Monday, March 8th 2021   |

OP-ED: A failed and flawed president

By ALAN SMASON

Four years ago on Inauguration Day, I wrote a heartfelt open letter to the incoming 45th President of the United States. I noted the aura of celebrity that surrounded him and that many Americans were dismayed to know he was now the leader of the Free World and Commander-in-Chief of our armed forces. On behalf of the nation of disenfranchised, I wrote:

Our hope is that he will grow into the presidency and that he will give up some of the petulance that has marked his campaign and his transition. All presidents should be aware that their every action is recorded for all time and that every decision they make will be examined under the lens of scrutiny by future generations.

I reflected on the legacy of outgoing President Barack Obama and looked to his successes and his failures. I noted a chilling of relations between the U.S. and Israel. If there is one great accomplishment of the Trump presidency, it will be the bridging of the gulf between America and the Jewish State and to advance the cause of peace in the Middle East with the normalization in relations between Israel and four of her former enemies, to wit, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco.

Even though the United States had recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel for decades, its embassy had long been established in Tel Aviv. This was done as a bargaining chip and as a diplomatic solution in order to avoid upsetting and ameliorate anxious Palestinians and Israel’s Arab neighbors. Under the Trump presidency, the United States moved its embassy to Jerusalem and exercised bold moves that brought about a strengthening of Israel’s position in the region and achieved movement in a previous stalemate towards comity in the region for the first time in more than a quarter of a century. 

While President Trump will be remembered as having been a beacon of support for Israel, his other actions on the world stage were not nearly so laudable. His meetings with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un were laughable. His withdrawal as an important signatory to the Paris Agreement created friction among major world leaders seeking to improve the quality of life on our planet and to stem the tide of pollution through cooperation between nations. 

Under the Trump presidency, we challenged both China and Russia on several fronts. We found, much to our dismay, that Chinese tariffs largely hurt American interests and drove up the costs of domestic goods and that a power vacuum we left behind in some countries was largely replaced by Vladimir Putin and his Russian cronies. U.S.-Ukrainian relations also suffered under a Trump presidency.

While Iran was largely contained by freezing its funds and squeezing the export of Western technology, its nuclear program has geared up again due in no small part to Trump’s demand that the U.S. withdraw from the Obama-brokered nuclear agreement.

By insisting on building a wall with our southern neighbor, Trump tapped a reservoir of hate and prejudice that increased his stock among conservatives and White supremacists. His ban of travel to Muslim countries, likewise, fueled intolerance from islamophobic religious groups and groomed resentment in the Arab world and throughout Africa. His reference to African nations as “s**thole countries” did little to raise his value as a world leader on that continent.

While the Trump administration continued the work begun by the Obama administration of fighting Daesh and eventually bringing about the demise of what once was referred to as the Islamic State, the continued support of the Syrian government and Bashar al-Assad in its civil war meant the displacement of millions of its people and a further destabilization in the region, allowing thousands of its people to be slaughtered.

I continued four years ago:

As the dawn of a new presidency greets us, let us all hope that when this incoming administration is remembered in the past that it shall share a measure of the same kind of respect now enjoyed by the Obamas and the Bidens. Yes, there are those who are delighted that today is their last day in office, but the ax swings both ways. Four years or eight years from now, will we be feeling as secure? Time will tell.

While there were a few positive items on the Trump side of the ledger, most of the entries bred a lack of confidence in Trump’s abilities personally and in the United States as a trusted ally in general. It will take much of President Biden’s first four years to undo what his predecessor has wrought. 

But the biggest failure of the Trump administration was his lack of presidential bearing and his not reaching out across the aisle to find backing from Americans who were not a part of his base of support. He continued to debase and demonize Democrats throughout his term of office. His final insult to the American people was the ill-advised insurrection on January 6, 2021 at which he gleefully sent thousands of his supporters – many from White supremacist and hate groups – off to the Capitol, where they sacked and pillaged the grand citadel of democracy and brought about the deaths of five citizens, shaking the faith of patriotic Americans to the core.

My advice four years ago:

If Donald Trump wants to truly make America great again, he needs to bring us all together with vision and statesmanship, not rhetoric and grandstanding. Mr. President, millions of Americans are keeping their minds open. They want you to be presidential and lead, not react. We need more laws passed to protect us and less mean-spirited tweets on Twitter that make you feel better.

Clearly, he did not pay heed to my request or that of millions of Americans who were willing to give him a chance. To those of you who predicted we would lose face on the world stage and that we would suffer from a climate of hate as he embraced the former ludicrous elements of the Tea Party through his champion and advisor Steve Bannon and his Breitbart cohorts, I stand corrected. 

You were right to be suspicious and leery of his intentions. This presidency was a joke. With few exceptions such as the stock market, we are not better off today than we were at the end of the Obama administration. 

Like the Pied Piper of Hamlin, President Trump played his flute and his cohorts in Congress and the rabble of his constituency followed him like the rats and vermin in the fairy tale. The seditious acts of January 6 – punctuated with the stench of hate groups he promoted and elevated – will linger in the air well beyond the expiration date of this presidency. It will take many years to remove the stink from the office of the President and to scrub away the painful memory of the legacy he leaves behind.

If only he had heeded the wishes of a hopeful nation rather than stoked the ashes of mistrust and hate. He failed to learn from history and so his horrible record will become our own collectively flawed history.

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