With the announcement that he was pulling the US out of the Paris Agreement President Trump did three things: he enraged the great and the good all over the world by refusing to play along with a largely useless agreement, he deeply satisfied his base who see the science and economics of climate change as highly suspect, and he drove the media/Hollywood complex into full meltdown.
Now Trump could not have anticipated Kathy Griffin’s vile “art” piece. Nor could he have anticipated Hillary coming up with yet more reasons why other people were responsible for her losing to the human Cheeto. Those were simply random bits of luck.
What Trump could do, and did, was to take advantage of the bully pulpit his Paris announcement gave him, to tote up the accomplishments of his administration to date. Gorsuch, increased economic activity, a steep reduction in the number of illegals trying to enter, rollbacks of all manner of regulations: it is a relatively decent list. Not great, but also not wildly incompetent.
Killing the Paris Agreement sets up the next wave of the Trump Presidency. In the next six months, Trump has a better than even chance of getting both tax reform and a repeal of ObamaCare through Congress. His immigration moratorium has been referred to the Supreme Court which is unlikely to make the same partisan mistakes as the lower courts have. Which means Trump will get his halts.
Internationally, after the Europeans have had their climate hissy fit – “no renegotiation” says Macron walking right into the not very subtle trap Trump set in his speech – their essential reliance on the US in defence matters and international diplomacy will tend to restrain them. (That and the fact that most of the European countries are beginning to realize that they cannot afford to meet the targets they set for themselves in the Paris Agreement.) China, Japan, India and the Sunni Arab world might not like Trump very much but they will appreciate his realist understanding of international politics. And they will understand his willingness to be blunt rather than prevaricating when it comes to international matters. (Have we seen the Syrian regime use chemical weapons since Trump’s cruise missiles hit?)
Assuming for the moment that the “covfefe” tweets and the internal intrigues of the White House can be dampened down, Trump seems to have gained control of the narrative. To a degree, it is a negative control, but acting decisively is always a good move for a President. The media continues the “Russians” bleat and that might be damaging if there is any substance to the charge of collusion. However, to date there does not seem to be any actual evidence of collusion and, as the final days of the Obama Administration come under scrutiny, the actual fact of wholesale “unmasking” of American citizens for political purposes seems to be attracting attention. Demands for investigation and impeachment, while they continue, are gradually being pushed to the margins.
Above all things, Trump is a showman. He has a showman’s sense of timing and plot. The chaos and confusion of his first hundred days had to be turned around. The constant leaks needed to be plugged. Most of all, Trump understood that his role as President had to be affirmed. By killing the Paris Agreement – and the withdrawal of the US kills it dead – Trump made it very clear he is the President. Now he needs to start racking up the successes he laid the foundations for in the first few months of his Presidency. It should be something to watch.