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Eric Fehrnstrom

Donald Trump is leaving his critics in the dust

President-elect Donald Trump tosses a “Make America Great Again” hat into the crowd while speaking at the Dow Chemical Hangar in Baton Rouge, La, on Dec. 9. Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The mosquito swarm of critics around President-elect Donald Trump’s head are buzzing over how often he gets briefed on intelligence matters. With all the ruckus, it might surprise you to learn that President Barack Obama does not receive an in-person intelligence briefing every day.

The nonprofit Government Accountability Institute reported in 2012 that Obama in his first 1,225 days in office attended a total of 536 presidential daily briefs, or 43.8 percent of the time. According to his aides, Obama prefers to get the report in writing. We have to take his word for it that he actually reads the whole thing.

President George W. Bush, on the other hand, almost always liked to get an oral report, according to Michael Morrell, the deputy CIA director who handled the intelligence brief for both Obama and Bush.

Everyone has their own style, including President-elect Trump, who wants to get briefed on an as-needed basis. “I don’t have to be told the same thing in the same words every single day for the next eight years,” Trump told Fox News Sunday. “But I do say, if something should change, let us know.”


Since the foreign policy and intelligence bureaucracy exists to serve the president, not the other way around, they will find a way to adapt to Trump and get him the information he needs.

Trump’s comments set off another row with Democrats, who view him the same way they viewed Ronald Reagan, as unprepared and uninformed. But as with Reagan, they are missing the can-do qualities that allow Trump to connect with the American people.

Trump’s positive ratings are on the rise. Last week, Reuters/Ipsos and Bloomberg released polls showing Trump at or above the 50 percent favorable mark. “Right track” numbers are improving. The bulls are running on Wall Street in response to Trump’s pro-growth agenda.

Elsewhere, the anti-Trump protests have fizzled. The recounts have given Trump more votes than he started with. An unsuccessful Electoral College coup has convinced just one of 306 Republican electors to vote against Trump.

Trump has turned out to be the most energetic president-elect America has seen in a long time, intervening to save jobs and contain federal spending. Like Teddy Roosevelt, Trump is using the megaphone of his bully pulpit to get results.


He rescued 1,000 jobs by dangling tax incentives and the threat of retaliatory tariffs to convince air conditioning company Carrier not to move production from Indiana to Mexico. Democrats quibble over the number of jobs saved, but there’s no escaping the symbolism: Trump is on the side of workers, not big corporations.

Now there’s talk of a Trump effect, as more companies fearful of Trump’s “big stick” think twice about outsourcing American jobs.

Bill Ford, the chairman at Ford Motor Co., called Trump after the election to say the automaker changed its mind about moving some vehicle production offshore. Trump also said he lobbied Apple CEO Tim Cook about bringing manufacturing back to the United States.

“One of the things that will be a real achievement for me is when I get Apple to build a big plant in the United States, or many big plants in the United States, where instead of going to China, and going to Vietnam, and going to the places that you go to, you’re making your product right here,” Trump said he told Cook, according to a post-election interview with The New York Times.

Trump’s preinaugural swagger goes beyond the jobs front.

After Trump complained about the price tag for building the next Air Force One, the CEO of Boeing promised to limit costs. Trump put health care companies on notice that he wants drug prices, a major factor in exploding Medicare costs, to come down. His targeting of “out of control” overruns in the construction of F-35 fighter jets suggests defense contractors will feel the lash.


Trump may not get everything he wants, but if the transition is any indication, he seems to understand what his opponents do not. His success will hinge on jobs and bringing change to Washington, not how often he meets with intelligence briefers.

Eric Fehrnstrom is a Republican political analyst and media strategist, and was a senior adviser to Governor Mitt Romney.