Bob Ehrlich: Trump's SOTU Was About Showing He's Gotten Results - In Nov., That's What Will Matter


President Trump’s State of the Union address included a long list of policy successes, much to the chagrin of official Washington.

You see, it is a rare instance in our politics wherein the voters revisit the results of a policy dispute, so overwhelming is the weight and volume of the 24/7 news cycle.

But revisitation is urgent for the informed voter. Who was right and who was wrong should count. Credibility should be a function of how well recommendations and positions turned out. How better to weigh the merits of a candidate or party?

Think about recent national policy debates for context.


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Remarkably, last summer’s siege at the southern border was alleged to be nothing more than a made-up narrative offered up by an anti-immigrant president.

Here, you will recall House Democrats’ and left-leaning cable networks’ relentless criticism of an “invented” crisis.

But the disturbing reports on the evening news painted a very different picture: images of chaos and confusion and criminality and questions about the well-being of migrant children. The bottom line was unsettling: caravans of South American migrants proceeding through an uninterested Mexico and expecting easy entry into an unprepared America.

But the president acted with resolve. Administration policy changed so that migrants were made to wait in Mexico until their immigration court hearing date. Simultaneously, the president went full-court press (after a protracted court battle) to find the funds required to expand the physical barrier on the southern border. The combination of additional manpower, policy changes and a relentless commitment to additional fencing has helped quell the situation — and put an end (at least for now) to the seemingly unending migrant trains.

In the end, the media’s “no crisis” narrative was proven to be just plain wrong. Illegal crossings are down 75 percent from the spring. Will our media miscreants fess up during the forthcoming campaign? I’ll take the “under” on that one.

Tax Cuts

The Trump tax cuts and accompanying regulatory reforms were passed with the usual cries of outrage from the left. Speaker Nancy Pelosi opined that the tax overhaul was “the end of the world” and “Armageddon.”

Not to be outdone, former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers predicted 10,000 people would die annually as a result of the bill. The usual suspects (The Washington Post, The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, CNN, MSNBC) all piled on in due course.

But that was then. Two years later, the American economic colossus is extraordinarily strong. 401(k)s are riding a bull market and, best of all, the economic data reflect historically low unemployment for African-Americans and Hispanics and real wage growth for working- and middle-class Americans. Such are the irrefutable facts of the Trump economy.

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The ineffectual — many would say indulgent — policies of Mr. Obama vis-a-vis the world’s leading sponsor of terror is part of the historical record.

How else to characterize an administration that provided only benign support to the Iranian street protests of 2009, gifted the mullahs three planeloads of cash valued at $1.7 billion, and signed on to a highly problematic nuclear accord that enabled Tehran to aggressively strengthen its ballistic missile program. The world was rewarded with aggressive Iranian proxy armies in Yemen, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq.

Fortunately, the election of 2016 brought an end to American acquiescence, as the U.S. withdrew from the flawed nuclear accord. Then Mr. Trump imposed punishing new sanctions on the regime, which led to Iranian adventurism and provocations against Saudi and Western interests in the region.

Still, sanctions have left the Iranian economy in tatters; growth contracted by nearly 10 percent in 2019. Further sanctions as a result of the recent tit-for-tat military operations and the downing of a Ukrainian civilian airliner have now been imposed. The Iranian street is again up in arms. And France, Germany and Great Britain have signaled their opposition to renewed Iranian nuclear development. Just what the doctor ordered as the Trump Administration attempts to secure regime change without war.


OK, most of us understand that in the real world, administration-imposed tariffs have hurt some American manufacturers, while helping others.

The same can be said for our farmers. Despite these short-term mixed results, the fact remains that an American administration has now done something after decades of failed bipartisan negotiation with the Chinese. That the president was willing to place his political base (agriculture, small manufacturers) at risk in order to move the seemingly intractable Chinese off the dime speaks to the unique and often high-risk but necessary approach of Mr. Trump and his senior advisors.

The free-trade D.C. establishment will continue to take the president to task for his protectionist-first (read: tariffs) ways, but a Chinese government credibly charged with unfair state subsidization, currency manipulation and theft of intellectual property has now taken a significant step towards engagement with its largest trading partner. Sure beats the familiar — and demonstrably failed — status quo.

Post-impeachment, expect the Trump re-election campaign to remind voters about “bottom lines.” They still count.

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Robert Ehrlich is a former governor of Maryland as well as a former U.S. congressman and state legislator. He is the author of “Bet You Didn’t See That One Coming: Obama, Trump, and the End of Washington’s Regular Order,” in addition to “Turn This Car Around,” “America: Hope for Change" and “Turning Point.” Ehrlich is currently a counsel at the firm of King & Spalding in Washington, D.C.