How did we do in 2018? Let’s see:
We took hundreds of children away from their parents at our southern border and locked them up. This was because of the threat posed by an “invasion” of people walking a thousand miles from Central America — some of them pushing strollers — to seek asylum in the U.S. President Trump spent weeks stirring up hysteria about this event leading up to the midterm election, even sending troops to the border, authorized to use “lethal force” if necessary, in a ruse to stir up emotions. And we had a partial government shutdown, because the president is still demanding the useless and hideously expensive “big, beautiful wall” that he promised his true believers. And automobile plants are closing — not opening, as Mr. Trump had promised — but his core voters seem to ask no questions. And farmers have been hit hard by his ill-considered tariff war with China (formerly our best soybean customer), so now we’re spending billions to compensate them. And dozens of Mr. Trump’s “best people” have been indicted and/or convicted and/or have pleaded guilty to various crimes. And dozens more senior administration figures have quit or been fired. And the president has outdone even Bill Clinton in bringing tawdry sex scandals to the presidency, what with his hush-money payoffs to a porn star and a former Playboy playmate. And Mr. Trump appears to be taking his foreign-policy advice from foreign strongmen such as Turkey’s Erdogan and Russia’s Putin, instead of from our own government agencies. And the stock market’s wild gyrations are giving everyone with a 401(k) agita — for which Mr. Trump blames the Federal Reserve chairman, not his own policies and not his treasury secretary, whose ham-fisted last-minute phone call to the big banks just before Christmas made the situation worse, not better. And, as of the end of November, Mr. Trump had made at least 5,408 false or misleading claims for the year, by speech or by tweet, as tallied by The Washington Post. And those are just the highlights.
On the other hand, the first lady seems nice and her red Christmas trees at the White House were very stylish.
That is to say that, on balance, 2018 wasn’t a great year.
However, at the risk of prematurely directing my feet to the sunny side of the street and perhaps provoking irrational exuberance, I would also note a couple of high points:
The Trump Administration has agreed to impose a ban on “bump stocks,” which allow a semiautomatic rifle to be operated almost like a fully automatic machine gun, which is how a Las Vegas gunman was able to massacre 58 people in Las Vegas last year. (The National Rifle Association was “disappointed” at the decision.)
And Congress has passed, with the president’s support, a sweeping criminal justice reform bill that would give judges more discretion in sentencing offenders for nonviolent crimes, and strengthen rehabilitation programs for former prisoners. It would also call for placing federal prisoners closer to home, according to news reports, so that families could visit more often. The measure would apply only to federal cases, which comprise a small minority of such crimes nationwide.
But, credit where credit is due. And it’s a start.
Reach Glenn Richter at email@example.com