AS the Trump Presidency mercifully approaches its conclusion, it’s interesting to note how his most ardent spruikers are rationalising their continued support in the wake of the horrific scenes on Capitol Hill last week.
The line being peddled goes something like this: “Look, we know he’s a (buffoon/fool/idiot), but his policies are good.” And for good measure, they will usually toss in, “He was a hell of a lot better than Obama, and just you wait and see how bad it will be under Biden.”
The latter point is classic “whataboutism”. While there certainly is value in comparing presidents, the tactic is used to deflect attention away from the failings of the current administration. As for President-elect Biden, there are legitimate concerns about extreme elements in the Democratic party, but again, this doesn’t address the issue of President Trump and his four years in office.
Let’s explore this whole notion of not liking the guy but liking his policies. Of course, it’s possible to support some of Trump’s achievements. All presidents – even the failed ones – can point to some successes. Jimmy Carter was instrumental in the Camp David accords, Richard Nixon opened relations with China and introduced important environmental laws (yes, Richard Nixon), Herbert Hoover expanded healthcare for children. Even Warren Harding managed to achieve some success in streamlining government spending. However, any analysis of the last four years reveals the deep flaws in the “bad guy, good policies” argument.
Whatever good Trump has produced (Abraham Accords, new trade agreement with Canada and Mexico, overseeing a strong pre-covid economy gifted to him by time and the measures of the previous administration) are far outweighed by the severe damage that he’s caused: the division he has stoked since his racist and false “birther campaign” which should have disqualified him from public office; his constant attacks on truth, on science, on free speech; his incessant bullying of anyone who doesn’t toe the line, including his own Vice-President for carrying out his Constitutional responsibilities; his lies and frightening mismanagement of the pandemic; his denial of the election result despite court after court striking down his baseless claims of fraud; his incitement to violence which culminated in an attack on the institutions of democracy.
The last time the Senate was attacked was by the English in the War of 1812 – an enemy in “combat”. Readers will note how the President’s partner in crime, Rudy Giuliani, employed that term to spur on the riotous mob prior to their storming of the Senate.
These are not the actions of a “buffoon” who had some “good policies”. These are the actions of a person manifestly unfit to hold any public office, let alone the presidency. He has brought shame and dishonour to that office and to the country which he claims to love. He was an utterly disgraceful and ultimately failed president who managed in a single term to lose the White House and deliver control of both houses of Congress to his opponents.
No amount of “whataboutism” or “whatmightbeism” can ever wipe away the damage this reality star huckster has wrought upon democracy. History will rightly judge him harshly. It’s frightening to contemplate the possibility that someone will surpass him as the worst president.
True conservatives, as opposed to Trumpists, will no doubt be welcoming his exit and hoping the Republican party conducts a wholesale review so that it becomes the viable and rational political force it was before this shameful period in American history.
Ernie Schwartz is a partner in leadership development and communications consultancy Red Sky. He formerly worked at AIPAC and on the campaign staff of a candidate for the United States Senate.