The past seven days might have been the best of President Trump's entire time in office. On Friday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced the unemployment rate had dropped below 4 percent for the first time since 2000. On Wednesday, we learned North Korea had released three Americans held prisoner as progress continues on potentially historic peace talks. And then we just found out that a complex, months-long counterterrorism operation had captured five Islamic State leaders.
Trump's response? To settle old scores.
When he tweeted about the unemployment rate, he included a dig at the “WITCH HUNT!” Russia investigation.
As the three prisoners' return was being announced Wednesday, he decided to hint at his perhaps deserving a Nobel Peace Prize.
And within a span of three minutes of his tweet about capturing the Islamic State leaders, he decided to attack Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and the man he fired a year ago as FBI director, James B. Comey.
If there's one thing Trump and his opponents share in common, it's the inability to set aside domestic scandal even amid good news. But for Trump's base of support, it's increasingly easy to see how they can overlook Stormy Daniels and even special counsel Robert S. Mueller III's investigation (which they overwhelmingly do). They've gotten a conservative Supreme Court justice in Neil M. Gorsuch. They've gotten tax cuts. Despite all the unnecessary drama, the upheaval and the more than 3,000 false or misleading claims, they have bona fide wins they can point to that give them more than enough reason to believe it's all worth it and that the rest is just noise.
That's not to say Trump deserves all the credit for these successes. The unemployment rate has basically continued its downward trajectory from late in the Obama administration. The tax cuts may have helped, but that also comes at the expense of the ballooning deficit, which is re-approaching $1 trillion. The United States has played a major role in North Korea discussions, but the all-important sanctions were won at the United Nations, and it's not clear how much Trump was involved in the nitty-gritty of that and complex counterterrorism operations like the one in Syria and Turkey that captured ISIS leaders.
Nor is it to say we all should overlook the many low moments and controversies. Even as Trump was celebrating foreign policy wins this week, the Pentagon reminded us of a particularly dark chapter of his administration, issuing a report on the October ambush in Niger that killed four American soldiers. And we still have very legitimate scandals. Whether Trump lawyer Michael Cohen broke the law, whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia, and whether Trump himself has attempted to obstruct justice are very important questions that still need to be answered. They are stories that need to be covered intensely because they involve faith in government and real evidence of potential wrongdoing.
But successes make any real resolution to those situations significant less likely. Trump's ace in the hole right now is a united base to whom he has catered almost unceasingly. And that base, while it has wavered, has never really deserted him. There are also signs that his hold on it has strengthened in recent months. It's not difficult to see it strengthening even more now. And the more Trump’s opponents dismiss what his base sees as wins — or the media fail to label them accordingly — the more it reinforces the idea that Trump is being persecuted.
Assuming Mueller doesn't charge him with a crime or he's not directly and unmistakably implicated in wrongdoing, any verdicts on Trump will have to be handed down by both Democrats and Republicans in Congress, via the House's power to impeach and the Senate's power to remove from office. That's the outcome the vast majority of Democrats want right now, but it gets more elusive as Trump can credibly point to the good things that have happened on his watch.