First, and perhaps most important, deterrence is back. From the president’s targeted strike in Syria to deploying the “Mother of All Bombs” in Afghanistan to flashing an aircraft carrier at North Korea, Trump has restored deterrence as a tool of U.S. foreign policy. President Barack Obama was notoriously sheepish when it came to demonstrations of force and eviscerated any notion of credible U.S. deterrence. But Trump has shown he is not afraid to act, and the world has taken notice.
Second, the “you didn’t build that,” anti-business attitude of the Obama years has been replaced by what is now an affirmatively pro-business government. Trump has not shied away from undoing Obama-era regulations and cutting red tape in the name of creating a more business-friendly environment. He has required all government agencies to eliminate or significantly reduce the impact of two regulations for every new regulation issued and even signed an executive order directing federal agencies to create “Regulatory Reform Task Forces” designed to ensure that each agency has a team to research all regulations and take aim at those deemed burdensome to American businesses. And the White House has kept an open door and a steady flow of business leaders coming in to explain how they could use the administration’s help.
Third, up until a few months ago, much of the Washington bureaucracy and the liberal elite was obsessed with climate change and pronouns. But all of that has pretty much stopped. The Obama administration’s signature coal, carbon and climate change decrees have lost their place as revered tenets of Washington’s political culture and are being replaced by a revitalized commitment to “eliminate federal overreach” and “start a new era of production and job creation.” Likewise, Obama’s exhaustive crusade to dictate from Washington where someone can go to the bathroom and under what circumstances someone can be hired and fired has been stopped. There won’t be as much social tinkering and Washington mandates designed to accommodate preferred groups. Trump has offered a return to normalcy and local control over local matters.
Fourth, the unpredictability of the White House is here to stay. It’s obviously a part of Trump’s DNA. It starts with the president’s tweets that are often off-key and tend to knock the White House off-kilter. They can even rattle the world. In my view, Trump has a blind spot to this, and it won’t stop.
Even though I’ve defended Ivanka Trump’s role, having family in the White House produces uncertainty, and hence unpredictability, among the other staff and administration officials. Are the family members seen as staff members or deputy presidents? And also, in the category of unpredictability, Trump says things that members of his own Cabinet don’t echo. When they travel, they display a sensible demeanor and are a reassuring presence to our allies. I don’t think this is as effective as a single, coordinated message, but it appears here to stay.
Whether or not Trump has signed more executive orders than Obama did in the first 100 days of his term or passed more laws than another recent president did by this point in his presidency misses the point. From reasserting U.S. deterrence and creating a more pro-business government to rolling back unnecessary regulation and driving the day’s conversation with 140-character blasts on Twitter, Trump has remained unpredictable. Trump’s first 100 days have already changed Washington in ways that will have a lasting impact. The commentators on the left and right will try to quantify his first 100 days, boiling legislative accomplishments and diplomatic successes down to a few numbers. But the subjective intangibles, not the details of what has or has not been accomplished or passed, truly define this presidency — so far.