With the Democrats still trying to throw a Hail-Mueller Pass with time out on the scoreboard and with the economy humming, it’s time to confront the central issue: “Has Donald Trump been an awful, OK, or great president?”
The president, unquestionably, is often appalling in his style. His self-aggrandizing, dreadful treatment of opponents and subordinates, public embrace of homicidal dictators, and rambling speaking style draw a portrait of a leader embarrassing to many Americans. He has been vexing to all sides in Washington. Special counsel Robert Mueller added to this picture in his report on the Russia investigation.
And yet, over his first two years, he has enjoyed remarkable political, diplomatic, policy and leadership success. I personally don’t care for his style of management and governance, but I think there is a case to be made that he has been a great president.
When making the case for Trump, you must start in a defensive hole.
For example, “immoral” often is a tag hung on him. But his proclivities, especially in regard to women, pale in comparison to Jack Kennedy and Bill Clinton, who reportedly turned the White House into a virtual bordello. There is little hint at all of that with the Trump presidency. Similarly, his “immoral” treatment of undocumented immigrants differs little from his predecessors. Finally, he hasn’t blundered into an unnecessary shooting war, which many would find immoral.
In the field of “corruption,” he has been thoroughly investigated and there is nothing to match the smarmy signs of pay-to-play kickbacks alleged in the Clinton State Department.
In the field of “dictatorship,” it’s hard to argue that he has suppressed the free press or public criticism, which has been running wild. He certainly couldn’t match the apparent political weaponization of the IRS, the FBI, the CIA and the Justice Department under Barack Obama or match the numerous contempt of Congress charges against many of those officials. To the contrary, Trump has exerted far less of a direct influence over his agency leaders, who often publicly defy him.
“White nationalist”? Nope. There is every indication that he is trying to be president for all the people. His trade policies are designed to benefit middle class, predominantly union, workers. If anything, they undercut big business off-shoring strategies. In addition, the economic and employment data suggest that he has provided more jobs and income opportunity to African Americans, Hispanics and women than any president over the past 40 years. (The argument that the economic trends are an extension of Obama policies is specious — Obama “bought” his results by eroding the financial stability of the country with a Fed-driven, free money, Ponzi scheme. Trump’s results are real and lasting, based on realistic interest rates, investment and private-sector jobs, the real bases for sustained growth.)
Trump’s awkward attempt to equate the behavior of the white nationalist thugs who precipitated the Charlottesville carnage with the Antifa thugs who came prepared to inflict violence of their own was off the mark, but it is certainly not a strong case for hanging a “racist” or “white nationalist” label on him — “clumsy” is far more accurate. The left’s attempt to conflate his “nationalism” in his protectionist trade policies with racist “white nationalism” is dishonest and twisted logic.
He is divisive. But so is the unprecedented rejection of the 2016 election by the congressional Democrats and the Rise and Resist movement and the endless criticism from the media. Trump has shown remarkable personal strength in standing up to relentless attacks.
Moving from the defensive to the positive side of the balance sheet, despite all of the attacks and resistance, Trump has accomplished more in two years than his four immediate predecessors accomplished in four to eight years.
The economy is in the best shape in modern history. New and better trade agreements have been developed with the major economies. Our defense is much stronger, including a stronger and better funded NATO. Our principal adversaries — Russia, China, Iran, North Korea — are more off-balance than they have been in decades. Each of them is tough and ruthless, but they see in Trump someone who understands them and is equally tough in defending his country. And, with the collapse of ObamaCare, Trump has a huge opportunity to advance an effective, market-based approach to American health care coverage and cost control to help everyone.
Belying the hysteria of the left, all Americans are moving forward; these are not “sad times,” and there is no “crisis.”
This raises the central question to be framed in the next election: What should we demand of our president? If we’re looking for dignity, manners, grace and orderliness, Trump is vulnerable. If we’re looking for strong leadership to provide real opportunity for economic advancement for all Americans and a strong defense of America and its interests, then Trump has a claim to greatness over his current opponents and his predecessors.
The weak field of Democrats presents voters with a virtual Hobson’s choice. It will be interesting to see how they choose.
–Grady Means, | thehill.com
Grady Means is a writer and former corporate strategy consultant. He served in the White House as a policy assistant to Nelson Rockefeller and as a staff economist for Secretary Elliott Richardson of the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare. Follow him on Twitter @GradyMeans.