I have sensed for weeks now that some in the media were on the verge of rolling out a contrary take on President Trump’s first year in office.
And in the wake of yesterday’s final passage of massive tax cuts, that moment has arrived.
The dominant media narrative, of course, is that Trump hasn’t gotten much done, that he’s in over his head, that he doesn’t understand government, that he keeps picking petty fights rather than winning big battles.
But the thing about the pundits is that they get tired of pushing the same line, week after week, month after month. Some inevitably want to seize credit for a new insight, for getting ahead of the pack with a burst of contrarian wisdom.
And that hot take is, hey, maybe Trump has gotten some important things done after all.
It’s true that the president had not gotten much from the Republican Congress this year. But a new law that cuts taxes for businesses and individuals—even though the measure polls poorly and is not mainly aimed at the middle class—puts an end to the verdict that Trump doesn’t know how to work the Hill. Like it or not, this is a sprawling piece of legislation that was quickly pushed through the House and Senate in a show of party-line muscle.
Trump hasn’t gotten much credit for the record-breaking stock market, but there is now some recognition that Dow-Almost-25,000 can’t be completely divorced from his policies. And there’s starting to be a greater appreciation for the president’s progress on slashing regulations and appointing judges (even though three nominees recently had to withdraw, one because he couldn’t answer a Senate panel’s questions about basic court procedures).
On Axios, Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen stake out the new ground:
"The media often appraises presidencies and politics through liberal-tinted glasses. But the vast majority of the Republican Party like, even love, these policies ...
"We have been saying all year: Watch what he does, not what he says. Until recently, he hasn't done much. But these wins are substantial, with consequences for millions of people and many years to come."
They note that Trump has won approval not just for Neil Gorsuch but for a dozen Circuit Court judges.
And while Trump failed in repeated attempts to scrap ObamaCare, he boasted yesterday abolishing the individual mandate—a provision added to the tax bill—amounts to repealing the health care program. That’s an overstatement, but letting people wait until they get sick to buy insurance could well undermine the exchanges created by Barack Obama.
On foreign policy, there is a telling New York Times piece by conservative columnist Ross Douthat, a harsh critic of Trump. He says the decimation of ISIS has drawn scant media attention:
"There is nothing more characteristic of the Trump era, with its fire hose of misinformation, scandal and hyperbole, than that America and its allies recently managed to win a war that just two years ago consumed headlines and dominated political debate and helped Donald Trump himself get elected president — and somehow nobody seemed to notice."
It’s true there was no surrender ceremony and ISIS still exists, but it has lost physical stronghold in Iraq.
Says Douthat: “This is also a press failure, a case where the media is not adequately reporting an important success because it does not fit into the narrative of Trumpian disaster in which our journalistic entities are all invested.”
But the narrative is changing a bit. While Trump remains quite unpopular, at least according to the polls, the media are reluctantly starting to acknowledge that his presidency is having a significant impact.