There is a new door-stop of a book on the presidency of Donald Trump by two veteran journalists. It received a warm, fulsome, even gooey, review. The review reveals much about where Democratic thought-leaders stand on the Trump presidency.
“[T]heir low opinion of Trump shines through, occasionally garnished with a soupcon of snark.” For example, “they devote only fleeting attention to Trump’s concrete achievements, of which even critics must concede there were a few. The strength of the pre-Covid economy…is little discussed.” What were the “few” concrete achievements?
Recognizing that China is the major foreign opponent, rather than a tame Panda bear? Plastering China with tariffs and harassing its predatory tech companies in order to get it to moderate its behavior? The Biden administration has maintained that policy.
Recognizing that decades of economic sanctions had done nothing to change North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear weapons and that, just at the end of Obama’s second term, North Korea had acquired ICBMs to run with its nuclear weapons? Trump was willing to talk to the North Korean dictator since nothing else had worked. The Biden administration hasn’t kept talking, but it hasn’t come up with any alternative either.
Recognizing that NATO had become a shell, with few of its members meeting their military commitments because they could just 9-1-1 the US if trouble arose? Recognizing that the malefactor-in-chief here was Germany? The Ukraine War has forced the Europeans to change, although Germany still is dragging its feet. As it is, the US is still bearing most of the burden for military assistance.
Recognizing that there really was a crisis at the Southern border, at least in the eyes of many Americans; and that laws passed by Congress limited the number of immigrants, at least in the eyes of many Americans; and that Presidents took an oath to enforce those laws, at least in the eyes of many Americans? Other than building a wall, the Biden administration kept key Trump policies.
Stopping the flood of regulations that the Obama Administration used to enforce a policy that could pass neither Congress or the courts? Here the Biden administration has broken with the Trump administration. It doesn’t have much choice without a solid majority in Congress.
A major theme of the book by Baker and Glasser is that that many “reasonable” people took ship on a sea of troubles in an effort to harness Trump and they all failed. “Baker and Glasser seem to endorse the view of the Democratic congressman Adam Schiff, who, during the first impeachment, warned Republicans, ‘You will not change him, you cannot constrain him’.” Their intention is probably to show that these people compromised their honor to no purpose.
There’s another way to see this. If the “Axis of Adults” could not change or constrain Donald Trump, then all the “concrete achievements” belong to Donald Trump. For good and ill, he is a far more consequential president that either his predecessor or successor.
Greenberg refers to “the long national fever dream that was the Trump presidency.” Truer words were never spoken, but who is it that was delirious?
 Peter Baker and Susan Glasser, The Divider: Trump in the White House, 2017-2021 (2022).
 David Greenberg, “The Unmanageable President,” NYTBR, 9 October 2022.