As every American knows, the overarching theme of the baby boomer who now lives in the White House is, “Make America Great Again.” But BoomerCafé’s co-founder and executive editor Greg Dobbs, a longtime correspondent for two television networks who covered presidential politics over the years, has a Boomer Opinion about the question, Is President Trump Really Making America Great Again?
Those still seduced by Donald J. Trump just can’t stand it when the rest of us fail to see how he is Making America Great Again.
I know firsthand. Because after every column I write that is critical of the President, they tell me how blind I am. After a column last week asking why Trump trashes our allies but exalts our adversaries, one reader commented, “When a real manager comes in after decades of incompetence, corruption, and inefficiency, he or she faces a maelstrom of opposition and resentment when he or she begins to put the system back in place and running smoothly.” Another defended the President’s performance at the strained summit of the G7 in Canada, emailing, “After WW2 we saved Europe with the Marshal (sic) Plan and helped them rebuild, now 73 years later we’re still protecting and paying for their military protection and their failed socialist societies.” He ended his defense simply saying, “THANK YOU D J TRUMP, President of the United States.”
But here’s the thing: the reason we can’t see what the President’s protectors see is because there’s very little if anything actually there.
Here at home, is he Making America Great Again when he relieves regulations designed to keep our air and our water safe? Is he Making America Great Again when he gives banks a break that could lead us right back to the recession out of which we recently climbed? Is he Making America Great Again when he impels legislation that grows our national debt? Is he Making America Great Again when he revokes health care options with which most Americans were briefly blessed? Is he Making America Great Again when he triggers trade wars that could cost us more than they strengthen us?
True, there are persuasive economic arguments in favor of the President’s policies, but in the bigger picture, the answer in every case is no.
Overseas, did President Trump Make America Great Again when he showed up at the summit in Singapore? From the standpoint of defusing the tension, plainly he did and thank goodness, but what kind of accomplishment is it when you merely defuse the tension that you yourself created? “Everyone can now feel much safer than the day I took office,” Trump tweeted when he got home, “There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea.” Sorry Mr. President, we were actually much safer the day before you took office. With your rash rhetoric about “Little Rocket Man” and “fire and fury” and your own “much bigger” nuclear button, you had us genuinely worried about war (remember Hawaii’s nuclear alert earlier this year) before you brought us down. And the nuclear threat has not melted away. Not until Kim’s nuclear weapons do.
For that matter, is President Trump Making America Great Again when he announces (to almost everyone’s surprise) that the U.S. will suspend military exercises— aka war games— with South Korea? Definitely not, not if we do have to fight a war with the North after all but our troops and the South’s troops are not coordinated, not well prepared. And is he Making America Great Again if he ends the missions of America’s nuclear-armed B-52s because “I know a lot about airplanes, it’s very expensive?” No he’s not, because while he might know a lot about airplanes, he doesn’t seem to know squat about defense, and about even just the symbolism of America’s commitments to its allies.
On the other side of the world, is Trump Making America Great Again when he calls Canada, a close ally, “weak” and “dishonest”— a loyal ally that has joined America in virtually every war for a hundred years? As columnist Tom Friedman put it, “What country wouldn’t want Canada as its neighbor?” Apparently us, in the playbook of Donald J. Trump. And just to put icing on the cake, Trump’s chief trade advisor Peter Navarro said after the G7, “There’s a special place in hell for any foreign leader that engages in bad faith diplomacy with President Donald J. Trump.” What happens next time we need good faith diplomacy from Canada, or any other ally? What happens when we need joint counterterrorism exercises, or heightened attention to human rights? Does the President’s brash behavior, and his advisor’s, ensure more cooperation, or less?
And is Donald Trump Making America Great Again when he goes to war not just with the major crime-fighting institutions in the nation, compromising their credibility with many Americans, but also with journalists, characterizing members of the media in a tweet last week as “Our Country’s biggest enemy?” Forget Iran and its aggressive Islamic revolution, forget Russia and its aggressive cyberattacks on our democracy, forget China and its aggressive agenda to surpass the American economy and supersede the American military. And by the way, forget North Korea, which so far has only put pen to paper, that paper being shamefully short on specifics. Trump’s tweet accused “the Fake News” of “fighting hard to downplay the deal with North Korea.” What he conveniently ignores is, there’s still no deal to downplay. One might yet come and we can all hope it does, but so far, it’s not even close to the very deals previous presidents thought they had struck with North Korea, which Trump has stridently denounced.
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I’d tell Donald Trump what I’ve told critics of the media ever since the days of Richard Nixon when I covered Watergate: the media can’t make you look like a liar, it can’t make you look like a bully, it can’t make you look like an authoritarian, it can’t even make you look like a cheating husband, without your help.
Instead of Making America Great Again, President Trump is making America, and Americans, estranged again. Estranged from our friends, estranged from one another. And having set that tone since the day he announced his candidacy for the Oval Office, Trump’s underlings are taking estrangement to frightening new levels.
That even includes Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, an otherwise smart man who worked hard to make Singapore happen. But when a reporter asked him about verification of North Korean denuclearization, Pompeo responded, “I find that question insulting and ridiculous and, frankly, ludicrous.” Ludicrous, asking for details that Trump and Pompeo and others had promised before the summit but didn’t deliver? Apparently any reporter who questions the veracity of this administration is fair game. Trump’s 2020 campaign manager even called for the credentials of a CNN correspondent to be revoked, because during the signing ceremony, this correspondent asked the question, “Mr. President, did we agree to denuclearize?” When Team Trump treats this nation like a dictatorship, not a democracy, they’re certainly not Making America Great Again.
And that, for you who still think Donald Trump is Making America Great Again, is why he isn’t.
Greg’s book about the wacky ways of a foreign correspondent, Life in the Wrong Lane, is available from Amazon.