Paul D. Hauck: The Trump legacy
I sat down to respond to Pat Patterson’s opinion piece, “President achieved much in four years,” in which he extolled the magnificent works of the president, singe-handedly, against all odds, becoming the greatest leader in the history of the species, etc., etc. All this asserted without even an attempt to point to specifics.
I sat down intending to go through the facts: That more jobs were created in Obama’s last three years than Trump’s first three (8 million vs. 6.5 million). The average GDP growth rates for those same years did not suggest any surge in the economy (2.3 vs. 2.5%). The president has announced far more factories relocating to the U.S. than ever materialized.
I could go on, but I have come to appreciate the old saw that “it is far easier to cheat a man than to convince him that he has been cheated.”
Then I thought I would point out the president’s greatest accomplishment. Within two years under Donald Trump, my country, which had been the unquestioned leader of the free world for three-quarters of a century, had abdicated that role.
Oh, we are still the wealthiest nation on the planet. We can wield tremendous, if coercive, influence over less affluent nations. Our military might is still unrivaled. If we decide to re-fight World War II, we will definitely prevail.
But no one looks to America for leadership anymore. The periodic international surveys the Pew Foundation conducts in 37 countries showed that 64% of the total populations of these nations trusted Obama to “do the right thing in international affairs.” Only 22% trusted Trump. This contributed to a drop in those who view America positively from 64% to 49%. Majorities of 60% to 75% saw Trump as “arrogant, intolerant, and dangerous.”
After the U.S. withdrew from the Paris Climate Change Agreement and the Iran nuclear deal, E.U. leaders recognized that we could not be relied upon and the term “post-America era” began to appear.
Our response to the coronavirus has been so poor that no one is looking to model after us. The proportion of people in 14 other nations who say we have done a “good” job ranges in the teens.
I thought losing our standing as the leader of the free world would be the most damning criticism possible of the Trump presidency.
Then my wife called me in to watch on television the siege of the U.S. Capitol building. The president had been urging his devoted followers to descend on the Capitol on the day the officially certified Electoral College votes were to be tallied and recorded. He gathered with them to hold a pep rally, during which he incited them by repeating his increasingly absurd remarks about having won the election in a landslide and having had it stolen from him.
He convinced them that they were victims, that there was no recourse but to march on the Congress and take back the stolen election. He promised to march with them. And they tried to do just that. They came prepared with sledge hammers, pry bars and ladders. They planted two very real, very dangerous pipe bombs. And they became the first attempt at a violent insurrection against the American government — just as the president had urged them to do.
So all this completely upstaged my initial ideas for this piece. We no longer lead the free world and, in addition, we no longer are the exemplar to other nations of the blessing of democracy.
This is the cost of this presidency. And the legacy of Donald J. Trump.
Paul D. Hauck lives in Penn Valley.
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