Donald Trump has now completed 100 days as president, and by most objective measures, he hasn't accomplished a lot. That is, unless you read the commentators of the far right, who for the most part think he's done just dandy, or if he hasn't, it's the fault of the media, the Democrats, or both.
That was the big takeaway this week from reading the extreme wing of the right wing -- along with Ann Coulter complaining about her free speech rights being violated and Alex Jones whining about coverage of his custody case.
The practice of measuring presidents' accomplishments in their first 100 days goes back to the first term of Franklin D. Roosevelt, who took office in 1933, in the depths of the Great Depression. On the campaign trail, Trump made big promises about the first 100 days. He hasn't been able to follow through on a lot of them, which to some of us is good news -- it means he hasn't been able to do as much damage as he might, although he certainly has done some.
Courts have blocked his executive orders aimed at keeping immigrants from certain countries out of the U.S., and Republicans in Congress haven't been able to pass a repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act; the bills put forward, which would deprive many people of health insurance, have satisfied neither moderates (who have heard from constituents who benefited from the ACA) nor extreme conservatives, who want no role for the government in health care.
He's released just the bare outlines of his tax plan, which would greatly benefit the highest earners. He hasn't gotten funding for his wall on the border with Mexico (and no, Mexico isn't going to pay for it). He's backtracked on plans to pull out of the North American Free Trade Agreement (which objective economists say is not the job-killer Trump claims it is). Some of the things he touts as economic triumphs, like going ahead with the Dakota Access Pipeline, will create few permanent jobs -- plus it's environmentally risky.
While a few weeks ago, some on the far right lamented Trump's bombing of Syria as showing dreadful interventionist tendencies, in gauging his first 100 days, they are largely on board, saying he's accomplished much. But to a lot of them, his biggest accomplishment is not being Hillary Clinton.
"While historians and policy wonks properly examine everything he has said and not said, and done and not done, I begin with a glorious truth that is draped around every day of the new Trump presidency: Hillary Clinton is not President," wrote Townhall columnist Mark Davis.
Among his other compliments to Trump: "Borders mean something again, and America is actually going to pay attention to who enters the nation, and keep track of them once they are here. Job creation is again a major focus of economic policy, promising growth that finally provides some progress out of our abyss of debt."
Actually, illegal immigration decreased greatly during Barack Obama's presidency, and his administration deported a lot more people that some immigrants' rights activists would have liked. And yes, Obama did care about job creation. So, for that matter, did George W. Bush and just about every other president we can think of.
Davis went on to praise Trump for standing against "the political correctness that is the foremost enemy of Judeo-Christian belief" and "the junk science of presumed man-made global warming." And for the appointment of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, who will be "standing guard every day against the tyrannical nonsense of the type that tells a sitting President he cannot enact a travel ban or withhold funding from sanctuary cities." Well, those things do suit the far-right agenda; we can't argue with that. For the rest of us, they're not so good.
Another Townhall contributor, Larry Elder, struck a similar tone. "Measure Trump's first 100 days not just by looking at what he has or has not accomplished," he wrote. "Look at what America would have experienced under the alternative: Hillary Clinton. Under Clinton, the debate would not be on how to replace Obamacare, but how quickly can the left realize its ultimate ambition, a Canadian-style, single-payer system. Under Clinton, the issue would not be how steep the tax cuts, but how many 'rich' people, also known as job creators, would experience yet another growth-restricting tax hike."
Breitbart turned to that famed half-term governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin, who eloquently shared this view on the Breitbart News Daily radio show: "Remember, those of you who maybe still aren't aboard the Trump Train but know that the Trump movement had to be ushered in, in order to get rid of the status quo that was harming America, keep doing your ABCs and remember what that was: It was Anybody but Clinton. So stick with your little alphabet analogy there. Those who are asking for a grade of this administration, just keep remembering it could have been Clinton."
Yes, it could have been someone with extensive experience who actually cared about marginalized Americans and was willing to work for the good of all. But we digress.
But for what Trump hasn't accomplished, it's been because the "establishment" and the media hate him, according to his far-right apologists. Breitbart's Aaron Klein contended that philanthropist George Soros isn't simply a donor to many progressive organizations, he's a puppeteer pulling the strings on anti-Trump protests. Oh, and Obama is part of a cabal trying to undermine Trump, and the investigation into what Klein called "unsubstantiated Russian intervention claims" is just a smear campaign.
Townhall contributor Brent Bozell, who runs a "liberal bias" watchdog called the Media Research Center, saw "incessant journalistic negativity" during Trump's first 100 days. "Network news anchors have presented President Trump as a terrible liar, and for good measure, as potentially mentally ill," Bozell wrote. "Three days after the inauguration, CBS anchor Scott Pelley snapped that the president engaged in 'a weekend of tweeting tantrums and falsehoods.'" Sounds to us like reporting the truth. Bozell did allow, "To be sure, President Trump doesn't always have proof for his tweets, such as accusing Obama of wiretapping Trump Tower." Major understatement.
Last week we reported on right-wing columnist and provocateur Ann Coulter's troubles with her speaking engagement at the University of California, Berkeley. UCB canceled her talk, which was organized by a couple of conservative student groups, due to concerns about clashes between protesters and supporters, then rescheduled it for a date she didn't like -- when classes were over and students would be preparing for final exams.
Coulter vowed to show up on the original date -- this past Thursday -- anyway. But she didn't, apparently having gotten what she wanted all along, which is publicity. And the ability to portray herself as a free-speech martyr. "The lefties are on the side of the thugs," she said Sunday on ABC's This Week. "They have taken over the universities."
For the record, universities, including taxpayer-supported ones like UCB, don't have to give every speaker a platform, although under law they do have to treat all speakers equally, regardless of ideology. And some famed lefties, such as Obama, Robert Reich, and Bill Maher, have said UCB should allow Coulter to speak. Whether its arrangements met the equal treatment standard, we'll let the legal minds hash out.
Meanwhile, a Los Angeles resident named Michael Finnegan wrote a letter to the editor of the Los Angeles Times that offered as good a summation of Coulter as any we've seen. "It's not as if her views are unknown or that America is breathlessly awaiting her opinions," he wrote. "Her free speech hasn't been stifled. She's a carnival barker who gets paid to say and write stupid things. When Noam Chomsky speaks at Bob Jones University, that will be actual news. Coulter pulling another stunt is not."
Speaking of stunts, Alex Jones of Infowars has pulled a lot of them: threatening to beat up congressmen, calling Lady Gaga satanic, contending that the Sandy Hook massacre was fake, and claiming that Hillary Clinton heads a child sex-trafficking ring (he finally walked back that last one).
Jones has recently been involved in a battle with his ex-wife, Kelly, for custody of the couple's three children, ages 9, 12, and 14; he has had sole custody of them since the couple split in 2015. Kelly Jones's lawyers tried to get some videos of Jones's deranged rants admitted as evidence in the trial, but the judge wouldn't allow most of them. His lawyers claimed he was doing performance art on his broadcasts, but he told the court he believes everything he says.
Well, Thursday the jury in Austin ruled 10-2 in Kelly Jones's favor, giving her the right to decide who the children will live with, while she and Alex will have joint legal custody, The Daily Beast reports.
Jones immediately issued a statement and called a press conference to say there was "grossly inaccurate" reporting of the situation, saying he and his wife already had joint legal custody and that the only change was that she would decide where the children live. During the press conference he called reporters "vampires" who had invaded his privacy and denounced them "for not taking seriously the nightmare lives of human-animal chimeras," the Austin American-Statesman reports.
He also chided them for taking "out of context" a video he posted online during the trial, which he promoted as having new information about Sandy Hook but actually consisted of his boasts about the dozens of women he had sex with as a teenager.
Remember, Jones isn't just a carnival sideshow -- he's taken seriously by millions of Americans. And he has had no less than U.S. Sen. Rand Paul and, before the election, Donald Trump as guests on his show.
So we will continue to monitor him, along with the less crazed but still factually shaky purveyors of far-right "news" and commentary -- so you don't have to.