For conflicted conservatives, the past two weeks may have brought on a case of Trump-induced whiplash.
One week, the president is taking promising steps to steer the Supreme Court in a favorable direction. The next week, he's face-planting in an enormously consequential public appearance with Vladimir Putin.
The close timing of Trump's Supreme Court pick and disastrous press conference with Putin — separated by one week—raises the persistent question for a cohort of more cautious conservatives: Is Trump a net positive or a net negative?
Is the administration's conservative governance — manifest in tax cuts, the rollback of the administrative state, and federal judicial nominations — worth the risks? Is it worth damaging America's standing on the world stage? Foreign policy is only one point in the broader calculus, but it's obviously significant on its own.
Heading into November 2016, both the Supreme Court and foreign policy loomed large in the minds of Republican voters. When it comes to the Supreme Court, Trump is now likely to have two solid justices confirmed by the time of his re-election. But his performance in Helsinki on Monday earned Trump few defenders on the Right. The question for conservatives who approach Trump with either cautious approval or disapproval, then, is whether the impacts of the bad presser and other foreign policy blunders are outweighed by the president's conservative successes.
This Monday-to-Monday time lapse probably has people in that cohort (which I generally believe to be underestimated) revisiting their cost-benefit-analyses.
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