By: T. Jeffersonian
History has a way of dealing kindly with past Presidents. Leaving offices with either low approval ratings or through an election defeat, passing time has seen George H. W. Bush, George W. Bush, Harry Truman, Richard Nixon, and others in a different and more positive light. This does not mean that history will eventually see Donald J. Trump similarly. In has been less than two days since the Trump Administration ended and he will soon be tried a second time. Regardless Donald J. Trump was a consequential President who had some significant achievements.
Donald Trump’s most significant achievement was the lowest unemployment rate in the last half century. More jobs were actually being created than were actually being filled. Trump deregulated businesses and obtained a massive tax cut for corporations, average and the wealthiest Americans. Despite increasing the federal deficit, these tax cuts lead to the creation of jobs, the vast majority of which did not require government funding to sustain. Trump protected American business growth with tariffs against friend and foe alike. He recognized that economic competition is not inversely proportional with defensive cooperation.
Friends took advantage of the United States and Trump called it out. Rather than depend on our friend for petroleum, Donald Trump deregulated American petroleum to where we became the world’s largest petroleum producer and exporter. This made the United States less vulnerable to global oil prices, reduced economic levers that adversaries can wield against us or our allies, and brought stability to our economy. All in all, American had sustained, real economic growth during the Trump Presidency. Because he is a business leader and had that grounding context in his decision making, Donald Trump knew that the economy ultimately pays for everything we do as a nation and that the economy is the most important of America’s instruments of national power.
Before Donald Trump, the United States competed with China only through the military instrument of national power. During his Presidency, the United States competed with China through all instruments of national power – diplomacy, military, intelligence and information, and economics. This all-instruments competition revealed significant weaknesses in China and showed them that they were not yet militarily prepared to confront the United States. Donald Trump increases military competition short of armed conflict with China. He increased the number of Freedom of Navigation operations in the air and on sea to one or more per month and he gave the military commanders the authority to approve these missions. Previously, such operations occurred one or two times per year and were approved by the National Security Council. Trump’s competition with China, truly delayed war and revealed significant Chinese vulnerabilities to our allies and partners.
Donald Trump removed some ambiguity from our military partnership with Taiwan. For the first time in over 30 years, he sent a sitting cabinet member and uniformed military flag level officers to visit Taiwan. He accepted calls from the Taiwan President and he sold more technologically advanced lethal military aid to Taiwan. Taiwan is still vulnerable however China took some pause due to Trump’s much clearer signals that the United States would defend Taiwan if attacked.
The United States sought to remove Israeli vulnerabilities by repositioning Arab concerns away from Israel onto Iran. Donald Trump realized that the real competition in the Middle East is not Arab versus Israeli but is instead Iran versus Saudi Arabia or rather Shia versus Sunni. The real competition is which group will lead the future of Islam. He worked to normalize relations between Israel and the Arab states and fostered closer military cooperation amongst them. Where necessary, he cooperated with them all, even with Iran to defeat the Islamic State In the Levant (ISIL) and to kill its leader – Al Baghdadi. He stopped paying Iran not to develop nuclear weapons and sanctioned them. He killed Soleimani, the second most powerful leader in Iran and the architect behind much of Iran’s regional maliciousness. When Syria used chemical weapons, he attacked them because they had crossed a redline.
Donald Trump stated that Syria using chemical weapons would be a redline prompting an American military response. When Syria used chemical weapons, Trump attacked them. The Russians support the Syrian Regime. Obviously from before the Trump Presidency even began, Russia loomed largely in the Trump Administration background. As much as the Press vilified Donald Trump as a Putin puppet, as much as his political opponents vilified Trump as having received Russian interference in the 2016 Presidential Election there were several seemingly quiet acts that showed that Donald Trump stood up to Russia.
First, Donald Trump withdrew from the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty. Russia was violating the treaty and China, 95 percent of whose missiles would be banned by the Treaty, were never a signatory to the Treaty. Both China and Russia were developing weapons that would give them a military advantage and put American service members at risk. Continuing to unilaterally adhere to INF Treaty limitations was an American disadvantage. Donald Trump withdrew from the Treaty so that America could develop longer ranged weapons that would lessen risk to U.S. military forces.
Secondly, in order to lessen risks to Ukrainian forces fighting against Russia’s “little green men” in eastern Ukraine, Donald Trump sold offensive weapons to the Ukraine. Previously only smaller caliber defensive weapons had been sold to the Ukrainians which left them outgunned by their Russian enemies. Donald Trump sold weapons that actually killed Russians.
Thirdly, Donald Trump moved weapons and units from Germany and the United States to Poland, Romania, and the three Baltic Republics. He did not reduce U.S. military forces in Europe, he increased and moved them closer to Russia. He did this because our eastern most NATO allies were becoming increasingly concerned with Russia. Despite his issue with NATO member economic competition with the United States, Donald Trump set that competition aside to assure our increasingly worried allies of ironclad U.S. commitment to common defense.
Donald Trump remained committed to defend the Republic of Korea. With his rocket and nuclear tests, Kim Jong Un was nearing redlines with the United States. From the Clinton Presidency to the beginnings of the Trump Presidency, North Korea has been a constant problem. The Departments of Defense’s and Department of State’s answers has always been to increase the pressure. Trump believed that doing more of the same while expecting a different result was simply insane. He believed that he was approaching a point of no return with North Korea.
President Trump was aware that he was the only American with the authority launch weapons of mass destruction that would kill millions of people. The US was going to have to use nuclear weapons to save Seoul from destruction. Trump resolved to meet Kim Jong Un to convey the seriousness behind his threat of “fire and fury”. Though the summits did not result in a conclusive lasting peace, these dialogues and the personal relationship between the two leaders have stopped North Korean nuclear and missile tests for now.
The Judicial System
Now more so than ever before, has an American President had such a consequential effect on the American Judicial System. Through his appointments of justices and judges, Donald Trump had an immediate and lasting consequential effect on the American judicial system. He appointed more than 200 judges to the federal bench, including nearly as many powerful federal appeals court judges in four years as his predecessor Barack Obama appointed in eight. Donald Trump appointed three associate justices to the United States Supreme Court. The three associate justices were appointed due to their political conservativism; however, each of them appears more to be consistently apolitical and balanced with their interpretations of the law.
As a business leader, Donald Trump was a frequent customer of the law. He required permits, licenses, filings, and law suits to succeed. As a customer and user of the law, he knew how important it was to change the face of the courts for the economy. As he became more adroit at politics and mobilizing his own base, he knew how important the courts were to preventing or at least ensuring that required social changes were undertaken in a thoroughly safe method. It was not whether a transgender person should serve in the military, but rather could they safely serve without physically endangering their health or endangering their military colleagues. It was not whether a transgender person should identify as a sex that they were not biological born with, but was it safe for them to use the bathroom of the gender with which they identified? There was also a question of fairness that went beyond safety. Was it fair for a woman born as a man and still anatomically and biologically a man to compete as a woman in competitive sports? It was never that transgender Americans should not have equal rights, but how to ensure that the fulfillment of their rights was fair, equal, and safe for all citizens.
How will American citizens eventually view Donald Trump? It is too soon to tell. Ask today and he will probably be labeled as a one-term loser. Ask again after his second impeachment trial and we may get a different answer. Ask again in four, eight, and more years and there will be further perceptions. Undeniably, Donald Trump was indeed consequential through numerous successes. There are many books to read to understand who Donald Trump really is.