“Do you think Donald Trump has done anything right?” a friend asked me a few months ago. That was a tough one. Aside from trivial stuff, I think I eventually conceded that China really did deserve some tougher trade treatment and that the AT&T/Time Warner merger deserved to be stopped. Trump did both of these things for the wrong reasons, and in the case of China screwed up the execution epically. But I more-or-less supported the underlying concept behind both of them.
This week added two more items. First, Trump decided to withdraw from Syria. Once again, he did it for the wrong reasons, and there’s every reason to think he’s going to execute his decision as badly as possible. Still, I basically agree with him that we should never have been there and should pull out now even if it means accepting some ugly consequences.
Today brought the fourth item. After finally figuring out what James Mattis’s resignation letter really meant, Trump moved up Mattis’s final day in office to December 31 and replaced him with Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan. This was the right decision for two reasons. First, Mattis really had no right to set his own resignation date in the first place. He should either have consulted Trump about it or else simply resigned and allowed Trump to name the date. Second, Mattis wrote a truly brutal resignation letter. Trump was too dumb to figure this out for a while, but once he did he had no choice but to get rid of Mattis as soon as possible. It’s simply not possible to keep working with a Defense Secretary who has publicly declared that he believes his commander-in-chief is too soft on our enemies, too contemptuous toward our allies, and pays too little attention to national security and American values. Mattis may have said these things diplomatically, but he said them.
So there we have it: two more things Trump has done that I agree with. As usual, he did them badly and for the wrong reasons, but at least he got them right.