“Donald Trump is a terrible person.”—Mick Mulvaney. Agreed. I voted against him the last time and I plan to vote against him the next time. (Unless Elizabeth Warren is the Democratic nominee. I don’t care to have my hard-earned retirement savings destroyed.)
Donald Trump was right to confront China in a forceful way over its trade practices. Some Americans had suffered from those practices for many years. Many of them lost jobs. No one else cared very much. “Capitalism is creative destruction. Lump it.” It’s ludicrous now to say that Trump’s tariff policies are illegitimate because they are forcing up prices of some consumer goods. Lump it.
Donald Trump was right to open negotiations with North Korea over the nuclear weapons issue, and he was right to meet with Kim Jong-loon. Severe economic sanctions have been imposed on North Korea for a long time without any sign that they of forcing North Korea to abandon its nuclear programs. If we’re willing to negotiate with Iran over its nuclear weapons program, then why shouldn’t we negotiate with North Korea? Franklin D. Roosevelt met with Joseph Stalin and Richard Nixon met with Mao Zedong. Why shouldn’t Donald Trump meet with an arguably less evil and less insane foreign leader?
Donald Trump was right to support cutting the corporate tax. The American tax was much higher than international norms. It deterred foreign companies from investing in America and it encouraged American companies to keep their foreign earnings over-seas, where they paid a lower tax rate.
Donald Trump is right to try to end the “endless wars” and to avoid becoming involved in new ones. The invasion of Afghanistan had to take place. It was the only fast way of getting hold of Osama bin Laden in revenge for 9/11. Having missed our punch in 2003-2004, the United States made the fatal error of staying in Afghanistan in hopes of transforming a primitive society into a modern democracy. Endless disaster have followed. Nothing—Nothing–can justify the attack on Iraq in 2003, let alone the botched occupation policy that followed. A long chain of human and foreign policy disasters have unspooled from that crime a decade and a half ago.
Recognizing the destructive futility of these wars, President Barack Obama claimed he wanted to get out of them. He did reduce the American presence in Afghanistan—over the resistance of the Pentagon—but he didn’t end American participation in a war that the Taliban is fated to win. President Obama did manage to end the American military presence in Iraq. He then allowed the country to be partially sucked back in to prevent Iran—our “enemy” in all things other than the nuclear agreement—from crushing ISIS and expanding its influence. President Obama, at the price of considerable personal humiliation, managed to keep the United States from being drawn directly into the Syrian civil war.
Donald Trump has done some important things right. Yes, he’s done them in a ham-handed way. He has done them in violation of long-standing policies, bureaucratic procedures, and norms. Those policies, procedures, and norms were the very things that got the country into these messes in the first place.
Even if he is impeached, it is unlikely that Trump’s successors will reverse course. They’ll just try to break less china while criticizing Trump as a terrible person.