 3:00 am, still jumpy after a targeted pc hack on Dec 24 that kept me offline for three weeks. btw, I mostly only read comments here because, tired of credentialed closed-mindedness.

      • D4x

        FG has so many of us blocked he is living in a sensory deprivation chamber fuelled solely by the (unfortunately for America)still employed, protected species of credentialed experts like this author Michael Mandelbaum. They are mirrors, immersed in slime, blinking at each other in talking point code.

        would add that the accelerating job market has been fuelled by confidence, especially by the return of confidence of small business creation, fuelled by the impressive rollback of the federal regulatory state directed by President Trump, whose base is now the 60% + of Americans who tuned out the ‘news’ to avoid the insanity perpetrated by The New Yorker and too many Mandelbaums who care nothing for the interest of America and Americans.

        Continuing in my reply to Everett.

    • Anthony

      To the man (a proclaimed imaginary virtual “BOT”) of the hour (week, month, year…), here’s a comparative piece: https://www.jacobinmag.com/2018/01/trump-first-year-inauguration-republican-party

      • FriendlyGoat

        We’re going back by decades in what the average citizen understands—–and—-in what the average citizen of the near future will be capable of understanding. Aside from the colossal error of electing Trump in the first place, the biggest danger we may face is the mere drowning out (by quantity of repetitions of baloney) more balanced sense.

        When people who are not being blessed are told by their overlords that they ARE being blessed, they may either 1) Believe it, or 2) Just shut down in self-doubt, bewildered that it MUST be their own fault that family finances for the working class get more challenging with each passing year. Last time (after the roaring 20s) , it took a Great Depression and WWII to bring people around to saying “Wait, something is wrong.”

        • Anthony

          Years ago in a summary of “The Social Psychology of the World Religions”, I had read that what is fundamental to religion is an explanation of misfortune, a theodicy that explains why some people do well and some don’t. Furthermore, it has been argued that there is a calm in society if everyone shares that theodicy – the class content of American society utilizes all veils to hide its political and economic context. As an aside, here’s something I came across today: “the capacity to name evil and seek good requires a moral code.”

          • FriendlyGoat

            Not to knock the kind of material you would read in a high-level course, I guess my question would be “How do we manage to speak in thoughtful ways about religion from the outside, while the insiders are left to go willy-nilly?”

          • Anthony

            FG, in this moment, to advance a deeper and broader conversation about religion and its functions in neoliberal America as well as its impact on working (average) Americans, we have to point out the structural components now using Christian conservatism in a tight alliance politically – and what that actually means. Here’s something interesting (honest, I am not deliberately trying to tie up your reading time): https://www.firstthings.com/article/2018/02/the-metaphysics-of-democracy

          • FriendlyGoat

            No, you’re not tying up my reading time. (Without you, I might be reading something more low-brow from who knows where.)

            That piece is obviously the Catholic perspective, a school of religious thought in America which produced only 52% support for Trumpism in 2016 (48% for Romney in 2012), or basically near half-half both times. My beef is with the hard-line white Protestants (81% Trump) whose “line” is getting “harder” all the time (maybe because they don’t have a good——balanced——pope to follow on the broad range of social/religious issues.)

          • Anthony

            Of course First Things is a Catholic Magazine but that was not purpose (intent) of link. I wanted to emphasize Democracy connection and how its interpreted by Joseph White’s erudition and tied into your query about how we reach from outside. Similarly, the hardliners could certainly benefit by reflecting on not just Aquinas but also on the teaming of moral code with religious living in both secular and sectarian practices. And, thanks for the kind words.

          • FriendlyGoat

            There are a lot of kinds of “moral code”. Matured criminal law and business law is actually a lot more effective, thorough and honest than the collections of writings from the various religions for defining the real codes we live by as a civil society. Religion. for instance, doesn’t much appreciate what it considers blasphemy or apostasy, but it actually doesn’t deserve legal protection from either. I’m in favor of religion which simply encourages us to do right by each other, and much less impressed with religion which seeks to impose particular schools of though upon us. That’s why I really like Jesus by comparison to anything said before Him or after Him to define the history and precepts of “God”. Some of it before (some of OT) and some after (Islam comes to mind) is baloney we ought to allow love to conquer so we don’t keep spinning falsehood on each other with faux authority.

        • Tom

          FG, you might consider the possibility that the people might choose option 3: vote for the guy who promises to fight their current overlords.
          Then again, you’ve blocked me, so the above thought will never enter your head.

  • Angel Martin

    I think this is a good summary of the major themes of the Trump Presidency. One significant thing which was not covered is the ongoing investigation of the actions of FBI and DOJ senior officials during the 2016 campaign.


    The Strzok and Page texts and the “re-assignment”/”retirement” of Page, Strzok, McCabe, Baker, Ohr, Carlin etc. represent a preview of what the OIG is going to present.

    • Lottie

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  • Otis

    How refreshing to read an attempt at a dispassionate evaluation of the Trump presidency rather than an unhinged rant about Trump’s real and imagined failings.

  • Mika Riik

    Thank you for this insightful writing.

    I assume that the 2011 Correspondents’ Dinner was the ultimate spark that ignited Trump’s desire to be President of the US. The public humiliation he experienced by Obama’s act (which he deserved) may have been the ultimate incentive for his thrive for the office. Note that there is no greater dread for a hardcore narcissist than public humiliation. The humiliation explains Trump’s never ending pursuit to discredit anything and everything Obama managed to achieve.

    Despite the wealth of analyses on Trump presidency, there seems to be one aspect missing. Imagine Trump’s sensation having been elected President – THE most powerful man on Earth. Imagine the surge of adrenaline and omnipotence! That explains his arrogant and belittling behavior toward Americas allies. Because HE CAN.

    Trump is clearly disrespected by the most surrounding him. It remains to be seen how China and Russia will test him in the future. So far, Trump has in his foreign policy been like a barking dog; with the exception of the Tomahawks launched to Syria. He barks, but he does not bite. His recklessness, on the other hand, makes the rival states think twice before really challenging him. They just cannot predict his responses, which MAY keep them from not pursuing their boldest challenges to the US.

    • FluffyFooFoo

      China and Russia will be good little doggies while Trump is President. He’s got those authoritarians on a short leash. Putin is so better behaved now. It’s like Andrew Jackson and John C. Calhoun all over again.

    • Angel Martin

      Instead of a weak and frightened American President worried about what China and Russia might do, we now have Russia and China worried about what Trump might do.

      • Jim__L

        I was fascinated by the contrast — Obama presented a red line in Syria, and when it was crossed, he did nothing. Trump (at one point) said he would not intervene militarily in Syria even if US interests were threatened, and he intervened militarily anyway.

        Neither man could be trusted, but only one could be feared.

    • Curious Mayhem

      It’s pretty clear that Trump didn’t want the nomination or presidency originally. He wanted a media empire built on an unsuccessful but electrifying run, with Bannon running the operations.

      Trump is a narcissist (as are Hillary and, especially, Obama), so the logic of where 2016 led him must have seemed compelling at the time, compelling enough to overcome his original purpose and the opposition of his family.

  • Gary Hemminger

    I didn’t vote for Trump and don’t like him personally. But one thing is darn clear, the economy is soaring because of his presidency. Full stop. To give any credit for this to his predecessor is pure ignorance. He has unleashed the animal spirits of the economy. full stop.

    Also, there is absolutely nothing this president could have done but attack the media and his enemies. Because they are not the opposition, they are his enemies. they tried everything to screw up his presidency, even before he was sworn in. And now it is darn clear to me that an attempt was made by the FBI and the Clinton machine to use FISA to go after Trump. And here is the key part: that this was done with full knowledge that it would never be found out, because Clinton was going to beat Trump so bad that she would be able to suppress this information. In my opinion Obama and Clinton colluded with key folks in the FBI to attempt a coup. This is pure treason and when the evidence comes out, and it will, people should do jail time.

    I am a democrat and I saw the press and the elite attempt to do the same thing to Reagan, but not at this level. There is treason afoot in our country. Now CA officials are saying they are going to jail people that cooperate with the federal immigration authorities. The people that should be jailed are CA officials who harbour illegal aliens. I am pro-immigration, but this thing has gone far enough. Open borders and sanctuary cities are illegal based on federal law. There should be arrests for people that clearly harbour illegal immigrants.

    And now the Schumer shutdown to protect more illegal immigrants. I want a deal for the DACA folks, but not like this. The democrats are a complete embarrassment. And what the heck is Trump supposed to do about the media. When Krugman says the economy will never come back under Trump. The media is the enemy of Trump as they are with all republicans. There is no choice but to attack them. If people cannot see that then they are part of the problem. Trump is Trump, but the other side has gone mad.

    • FriendlyGoat

      Why are you a Democrat?

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    • StudentZ

      The author is right about the public wrongly crediting or blaming sitting presidents for the current economy. To reinforce Mandelbaum’s point, I offer a few sources with some economic charts and related commentary.


      Notice the following: (1) long-term U.S. and global trends; (2) the effects of commodity exports on recent global growth; (3) limited growth in wages, jobs, and productivity in the U.S.; and (4) modest predictions of future growth even with the tax reform because of the current unemployment rate and anticipated monetary policies. To the extent that they do have some influence, Trump’s economic policies are the standard contributions of other Republicans, as the article also points out, so it seems strange to praise Trump (as opposed to Republicans in general) for the tax plan (or any legislation).

      I question the need for some aspects of the tax reform, especially since gains for the average citizen are short-term. Inequality is exacerbated by further increases in the disproportionate wealth of a small minority profiting from investments, inheritances, and overpaid management positions. Moreover, current global economic trends do not seem to warrant compounding the deficit. Do jubilant corporate heads and stockbrokers guarantee a better quality of life for average citizens, or should we be concerned about how deregulation and diminished investment in housing, education, scientific research, and healthcare effects both economic growth and quality of life? What about infrastructure? The Republicans will shift costs to overburdened states and ignore most of the ASCE’s recommendations, I wager. Expect to see an increase in tolls and local traffic congestion, especially since the administration will shy away from public transit investment.

      As for the media and immigration, the media prints what sells, and people want to buy and read articles lambasting the president. It’s ridiculous for Trump to constantly bait the press and then pretend he is being unduly criticized (especially when the Fourth Estate is supposed to act as a check on the presidency for the benefit of the public, whom Trump is supposed to be serving). On immigration, I offer a link to a report on Trump’s immigration policy, which should please his constituency:


      However, one might question why Trump chose to bring back Secure Communities, a program that flourished and died under the Obama administration after it pitted local law enforcement against ICE and hindered efforts to arrest wanted criminals within immigrant populations. However, since Mexican immigration has been on the decline for a while now, Trump could always just claim credit for ongoing immigration trends in much the same way that he takes credit for everything else.

  • Micah718

    A year ago I said that me and President Trump both want the same thing, a fast growing economy. He delivered on that 100%. That was a big ask and to do it in the face of never ending hysteria must have been tough.

    • R Alan Rhoads

      Trump has done zero to affect the economy. It has been a long slow road of recovery since 2008/2009 to get to where we are today. Let us see where we are in early 2020’s before accolades are handed out. Short term growth rates are not proof of smart policies.

  • I wonder whether America could be better or worse today under Hillary Clinton. I will say that although our economy is doing very well, our international image seems to have suffered.

    • FluffyFooFoo

      Oh no, UN types look down at America. We Americans must be bad people. Like they have ever thought well of us. So sad!

  • Anthony

    “American Politics is Overwhelmed by Bitterness and Rancor. The norms that structure the work of our constitutional system are everywhere under attack. Partisan loyalties now seem to determine not only people’s worldviews and policy priorities but also what facts they will accept or choose to treat as lies. The rhetoric of animus and apocalypse is the everyday parlance of both parties, particularly when each talks about the other….” ( https://www.nationalaffairs.com/publications/detail/strangled-by-identity )

  • Jim__L

    My five takeaways:

    – The world hasn’t ended. Not even close.

    – The conflicts we’ve been involved in are going our way, better than they did under Obama.

    – The economy is doing far better than it was under Obama.

    – The MSM is largely a pack of hysterical, ideological Leftists. (This includes news aggregators like Google and to a lesser extent, Bing. With the loss of WRM, TAI is headed that way too.)

    – The American system of government was designed to survive a president like this, and it certainly has.

    Life’s actually improving.

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