Sometimes when I’m contemplating the ups and downs of daily life, I think about getting a T-shirt made. On the front, it would say: “It’s always something.” And on the back: “It could be worse.”
In this season of hope, I’m trying to look at the bright side of the Donald Trump presidency. In his first year in office, he has done some stupid and terrible things, but let’s be thankful he hasn’t done more damage. It could be worse, much worse.
—The president has belittled our allies in Europe, undermined U.S. influence in Asia, exchanged threats with North Korea’s nuclear-armed leader and derailed the Middle East peace process. But hey, we’re not at war. We should be very grateful that the crisis with North Korea hasn’t blown up.
—Trump demonizes immigrants at every opportunity, including the Kate Steinle verdict and this week’s New York subway pipe-bombing. He is ending the program that protects Dreamers, leaving it to Congress to try to rescue it before March. But he hasn’t fully mobilized a deportation force. Thursday, Trump cut a big red tape to symbolize the regulations his administration is gutting, but he isn’t yet cutting the ribbon on his border wall with Mexico.
—He’s a broken record on Russia’s intervention in the 2016 presidential election, calling it “fake news” and the investigations a witch hunt, all evidence to the contrary. In a blockbuster story this week, The Washington Post reported all the ways he refuses to accept what Russia did, or to take steps to protect our democracy going forward. But at least he hasn’t fired special counsel Robert Mueller, whose inquiry has produced four indictments so far and whose dismissal would mean a constitutional crisis.
—His administration is full of top officials who are incompetent, ideologues or both. But some of his least qualified and most problematic nominees have been forced to withdraw - just this week his pick to oversee chemical safety at the Environmental Protection Agency and a nominee for federal judge in Alabama. And the White House is thankfully free of the corrupt Michael Flynn as national security adviser and white nationalist Steve Bannon as chief strategist.
—Trump is trying to roll back laws and rules that have given us cleaner air and water and protect the environment. But thanks to Gov. Jerry Brown and others, the Trump administration’s pullout from the historic Paris accords hasn’t stopped all progress on climate change.
—Trump is doing his best to undermine the Affordable Care Act, but he and Republicans in Congress had an epic fail on repealing Obamacare entirely.
Here’s the biggest reason I’m hopeful: While it’s way too early to predict he won’t finish his full term and he still has hard-core supporters, more and more Americans are tiring of the ineptitude and craziness from the White House day after day. A big part of the Trump brand is to lash out at critics, but it’s backfiring.
Trump’s approval ratings are plummeting to record lows, even among Fox News loyalists. In a new poll out Friday, only 23 percent said he has kept his campaign promises and 52 percent said that America is worse off under Trump. Public support for impeaching him is at a record high, and nearing a majority.
Remember during the campaign when Trump notoriously boasted that he could “stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters?”
Maybe not anymore.
Trump didn’t help his own cause last week. To try to keep an Alabama U.S. Senate seat in Republican hands, he gave his blessing to Roy Moore, a credibly accused child molester. It’s yet another reason for fellow Republicans to distance themselves from the president.
And Trump hit yet another low on Twitter with a personal attack on Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, a New York Democrat who is calling for him to resign over his own history of sexual misconduct. She called the tweet a “sexist smear,” and a lot of politicians agreed with her.
On Thursday, Sen. Kamala Harris of California became the seventh senator to publicly say Trump should step down. She told Politico that it would be in the country’s best interests, but “we know he’s not going to resign.”
She’s right, but we should never lower our standards for the presidency. If we ever think what Trump is doing is acceptable, that would be really worse.
Foon Rhee is a columnist for the Sacramento Bee.