Are you surprised to be alive today? To discover the world is relatively peaceful?
Today is the last full day of Donald Trump’s presidency. Go ahead, admit it, four years ago you were certain he was going to start a war. Maybe the last war that would destroy life on earth.
Yet he didn’t. The predictions of Trump triggering the Apocalypse were just plain wrong. Not that his detractors will admit it.
I probably won’t live long enough to read an objective assessment of the Trump presidency. History may treat his four years with more kindness than contemporary accounts.
Actually, that wouldn’t be hard. The Trump presidency has been one disaster after another, just as the experts predicted. Mind you, his supporters don’t see those disasters.
Somehow they missed that his signature wall on the Mexican border didn’t get built. They missed that manufacturing jobs have not come back to America in any great numbers. They missed that the image of the USA in the eyes of the world has been considerably diminished due to the words of the man occupying the White House.
They missed that Trump never seemed to take the job seriously, that he couldn’t keep talented staff, that he didn’t understand that loyalty to America transcends loyalty to the president, that national security is something to take seriously. Using his position for personal gain somehow seemed acceptable to his fans.
It seems safe to say that Donald Trump lowered the tone of political debate in general, and diminished the presidency, and in doing so caused considerable harm to the country he led. Yet he didn’t start a war.
If my memory is correct, the last president to get through a term without American soldiers dying in battle was Jimmy Carter – 40 years ago. (Yes, I know, soldiers died in the Iran hostage rescue attempt, but that was a crashed helicopter, not combat.) That’s a long time and a lot of presidents where American troops wound up in combat in one form or another.
Trump’s detractors were worried about him launching preemptive nuclear strikes against North Korea or Iran. And who knew what he would do in the Middle East!
Yet somehow he seems to have bumbled his way into the occasional foreign policy success. North and South Korea are talking to each other. Israel has made peace with some of its neighbors, goals that eluded previous presidents. And Iran has been making nuclear noises again – but they waited until after the US election.
Trump’s foreign policy successes may have been due to his personality. Other leaders didn’t trust him, so drew together in self-protection. Certainly in his published statements he seemed clueless about how the world works – but he got positive results.
Which is why it will take the passage of time to give a complete understanding of the Trump presidency. Or phase one of the presidency if he follows through on his promise to run again and win in 2024. (and that is assuming the Senate doesn’t ban him from running in the aftermath of his incitement earlier this month of a failed insurrection attempt.)
We need time to determine what the long-lasting effects are of his actions, both positive and negative. Political popularity doesn’t always translate into historical approval. Sometimes unpopular leaders are judged kindly by history.
One thing I think can be said for certain at this point is that Donald Trump will not go quietly into retirement. Now that he will no longer be president he can really have some fun.