The triumph and tragedy of Trump
First, the triumph. Against all odds, he won the presidency with promises to shake up a sclerotic Washington establishment. He did that and more.
He moved the U.S. embassy to the ancient capital of Israel over objections from the establishment who predicted a violent reaction from the culture of complainers that passes for Palestinian people. That move proved the first step toward an outbreak of Mideast peace.
Along the way, he put out of business the beheading barbarians called ISIS, cancelled the agreement that would have made Iran a nuclear power within a few years and coordinated with our ally Israel in thwarting belligerents throughout the region.
While the left was figuratively canceling good Americans who said politically incorrect things decades ago, Trump was literally canceling terrorists who were torturing, raping and murdering Americans.
Arabs, nearly all of whom are decent and civilized people, welcomed this new American approach. While Obama received the Nobel Peace Prize for the hope of what he might accomplish, Trump has received four nominations for the prize for what he actually did. The reaction of the establishment, naturally, is not to congratulate him, but to urge the abolition of the Nobel Peace Prize.
Illegal immigration across the Mexican border is down dramatically due to more interdictions, the threat of deportations, pressure on Mexico and, yes, partial construction of a wall. The response of Democrats – who as recently as the Obama administration suggested that illegal immigration should be stopped – has been to shriek “racism!”
He presided over a booming economy with record low unemployment for blacks, record high stock market levels and miniscule inflation. He cut taxes for people who pay taxes.
He pushed through criminal justice reform to get petty criminals out of jail and back into society – a move that especially benefits minorities.
During the Trump administration, the U.S. has become the world’s largest producer of crude oil. Much of that is a result of the technology called fracking, a solution so good that enviro’s can only sputter about imagined risks.
Simultaneously, the U.S. has made greater reductions in greenhouse gas emissions than most of the signatories to the Paris Convention, that gaseous and unenforceable document from which Trump withdrew.
Trump got tough with China for both ongoing human rights violations and predatory trade policies. And he renegotiated NAFTA into something fairer with more protection for American workers.
As a lawyer, I’m impressed with Trump’s three Supreme Court nominations, and his lower court appointments are almost as good.
Neil Gorsuch’s libertarian leanings just might slow the march of the unaccountable administrative state. Brett Kavanaugh withstood what Clarence Thomas a generation ago rightly called “a high-tech lynching.” Amy Coney Barrett is an accomplished intellectual who does not conceal that she’s a member of the Christian wing of the Catholic Church.
Ah, but then there’s Trump’s tragedy, a full-on Greek and Shakespearian one. The man is afflicted – or is it blessed? – with personal traits that make him hard to love. He boasts, he bullies, he belittles and he betrays. The man seems to have a screw loose.
But as Shakespeare said, “Though this be madness, yet there is method in it.” Trump’s madness is partly because he wants to get into the heads of the opposition. He succeeds. He now lives in leftist heads 24/7 rent-free.
While there, he makes unmitigated mischief. He’s like a little demon whispering in their ear suggestions like, “Defend looters.” Or “Attack a white couple for adopting and saving two black orphans from the cesspool of Haiti.” Or “Abolish the southern border.” Or “Say there are 64 genders.”
Fine, that’s all good fun and might even be politically productive. The establishment needed a swift kick in the gonads, and Trump never met a gonad he didn’t want to kick.
But the country needs something else too. It needs not just a warrior, but also a leader.
Trump is sometimes compared to Ulysses S. Grant. Lincoln famously said about Grant and his swaggering drunkenness in the Civil War, “I can’t spare this man. He fights.”
Like Grant, Trump fights. But recall that Grant didn’t always fight. After the Civil War, he presided over Reconstruction where he protected former slaves, opposed the Ku Klux Klan, rebuilt southern infrastructure and worked to pass the 15th Amendment ensuring blacks the right to vote.
Trump could learn a thing or two from Grant about reconstruction and reconciliation with one’s enemies. Maybe in his second term, he will. Maybe like Grant, he can learn to wage peace as well as he wages war.
He’ll get that chance. This weekend’s column will explain how and why.