It's apparent that Donald Trump was — to employ a neologism coined by President George W. Bush 16 years ago — misunderestimated. But those who gave odds that he couldn't transform from a successful businessman into a successful politician are now betting he can't transform from a successful politician into a successful statesman.
Meanwhile, his admirers expect the world of him. And worlds are notoriously difficult to deliver.
These facts lead to this conclusion: It will be hugely helpful if the new president can make a strong start, by which I mean demonstrating leadership and vision and, most important, achieving a few quick but significant victories.
How quick? Within the first 100 days. If he succeeds, the polls will reflect that, providing both a strengthened mandate and momentum to move ahead on a longer-range agenda.
What I'm suggesting is not new. Franklin Roosevelt, in 1933, was probably the first president to see his early months in office as a unique branding opportunity. He rolled out bills setting up his New Deal. From then on, rightly or wrongly, it would be regarded as a robust and effective response to the Great Depression.
Similarly, over the first months of 1981, President Ronald Reagan — derided by The New York Times as "one of the most improbable figures ever to assume the Presidency" — sent Congress comprehensive budget and tax reforms. He managed to rally the public behind him. His cinematically courageous response to an assassination attempt helped as well.
Mr. Trump's overarching theme is to "make America great again" which, as I've argued before, is a call for renewal. The actions he takes as he settles into the Oval Office should reaffirm that. I'll offer three possibilities.
Making America economically dynamic again is essential. Mr. Trump should focus on removing impediments to economic growth. One that is large and relatively easy to remove: America's corporate tax rate, currently among the highest in the world.
As Stephen Moore, a Trump economic adviser, has written in these pages, a cut from 35 to 15 percent, would "reverse the stampede" of businesses fleeing America. "When the businesses come back," he added, "so will good-paying middle-class jobs." Combine that with regulatory reform and steps to keep the cost of energy low and the United States becomes much more attractive to investors, innovators and entrepreneurs — i.e., people who hire.
Second, Mr. Trump wants to make America secure again. He can start by ending President Obama's policy of appeasement. Iran's rulers sponsor terrorism, pursue imperialist ambitions and, thanks to Mr. Obama, have a path to nuclear weapons acquisition.
Mr. Obama came into office convinced he could reset relations with these self-proclaimed jihadis. But despite the billions in cash and gold that have been transferred to Iran, and the respect if not deference he has shown them, "Death to America!" remains their rallying cry.
Mark Dubowitz, my colleague at the Foundation for Democracies, recommends implementing "a zero tolerance policy" when it comes to Iranian violations of the nuclear weapons agreement concluded by Mr. Obama with the support of the U.N. Security Council but not the U.S. Congress.
Infractions should result in new sanctions. Additional sanctions should be imposed in response to Iranian aggression, terrorism, hostage-taking, domestic human rights abuses and continuing efforts to develop ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear warheads. Such sanctions are not prohibited under Mr. Obama's nuclear agreement.
The pending Boeing and Airbus deals with Iran Air should be put on hold while Mike Pompeo, whom I hope the Senate will rapidly confirm as CIA director, orders a thorough review of Iran Air's activities. Evidence suggests that Iran Air, the regime's flag carrier, continues to fly routes in support of the Assad regime in Syria, as well as such designated terrorist groups as the Iranian Quds Force, Lebanese Hezbollah and a number of Shiite militias. If such evidence holds up, the White House can block the deal — no legislation is necessary.
Finally, Mr. Trump should demonstrate that he intends to make America sovereign again. That requires opposing globalists who regard the United Nations as a proto-world government to which Americans — including American presidents — should bow.
Mr. Trump could order a quick but thorough a review of U.S. participation in the U.N. and of what, if anything, the U.N. is achieving thanks to the American tax dollars being provided — about a quarter of the organization's multibillion-dollar budget. The results, I'm certain, would justify dramatic cuts, a step already being urged by Sens. Lindsey Graham, Ted Cruz and other members of Congress.
The new president also might make clear that Mr. Obama's attempt to use the U.N. to limit his successor's options and powers is unacceptable. Taking the good advice of former State Department legal adviser Abraham Sofaer, he should repudiate the anti-Israel U.N. Security Council resolution whose passage Mr. Obama facilitated last month.
President Trump should warn that he will veto any effort to enforce its conclusions and that he will seek legislation imposing trade sanctions on nations that rely on the resolution to discriminate against Israelis — similar to what the United States did to thwart the Arab boycott of the 1970s.
Mr. Trump has called the U.N. "a club for people to get together, talk and have a good time." That, he added, was "sad" because the U.N. has "such great potential." On this point, I beg to differ. The U.N. is a failed institution and beyond reform. (I'll leave for another day reminders of all the reasons why.) The U.N. should never be anything more than a debating club. Without American dollars, I'm dubious it can even manage that.