November 19, 2022

“To Make America Great and Glorious Again…”

by Hal Gershowitz

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Yes, former President Trump really said that this past Tuesday in announcing his candidacy for the Presidency of the United States. He seemed oblivious that so many of those candidates who share his vision of what makes America Great and Glorious were rejected by the American electorate in the recently completed midterm elections, including Kari Lake, Blake Masters, Doug Mastriano, Mehmet Oz, Sarah Palin, Tudor Dixon, Mark Finchem, Jim Marchant, Don Bolduc, Adam Laxalt, Kristina Karamo, and many others.

But let’s give credit where credit is due. Of course, some of those who share Trump’s vision of what would make America Great and Glorious won their elections, including Ron Johnson, Matt Gaetz, Marjorie Taylor Green, Paul Gosar, Harriet Hageman, Jim Jordan, and other Trumpian Great and Glorious standard bearers.

One of the country’s most closely watched Gubernatorial races was the contest between Katie Hobbs and Kari Lake in Arizona, which Democrat Hobbs won in a tight election. “Arizonans know BS when they see it,” Kari Lake angrily tweeted after the race was called for Katie Hobbs, who led by about 17,000 votes when the counting was done. No doubt Arizona voters do know BS when they see it, but BS is generally in the eye of the beholder.

Assuming Hobb’s win is ultimately certified, Lake’s loss can largely be attributed to rather breathtaking unforced errors. Her snarky on-air response to the question, “will you accept the results of the election?” was a tone-deaf blunder. She answered, “I’m going to win the election, and I will accept that result.” When asked if she would accept the result if her opponent won, she replied with the same, snarky unresponsive answer. To Arizonans who were just recovering from a circus of 2020 election challenges, all of which confirmed Trump’s defeat, Lake’s response greatly diminished her standing as a serious candidate.

Her gratuitous attacks on the late Senator John McCain no doubt pleased former President Trump. Still, they had to have been an astounding turnoff to hundreds of thousands of Arizona Republicans and Independents who admired the former Vietnam veteran and physically abused prisoner of war. It gained her few, if any, supporters and probably cost her tens of thousands of votes.

Lake, meanwhile, wasted no time flying off to Mar-a-Lago, presumably to confer about how best to contest an election in Arizona with the most prolific (but uniformly unsuccessful) election contester in American history. Then again, the Trump ticket for the 2024 presidential run is yet to be determined, so there was probably much about which to confer.

Elsewhere in Arizona, Adrian Fontes quickly dispatched election-denier and January 6th Capitol mob marcher Mark Finchem in the contest for Secretary of State, and Mark Kelly sailed to a comfortable win to secure a full six-year Senate term, defeating election denier Blake Masters.

Virtually all of the Trump-endorsed, election-denying Secretary of State candidates from battleground states lost their bids for office as America signaled it had enough of the stolen election nonsense.

Great and Glorious?

Former President Trump certainly chalked up some noteworthy accomplishments during his one-term presidency, including the repatriation to the United States of trillions of corporate dollars parked in overseas addresses of American companies. He jettisoned many burdensome regulations, moved the American embassy to Jerusalem where it belonged, supported criminal justice reform, and succeeded in achieving the Abraham Accords, which accelerated diplomatic relations between Israel and former rejectionist Arab countries. I felt the Iranian nuclear accord negotiated by the Obama administration was seriously flawed, giving Iran a 10-year glide path to nuclear weaponry.

Nonetheless, the Trump years were anything but Great and Glorious. His was one of the most deliberately divisive presidencies in American history, and it was a carefully curated divisiveness.

While he called every Republican who criticized him a RINO (Republican In Name Only), he was the quintessential RINO. He was a registered Republican in 1987, then became a member of the Reform Party in 1999, became a Democrat in 2001, and then a Republican in 2009. His policies were anything but Republican in nature.

Trump was a vast deficit-spending Republican before COVID became a household word. Traditional Republican spending restraint was nowhere to be found in the Trump White House. His Administration was running near trillion-dollar deficits before the COVID pandemic began. He bragged that he would wipe out the national debt over eight years with Trumpian trade deals, tariffs, and tax cuts that would stimulate the economy. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office projected budget deficits of two to three percent of our GNP during Trump’s four-year term. But Trump was a big-spending Republican, racking up deficits of 4% and 4.6% before COVID.

Trump’s love affair with tariffs raised prices for American consumers while achieving little to nothing beneficial. His tariffs produced an additional $36 billion in revenue over and above the Obama Administration’s final year in office. But those same tariffs so decimated portions of our agricultural sector that a nearly identical amount was needed to keep American farmers from going bankrupt.

In fairness to President Trump, COVID impacted his presidency in ways neither he nor any other president could have controlled. Nonetheless, the differences between his rhetoric and his accomplishments are considerable.

If we define a RINO as a big deficit-spending Republican, then President Trump rates as one of the great RINO’s of all time. Understand this: under President Trump, annual deficit spending skyrocketed before COVID appeared on the world scene. Annual deficits had consistently risen under Trump, going from $585 billion in fiscal 2016 — the last complete budget cycle before Trump’s presidency — to $984 billion in fiscal 2019 before COVID, and the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, again before COVID, projected a 2020 budget deficit of $1trillion.

Assessments of the Trump presidency will be diced and sliced for years to come, as will assessments of the Obama presidency, which preceded it, and the Biden presidency, which has succeeded it. There were some significant pluses and some notable minuses, as there are with all presidencies. The Trump presidency was, however, deliberately and dangerously divisive.

Grand and glorious, it was not.

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