Here’s something you can’t say very often: President Trump is chastened.
He hasn’t exactly admitted defeat on the five-week government shutdown that ended on Jan. 25, when Trump signed short-term spending bills that will expire later this month. But he has hinted he doesn’t have the stomach for another shutdown over funding for his border wall, and will probably sign the longer-term spending bills Congress is likely to pass soon.
Instead of vetoing that legislation—which is unlikely to have the wall funding he wants—Trump now seems more likely to declare a national emergency and claim that gives him the authority to raid Pentagon accounts for wall funding. That’s legally dubious and will end up in court right away. It could end up at the Supreme Court, and Trump may never get his wall money. But it would avert another shutdown battle and spare Americans more disgust over incompetent leaders.
The real economy, meanwhile, reminded everybody this week that things are great, if only Trump would stay out of the way. Employers added 304,000 jobs in December, nearly double the number economists were expecting. Job growth has averaged 250,000 new jobs per month during the last four months, a remarkable pace of hiring deep into a business cycle. Job growth has actually picked up from the pace of a year ago.
The stock market, which tumbled in December, rose 8% in January, nearly clawing back the losses of the previous month. The stock market has been volatile and could fall again, but for now, optimism about the economy has displaced gloom.
For the last two weeks, Trump’s appalling embrace of the shutdown earned the lowest score on the weekly Trump-o-meter: SAD. But there’s a big reversal this week, with the Trump-o-meter reading BIGLY, our second highest rating.
One can hope Trump has gotten the message from financial markets: stop disrupting things, and let the economy hum. We’ll find out soon. By Feb. 17, Trump’s Commerce Department must publish a report on whether automotive imports threaten national security. Everybody knows this is an absurd conceit, yet Trump and a handful or protectionist advisers view it as a pretext for threatening tariffs on auto imports, as leverage for trade concessions from Europe, Japan and other countries.
If Trump goes down this road, prepare for more turmoil. Then there’s Trump’s March 1 deadline for trade talks with China, which could produce one of three things: a breakthrough that eliminates the Trump tariffs on Chinese imports, a stalemate that leaves the tariffs in place, or a breakdown that leads to more tariffs. Buoyant markets suggest investors expect a resolution. If it doesn’t happen, they’ll register their disgust.
As the shutdown entered its fifth week and Trump earned the lowest Trump-o-meter score, we contemplated adding an even lower mark to our scale—sadder than SAD—if the self-defeating shutdown continued. Viewers offered Trumpian recommendations, including LOSER, DISGUSTING, PATHETIC, WORST EVER, and GOD HELP US. We hope there’s never a need to use those ratings. But they’re on reserve, just in case.
Rick Newman is the author of four books, including “Rebounders: How Winners Pivot from Setback to Success.” Follow him on Twitter: @rickjnewman