Trump’s Conservative Critics Concede: He’s Winning

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As the 2017 year winds to a close, President Trump’s accomplishments — including slashing regulations, filling the courts with conservative judges, green-lighting the Keystone XL pipeline and signing a major tax reform package — have some of his fiercest conservative critics praising his victories.


In January 2016, conservative magazine National Review devoted an entire issue to conservatives arguing against Trump’s candidacy. Among Trump supporters, the magazine became synonymous with the Never Trump movement that opposed the real estate mogul’s candidacy through the general election.

In a column this week titled, “Give Trump Credit Where It’s Due,” National Review editor Rich Lowry conceded that Trump has defied expectations as president. (RELATED: Trump Sets Judicial Confirmation Record In First Year)

“It’s hard to see how a conventional Republican president would have done much better, except if he had managed to get Obamacare repealed, which was always going to be a dicey proposition given the narrow Republican majority in the Senate,” Lowry wrote.

UC Berkeley professor Steven F. Hayward was among the conservatives featured in National Review’s “Against Trump” issue. But his stance on Trump appears to have softened since then.

“In assessing Trump’s accomplishments, let’s not get too distracted by his unconventional conduct. This hitherto ideologically unmoored man has set in motion an administration arguably more conservative than Ronald Reagan’s,” Hayward wrote in a column for the Los Angeles Times last month.

“While the Congress controlled by his adopted party remains gridlocked, Trump is rolling back regulations and a number of the Obama administration’s most controversial achievements, including the internal structure of Obamacare and the Clean Power Plan. His foreign policy resets look increasingly sure-footed. His judicial nominees are uniformly conservative,” Hayward continued.

“It is inconceivable that any of the other leading Republican candidates from the 2016 cycle would have governed as boldly as Trump has.”

Hayward’s high praise of Trump came even before Republicans scored a huge victory by passing tax reform this week.

Republican strategist Liz Mair led an anti-Trump super PAC, Make America Awesome, during the campaign. Mair’s group was behind the ad that attacked Trump with a naked picture of his wife, leading Trump to retweet a disparaging meme about Ted Cruz’s wife.

But in a column on Thursday, Mair described the Trump presidency as a “success story.” If Trump can secure a deal on DREAMers, Mair argued, he would secure “a legacy as the most successful first-year president ever.”

New York Times columnist Ross Douthat, who remains one of Trump’s fiercest conservative critics, argued last week that Trump hasn’t received due credit in at least one area: America’s victories in the war against ISIS.

Douthat knocked the media for “not adequately reporting an important success because it does not fit into the narrative of Trumpian disaster in which our journalistic entities are all invested.”

“If you had told me in late 2016 that almost a year into the Trump era the caliphate would be all-but-beaten without something far worse happening in the Middle East, I would have been surprised and gratified,” he concluded. “So very provisionally, credit belongs where it’s due — to our soldiers and diplomats, yes, but to our president as well.”

The Washington Examiner published several editorials making the case against Trump during the 2016 Republican primary.

“Trump’s nomination is likely to cost the party more than just the Senate, some governorships and some state legislatures. It could set the Republican Party back years, perhaps decades,” the Examiner warned in an editorial titled, “An open letter to GOP politicians who might back Trump.”

An April 2016 editorial noted the dysfunctional Trump campaign and stated: “It’s worth wondering whether the man in charge of such a campaign could successfully run the executive branch of the federal government.” Another editorial asserted that Trump wasn’t actually a conservative.

In an editorial this week, the Examiner noted that Trump has been winning — and winning a lot.

“President Trump is approaching the end of his first full year in office with an impressive and growing list of achievements,” the editors wrote. The column’s title: “Trump is on a roll.