I don’t want to jinx anything, but President Trump may be experiencing the best sequence of events since he became president. Just this week, he received bipartisan support for his military strike in Syria, secured Judge Neil Gorsuch’s Senate confirmation to the Supreme Court, had impressive meetings with both King Abdullah II of Jordan and President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi of Egypt, caught a break with the Susan Rice scandal, and it appears he has walked away from a successful encounter with Chinese President Xi Jinping — all without knocking it off the rails with a wayward tweet. And it’s not just me saying that, no less than Council on Foreign Relations President Richard Haass wrote that this was “arguably [the] best of Donald Trump’s still young presidency, from [a] successful strike in Syria to confirmation of his Supreme Court nominee.” Imagine that, decisive and poised presidential action from the president himself.
The president is receiving mostly positive coverage as a result of the strike in Syria, but even Trump’s critics are talking about him in a serious way. There has been no discussion of chaos during the strike or wild tweets and off-key chatter that diminished the significance of the action that was taken. Most analysts and political commentators are describing the attack as a calculated, level-headed decision by a president whose foreign policy disposition has been ambiguous. And oh, by the way, it doesn’t hurt that Trump did something so adverse to Russia in Syria. It showed that Trump is perfectly capable of acting with brutal hostility toward a vital interest of Vladimir Putin’s.
And here in Washington, in perfect coordination with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Trump has succeeded in advancing his first Supreme Court nominee through the Senate confirmation process. Despite opposition from the liberal “resistance,” Gorsuch will be sworn in on Monday, just in time to begin hearing arguments from the court’s April case load, which includes a high-profile religious freedom case and another that will determine whether employees can legally file class-action lawsuits against their employers. McConnell was correct in saying, “Certainly, this is an important day in the history of the Senate and in the Supreme Court.” And if Gorsuch’s confirmation is the only legacy Trump walks away from office with, it will be a great one.
In politics, just like in golf, luck counts. The fact that Trump launched an attack against Syria while his Chinese counterpart was present and able to witness the aftermath in the media was a powerful stroke of good luck for the White House. In case Xi needed any reminding of just how serious Trump may be about taking action in North Korea, the Syria attack couldn’t have been a better example or come at a better time. By all accounts, expectations for their meeting were low. But reports indicate that Trump and Xi had substantive, mostly positive conversations, perhaps leaving the Chinese president with a lot to think about. It looks like he may have walked away with a better impression of how Trump thinks and how his administration functions.
But Trump’s luck didn’t end there. He caught another break with the Rice scandal being revealed when it was. The story has legs, and it’s become a counterweight to the media’s appetite for a Trump-Russia connection. The unmasking fiasco is distracting from the circus show that is the House Intelligence Committee’s investigation, but it won’t peak until Rice testifies under oath. And at that point, who knows which direction the investigation will take? For now, the intensity of the media’s search for a silver bullet in the faux Trump-Russia connection has subsided.
Perhaps this week’s positive momentum has restored some faith in the Trump team and reminded everybody of what is important and what is possible. Perhaps a little momentum will push the president and Congress to refocus their efforts and double down on the issues they’ve all campaigned on, like repealing and replacing the broken Obamacare health-care system.
Anyway, the April recess is underway, and the attitude that voters will be expressing to members of Congress as they travel back to their states and districts may be different starting Monday than they would’ve been just one week ago. Nobody knows what the half-life of this era of good feeling and celebration might be, but everybody knows we could be just one tweet away from reigniting the cacophony of distractions and bewilderment Trump can so easily create. Maybe, though, he’s enjoying the warm, cozy feeling of success and will decide he wants to spend more time in an environment like the one he finds himself in this weekend.