“I was mad at him but now I want him back.” That has all the makings of a love song or a Sex and the City storyline. Trump is that bad boyfriend who’s been caught cheating, and those of us cheering him on are the clueless battered girlfriends, physically and/or emotionally abused but too weak to leave him for good, right? Sure, that would make great fodder for those who get their news from the same playbook – you know, the one that spews purportedly clever lines like Trump’s supporters are idolaters worshipping a “golden Trump calf.”
Now that we’ve gotten the one-liners out of the way, there isn’t much need for me to rehash why I’ve spent the better part of the last three months in this column strongly criticizing Trump for his actions roughly from Election Day to Inauguration Day. But just in case anyone missed it, here’s a recap: unlike during his February 28 keynote speech at the Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC) annual conference, when he defined ‘cheating’ as governors changing electoral procedural laws unilaterally without the consent – and in some cases despite the overt objection – of those respective state legislatures, Trump repeatedly spent the weeks following the November election tweeting incessantly that it was ‘rigged’ and that the Democrats had ‘stolen it.’ The difference is striking: to opine about factual executive overreach is perfectly reasonable, whereas to embrace straw-grasping unfounded conspiracy theories about election outcome-changing ballot dumping and calibrated machines is not. Next, there was Trump’s repeated bullying of his eminently loyal vice president, Mike Pence, to singlehandedly reject the electors that some states submitted to Congress for certification. A far worse prospect than a Biden presidency would be one where the vice president is the presidential kingmaker. I ask the anti-Pence contingent to imagine that in 2024 Trump makes a spectacular return (more on that later), with governors Ron DeSantis (FL) or Kristi Noem (SD) as his running mate, and they soundly defeat the Democratic ticket of Kamala Harris and, say, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, but the electors in several states where the Trump ticket won are declared invalid by the sitting vice president, who happens to be the Democratic presidential candidate, to boot!
Next, after the January 6 Capitol invasion – which was a despicable act of treasonous domestic terrorism, but neither an ‘insurrection’ nor an act that Trump ‘incited’ – Trump was both tardy and aloof in his condemnation of it. Finally, Trump’s refusal to attend Biden’s inauguration – whatever the explanation, if there even was one – was petty and selfish in its disregard for one of the greatest traditions that makes America so great.
I thought all that was bad enough to issue Trump a fourth year grade of C Minus (TNH, Feb. 6), a stark plummet from the A Minus I had given him the year before. But never did I regret having voted for Trump over Joe Biden, and now that we are a month-and-a-half into the latter’s presidency, I’m beginning to miss Trump quite a bit.
Oh, I don’t miss the tweets. In fact, outside of the very principle of censorship – even if legal because Twitter is a private company – I’m thrilled about not having to get worked up by incessant tweets designed to enrage me and cause me to steer that anger toward whomever is the object of Trump’s disdain, or to feel compelled to defend such tweets from the unfair, out-of-context treatment they receive in much of the mainstream media. What I do miss is the Keystone Pipeline. And the wall. And the fact that PHIs (persons here illegally) were not caught and then swiftly released. I miss the restriction on our utility companies to use equipment manufactured in China. And the restrictions on refugees. I miss that entering the United States illegally was not in danger of being downgraded to a civil wrong. I miss a presidential press secretary who, although a bit too defensive and combative, was sharp as a tack and didn’t need to “circle back” at a later date, and certainly didn’t mock our Space Force, apparently not realizing that it is a 100% genuine component of the U.S. military.
I don’t miss the media being called ‘Fake News’ because what’s fake are stories peddled on rogue websites, not major news outlets. The Washington Post, for example, would never write a wild claim that, say, Trump spent 10 years as a leader of a notorious Neo-Nazi group, but it would – and did – mislead the public into thinking that Trump made a blanket statement that Mexicans are rapists and criminals, that he made fun of a reporter’s disability, that he said white supremacists are “very fine people,” that he issued a Muslim ban, and a host of other outright lies and/or out-of-context half-truths that I debunked in my book Trumped-Up Charges!. But, I do miss that in his distinctively coarse way, Trump did raise social consciousness about media malpractice.
In short, I miss that on three issues I consider most critical to our mid- and long-term future – media integrity, freedom from political overcorrectness, and preventing illegal entry and stay – which along with America not being suckered into bad trade deals and endless wars, and companies not being choked by regulations are the hallmarks of Trumpism, we were headed in the right direction and now we are regressing.
I have never disrespected a sitting president and I’m not about to start now. Biden is my president, and I won’t dishonor him. But I will criticize him – and strongly – when I think such criticism is warranted. It is far, far too early to tell, but I fear he’s going to give Jimmy Carter a run for his money at being the weakest and least effective president of my lifetime.
The CPAC conference was telling insofar as there is a cavalcade of would-be successors to commandeer Trumpism, but none nearly as effective as Trump himself. That’s why I miss him, and I want him back.