In his second year in office, President Donald Trump did many positive things. But he also did a lot of bad things that ranged from cringeworthy to catastrophic. Here are Trump's five best moments of 2018, followed by his five worst:
5. In the six months after the Singapore summit with North Korea, he has made no concessions to Pyongyang. North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un expected to blow up some useless nuclear facilities in exchange for billions in hard currency. Trump has refused to play Kim's game. Not only has Trump not lifted sanctions, unfrozen North Korean assets, ended the Korean War or offered Pyongyang diplomatic recognition, he also imposed new sanctions on members of Kim's inner circle.
4. He struck Syria again and eliminated the last vestiges of the Islamic State's physical caliphate. For a second time, he enforced President Barack Obama's red line against the use of chemical weapons. In December, U.S.-backed fighters captured Hajin, the last pocket of territory held by the Islamic State. The militant group is far from defeated, but Trump is right that we have knocked "the hell out of ISIS."
3. He's continued his tough line with Moscow. Trump announced America's withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, shipped Javelin anti-tank missiles to Ukraine, canceled a meeting with Vladimir Putin at the Group of 20 summit over Russia's seizure of Ukrainian navy ships, expelled dozens of Russian diplomats and imposed more sanctions against Moscow.
2. He pulled out of Obama's disastrous Iran deal and reimposed crippling sanctions on Tehran. The new sanctions have taken millions of barrels of Iranian oil off the market and led to the cancellation of major deals with European investors. And when Iranian protesters rose up to challenge the regime, Trump (unlike his predecessor) stood with them.
1. He stood by Brett Kavanaugh and even in the worst moments never wavered. Trump has confirmed a record 85 judges in his first two years as president. That total includes two Supreme Court justices, 30 appellate court judges and 53 district judges who will preside for decades. Trump's successful fight for Kavanaugh also helped him expand his Senate majority, as energized Republican voters threw out four Democratic incumbents who opposed Kavanaugh.
There were many more accomplishments. Trump got Mexico, Canada, and South Korea to sign new trade deals. He continued his regulatory rollback, replacing Obama's "Clean Power Plan" and his "Waters of the United States" rule and returning power to the states. He took on the International Criminal Court, which purports to have jurisdiction over U.S. soldiers and citizens. And his graceful handling of President George H.W. Bush's funeral brought dignity to the office.
That is a strong record of success.
But Trump had his horrible moments, too. Here are the top five:
5. His handling of Jamal Khashoggi's murder harmed America's moral standing. Trump is right that a permanent breach with Saudi Arabia is not acceptable, because there is no other country in the Middle East that can serve as a counterweight to Iran. But it was unseemly to declare that "It's all about 'America First'" and "We're not going to give up hundreds of billions of dollars in orders."
4. His news conference with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki was an embarrassment. His meeting with the Russian president came on the heels of Russia's attempted assassination of a dissident on British soil using banned chemical weapons and the indictment of 12 Russians for 2016 election meddling. Instead of condemning these actions, Trump publicly sided with Putin over his own intelligence community.
3. His policy to separate migrant children from their families at the southern border was an avoidable tragedy. There is nothing wrong with a zero-tolerance policy for illegal crossings. But his administration's failure to anticipate and prepare for how to deal with migrant families was gross negligence, a symptom of the chaos that is undermining Trump's presidency.
2. His planned withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan is a gift to the Taliban and al-Qaeda. In 2017, my Top 10 Best list praised Trump for reversing Obama's disastrous withdrawal, which he said "would create a vacuum for terrorists." But in December, Trump ordered the military to start planning the withdrawal of roughly 7,000 troops - about half the number of U.S. forces in Afghanistan. The news came just as U.S. officials were holding talks with the Taliban, whose No. 1 demand is ... the withdrawal of U.S. forces. Hardly the "art of the deal."
1. His pullout of all U.S. troops in Syria will take America's boot off of the terrorists' necks. Trump's claim that "we have defeated ISIS in Syria" is as bad as Obama's dismissing them as the "J.V." squad. The Islamic State still has up to 30,000 fighters in Iraq and Syria and about $400 million in their coffers. The Islamic State is not defeated, and not one member of Trump's national security team agrees with his decision to withdraw. If he lets the Islamic State off the mat like Obama did in Iraq in 2011, our nation will pay a terrible price.
It is notable that, with the exception of troop withdrawals and family separations, most of the items on the "worst" list were transgressions of style rather than substance. With the mute button on, the Trump presidency is pretty good from a conservative policy perspective. And yet Trump's approval rating at year's end is just 39 percent - because most Americans don't follow politics with the sound off.
Marc A. Thiessen is a columnist for the Washington Post Writers Group. He can be followed on Twitter, @marcthiessen.