Last week Spy Contributor Maria Grant warned us, “Be Very Afraid. He’s Coming After You.” The “he” is Donald Trump. The piece offered a rich sampling of nasty nicknames Trump bestowed on former members of his cabinet, political opponents, and others. Grant’s message was that somebody as nasty as Trump knows no loyalty to anyone but himself. She also implied that anyone who thinks Trump is their friend or is watching out for them, is mistaken.
Grant is right about Trump, but not everyone agreed and told her so in their comments. I read the comments and was surprised to read something that I hear and read more often these days: Trump defenders explaining why Trump was an excellent president.
Maybe I wasn’t listening, but I do not recall many Trumpers making the effort to explain their admiration for the Trump presidency until recently. The change, I think, results from the fact that Trump himself has shrunken in stature because of his four indictments, 91 felony charges, being accused of rape by a federal judge in the E. Jean Carrol case and being found guilty of fraud in the New York business case. Add to that Trump’s increasingly violent rhetoric and sometimes bizarre behavior.
There is not much of Trump the man left to respect. That was confirmed for me two weeks ago when a hard-core Trump supporter, the type of person with whom you avoid all political discussions, told me he had lost respect for Trump. He may still vote for him, but there will no longer be a Trump flag flying in front of his house.
So, what about the defenses of the Trump presidency we now hear? They are interesting, both in what they include and what they don’t. They are a problem for Democrats because parts of the Trump record weren’t all bad. They are not entirely honest because Trumpers do not want to address the January 6 insurrection, Trump’s embrace of racism and anti-LGBQT+ rhetoric, and his relentless quest to divide America.
Let’s look at a few of the claims Trump supporters say Trump accomplished during his four years in the White House:
Trump built the wall and reduced illegal immigration.
The U.S. was not at war during Trump’s presidency.
Trump cut taxes.
The U.S. became energy independent.
The economy boomed.
Gas prices were low.
The stock market flourished.
Through “Operation Warp Speed,” which hastened the availability of a vaccine for COVID, Trump ended the pandemic.
Trump cut federal regulations to create a more favorable business environment.
Unemployment hit record lows during Trump’s presidency, including for people of color.
The U.S. military was rebuilt.
Inflation was low under Trump.
Trump brought peace to the Middle East through the Abraham Accords.
Russia did not invade Ukraine until Trump left office and would not have done so had Trump been re-elected. (Trump also says if he is elected in 2024, he will end the Ukraine war within 24 hours.)
Trumpers usually follow their litany of Trump accomplishments with disparaging remarks about Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, with the implication that anything good that has happened during the Biden presidency—things like continued low unemployment—is something Biden has not gotten around to screwing up or it is because of Trump laying the groundwork.
As is often the case with self-congratulatory lists of accomplishments, the Trump list includes exaggerations and, in some cases, lies. (Not a surprise given who we are writing about.)
Just a few comments on the Trump list:
Trump did not build that “big, beautiful wall” that he promised. He built a mere fraction of what he claimed he would build. Mexico did not pay for any of the wall, despite Trump’s 2016 campaign promise that he would force Mexico to do so. He also reduced illegal immigration by embracing inhumane border policies.
It is impossible to “rebuild the military” in four years. Military procurement is a multi-year process. Increases in appropriations for the military under Trump included increased personnel costs. Trump also takes credit for “enhancements” that were originally funded under Bush or Obama.
Gas prices were lower during the Trump administration because of the pandemic. Demand for gas dropped precipitously because people stopped going to work and other places and generally avoided contact with others.
Trump’s tax cuts favored the rich. Lower income taxpayers did not benefit. And the cost of the tax cut contributed to an increase in the national debt by 7.8 trillion. That increase, as well as other “unpaid-for” spending, contributed to today’s inflation.
Yes, “Operation Warp Speed” hastened the availability of a COVID vaccine. But Trump’s handling of the pandemic included denying that a pandemic was starting (he said it would soon simply disappear), disseminating misinformation about medicines to combat the virus, and he participated in a presidential debate with Joe Biden three days after testing positive for COVID. Plus, his accusations regarding Dr. Fauci were unconscionable and resulted in Fauci requiring security even to this day.
The claim that Russia would not have invaded Ukraine if Trump were president, is speculation. The claim that he could end the war in one day is ludicrous.
I could comment on each of the claims, but you get the idea—even if Trump deserves credit for some claims, Trumpers overstate the case.
What about what is not on the list:
The January 6 insurrection.
Praising racists (Charlottesville).
Trump’s appointments of anti-LGBQT judges and supported discrimination against LGBQT people.
Trump’s serious weakening of U.S. relationships with our allies, jeopardizing U.S. world leadership.
Trump’s administration characterized by high turnover among political appointees and ethical lapses on the part of appointees.
Trump’s disrespect for the military, calling troops “suckers” and refusing to appear at events with wounded warriors due to fear it would make him look bad.
Trump withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement, making the U.S. the only country to walk away from its promises to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
I could go on, but you get the idea. The Trump presidency was not the triumph that Trumpers now claim. The record, at best, is mixed. And if you consider the harm done to America’s future by the January 6, 2021, insurrection, you cannot say that Trump’s presidency was a success. It was not.
Occasionally, history repeats itself. Despite many of Trump’s “accomplishments” having been proven false, he continues to make ridiculous claims. Just last Sunday, Trump posted this on his social media site: “THE HORRIBLE ATTACK ON ISRAEL, MUCH LIKE THE ATTACK ON UKRAINE, WOULD NEVER HAVE HAPPENED IF I WERE PRESIDENT – ZERO CHANCE!”
If you believe this nonsense, please contact me. I am selling the Bay Bridge and will make you an extremely attractive, beautiful offer.
J.E. Dean is a retired attorney and public affairs consultant writing on politics, government, and other subjects. (Disclosure: Maria Grant is the wife of J.E. Dean)