Among the Trump-haters, the scramble is on to rationalize the successful killing of Qassem Soleimani. These include all brands of Trump-dissenters, from the civilized supporters of other approaches to the presidency to those who regard the incumbent with distaste but wish the country well, down through the ranks of the obsessive, the paroxysmally mad, the fully demented, and the rabid who are dangerous when they bite.
The fallback position of the most intelligent and articulate Trump-haters, exemplified by the veteran columnist George Will, is that Trump exhausts us all, even his supporters. There is some truth to this. The president is always the principal story, and when the media do not come to that conclusion spontaneously, he prompts them with his tweets.
Trump built his candidacy on the theory that all publicity is good for electoral purposes, and spent decades on the social pages and in gossip magazines, as a boxing and wrestling impresario, pulled between 5 million and 30 million viewers every week for 14 years to his reality television program, and after a near-death financial experience, branded himself everywhere: buildings, clothes, mattresses, mineral water, real estate study, fitness, inspirational addresses. It was an unprecedented campaign of name-familiarization, much of which was not at all flattering to him. As president, he has used the animosity of the media to justify his constant direct contact with the army of his supporters and the public generally, by Twitter as well as television news.
His administration has been relatively successful: a strong economy, drastic reduction in illegal immigration, falling rates of poverty and violent crime, elimination of unemployment and oil imports, reduction of overseas force commitments, improved trade arrangements, the end of appeasement of China and Iran, the avoidance of the Green Terror, and the revival—by different means with North Korea and Iran—of the withered concept of nuclear nonproliferation.
These successes have strengthened his followers and forced his opponents into a sequence of sullen denials, caveats, and grumpy retreats. The Mueller debacle dribbled down to dark, semi-whispered threats of prosecution for obstruction of justice, the American prosecutor’s universal catchment for anyone it targets. But this was rendered rather unworkable by Mueller’s congressional testimony under oath that he was not obstructed by Trump.
The impeachment canard has gone from the outrages of egregious Democratic congressional committee chairmen—Representatives Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) and Adam Schiff (D-Calif.)—to Speaker Pelosi’s three-hanky tear-jerker about the “sad and solemn” impeachment of the very president she informed us she prays for regularly, to her nonsensical effort to dictate terms to the Senate on how it must try the case, to her finally sending the articles—neither of them an illegality or an impeachable offense, and both of them utter piffle on the facts.
Donald Trump accomplished more before he was inaugurated than any previous president, except for Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Grant, Eisenhower, and possibly Hoover.
Yes, it exhausts and bores us. George Will is correct about that. But this is a virtual laudation compared to Will’s inveighing against Trump three years ago as a “vulgarian,” a brute, a national embarrassment, and a terminal presidential aberration slouching off to Washington to degrade America.
But more to the point, an immense number of Americans were bored and exhausted by what George Will himself called the “sociopathy” of the Clintons as well as the boneheaded verbal and policy blunders of George W. Bush, culminating in his effort to transform Iraq into a Norman Rockwell democracy and the greatest economic crisis in 75 years.
Public boredom and exasperation were amplified by Barack Obama’s flat-lined “new normal” of 2 percent economic growth, a shrinking workforce, middle- and lower-income stagnation of pay levels and substantial unemployment, 1 million illiterate peasants entering the country illegally every year, and a foreign policy of vanishing red lines.
(Current economic growth-rates will rise when the new trade agreements are in place and Boeing is back to producing airplanes.)
The rational people who dislike this president should remember that the state of the country had deteriorated so far in the 20 years preceding the last presidential election that something altogether different was required. Even I, as a supporter of the president, and a cordial acquaintance of many years, sometimes find his self-praise tiresome. (Though I have never found it as offensive as President Obama’s description of his own assignment of modest forces to deal with the ISIS danger in Iraq—a danger his precipitate withdrawal had caused—as “American statesmanship at its best.” It was a reactive half-measure to deal with his own blunder and such judgments are better left to others.)
Still, the president is correct that he has been very successful, and he is right that no one has ever had to execute that office for almost a full term with such obstructive and unjustified harassment.
That harassment has been masquerading as virtuous guardianship of the ethical conduct of the presidency, but in fact, as has been exposed on innumerable occasions, has been malicious partisan treachery and hypocrisy. The Democrats cling to their view that Trump must have an investigation riveted to his back at all times.
In judging the performance of occupants of great public offices, the judicial rule of a fair judgment by one’s peers does not hold, as obviously a person so elevated has few peers. But there are times when the learned commentator is well-served by tempering his views with some level of modesty. Whatever else may be said of Donald Trump, I put it to his critics—distinguished critics such as George Will, as well as the ignorant rabble at MSNBC and CNN—that the following facts should be taken into account:
By making billions of dollars, becoming a great television star, and becoming only the second person (after Wendell Willkie in 1940), to win the nomination of a major political party and the only one ever elected president who had never sought or held any public sector office, elected or unelected, military or civilian, Donald Trump accomplished more before he was inaugurated than any previous president, except Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Grant, Eisenhower, and possibly Hoover.
He has had the most successful first term as president of anyone in the history of that office, except for Lincoln, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Nixon, and he has persevered through greater and more unjustified adversity than any president.
These are not small accomplishments, and this is a considerable president. Substance outlasts style; his style pleases as many Americans as it repulses; his substantive achievements will be remembered on Election Day and thereafter.