"I'm a One-Termer! I'm a Jimmy Carter!"
-- tears shed by Dana Carvey on SNL while performing as Bush the Elder back in 1992, although he probably expressed the shame the real-life Bush felt.
David Frum, attempting to take the high road to speak of trump's doomed one-term Presidency, compared trump to the recent history of other one-termers who achieved more effective and long-lasting policy goals:
In his single term as president, George H. W. Bush negotiated the peaceful reunification of Germany. He liberated Kuwait while losing few American lives. He signed legislation to end acid rain. He did a budget deal that reduced federal deficits, enacted the Americans With Disabilities Act, and successfully resolved the collapse of the savings-and-loan industry.
Jimmy Carter, in his one term, deregulated passenger aviation. He updated the regulation of rail freight, shipping, and trucking, laying the foundation for America’s modern delivery system. He negotiated the Camp David Accords, ending belligerency between Egypt and Israel. He avoided a major crisis in Central America with his Panama Canal Treaty.
William Howard Taft also achieved much in his one term as president. It was his Department of Justice that busted the Standard Oil monopoly. Taft forcefully advocated a central bank for the United States, although that project was not completed until the year after he lost the presidency to Woodrow Wilson. Taft urged free trade with Canada and negotiated the treaty that ended a century of rancorous North American waterway disputes.
To say the least, Donald Trump is not a president in the league of Bush, Carter, or even Taft. Few presidents have left office with so little accomplished, impeached and disgraced. Trump took a lot of credit for the economic growth of his first three years, but the economy was already growing strongly when he took office. Pick a measure, almost any measure, and the trajectory of his first three years was identical to that of Barack Obama’s final three years: unemployment, manufacturing, wages, you name it. And whereas Obama passed a successful economy to Trump, Trump bequeaths a wreck to his successor...
Frum does list a number of policy "successes" but a number of them - the prohibition on vaping, for example - would have been minor moments in any other administration that would have garnered a mere page of mention in any historian's book. He also cites things like "normalization in the Middle East" as part of a peace process that still hasn't seen serious dividends for the region or the world, and in fact highlighted corrupt actions by trump and his family that in other respects should be viewed as scandals. None of it has pacified the nations still at war with each other, nor have they resolved the key dilemma of the fight between Israel and Palestine for a Palestinian homeland.
Frum also viewed trump's actions revising our immigration and asylum practices as effective reforms, without recognizing the chaos and cruelty those revisions actually created. That's not even going into the cruelty of the family separations he let happen on his watch, allowing ICE to become an out-of-control police force causing harm to our reputation and national soul.
The appeal of the Space Force that trump created - the forward-looking idea of creating a real-life Starfleet - is dimmed by the reality that trump expanded the military bureaucracy into a program that currently has little real-world applicability and will likely turn into a bloated money pit making the out-of-control spending of the Defense Department even worse. It doesn't help that the look and style of trump's Space Force have Trekkies mocking them for tone-deafness and/or tastelessness.
What Frum ignores during his "damned with faint praise" review of trump's administration are the overt acts of sabotage and damage to the federalism model of our nation's government, the weakening of our country's ability to respond to disasters - especially the ongoing nightmare of the COVID pandemic - and the absentee leadership that created a void for four years that can take a decade for this country to recover from.
If there is anything positive about donald trump's time in the Oval Office pretending to be our nation's
President Loser of the Popular Vote, it is that trump exposed all the flaws and breaking points in our government's system of checks and balances.
trump broke every norm in the books. If not actual laws - such as the ones regarding Emoluments violations or the Hatch Act needed to separate the Presidential office from the politics of campaigning - then he broke the gestures of good will and unity that the Presidency is supposed to perform. trump exposed the reality that much of our government's ability to work relies a lot on Good Faith behavior between groups and factions, not necessarily bipartisanship but at least cooperation.
Without that Good Faith, a lot of what our government could do stopped happening. Even when trump had a receptive and willing Republican-controlled Congress, he would balk, he would whine, he would self-immolate, he would accuse and deny, he would refuse to set agendas, leaving the work to Congressional leaders who needed to coordinate with the Executive branch to stay on message and achieve their goals. Aside from the massive tax cut law trump signed, there wasn't any other major legislative act worth noting. The GOP attempt to nuke Obamacare for example kept running into either interference from trump or inertia without trump's input.
Nearly everything trump did - and did not do - in office highlighted areas where major reform is needed - there's a link to that CREW article released this month detailing where trump committed ethical breaches that need fixing - and would otherwise have gone unmentioned under any other President's administration. It takes a crook to show you where the security flaws exist in your bank. It takes a demolitions expert to point out where your bridge is most vulnerable.
It took a Shitgibbon to make us see how dangerous a terrible and corrupt con artist will be when given power.
This is what history will note. The judgment that trump deserves.
The worst crook who ever lived, serving as the worst President the United States ever saw.