One year ago, just days before Donald Trump’s inauguration, I wrote that his reign would neither be as bad as many feared nor as good as some predicted.
One year later, days before President Trump’s first anniversary, I’m revisiting that position.
In January 2017, which seems like 10 years ago, my not-so-bad/not-so-good argument was based on a belief that few things in life (and fewer in politics) are ever as bad or as good as they seem.
I felt safe projecting an assessment absent evidence.
We didn’t go to war. The economy roared. Unemployment dropped. There were gains against ISIS. And, even if its eventual impact remains a question, tax reform was enacted.
Big-picture-wise, pretty good; maybe better than predicted.
But, last year, I also wrote this: We’re a nation of greatness and woes, a double-helix of progress and problems, with many of the latter linked to racial, gender, educational, and economic injustice.
For me, that’s the measure of an elected leader: How does he or she address injustice?
It’s imprecise, I know. It doesn’t lend itself to tweets of the day, or demonizing the press, or honoring the memory of Martin Luther King by playing golf at Mar-a-Lago.
It’s also apart from the drumbeat of dreck, from the “largest” inaugural crowd ever, through 2,000-plus “false or misleading” Trump claims — according to a Washington Post analysis — which, sadly, is now an accepted norm.
All that’s annoying. But, in large part, merely distracting.
What I’m referring to is how a leader embraces basic ideals, and displays them to the world. In that, Trump’s as bad (or worse) than expected.
Why? Because a core strength of the nation is pursuit of the principles that all people are equal and valued, with rights to justice at every level of society.
These are principles government leaders should endlessly push and promote.
What Trump’s done, with disturbing regularity, is ignore them, while denigrating whole classes of people, even entire nations.
“Shithole countries”? Really? From a president?
Let’s set aside his juvenile name-calling of those who challenge or don’t share his views. Set aside what lesson that conveys to children, what green light it flashes to those inclined to think as he does. Set them aside because no one expected a President Trump to serve as a symbol of civility.
But devaluing groups of fellow Americans or backing bigots is wholly different.
A few examples from year one: He called for banning transgendered people from serving in the military – “in any capacity”; at a White House ceremony honoring Native American World War II vets, he flaunted his nickname for Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren (“They call her Pocahontas)”; after a rally of white supremacists and nationalists led to clashes, violence, and death in Charlottesville, he said there were “very fine people” on both sides.
These are things a president should condemn. This president owns them.
I get the stock-market records. I understand business loves tax cuts and deregulation. I know folks who focus on their investments and retirement funds and care not at all about Trump’s behavior.
But there’s more to representing a people, to governing a nation (and to being a citizen) than money. If, that is, American values, fairness, and decency persist.
Trump’s year two holds ongoing challenges: North Korea, the “phony” Russia probe, and fallout from whatever happens with immigration issues.
There’s no way to tell what’s ahead, especially with this president.
And although, for many, Trump means nothing to day-to-day life, I have a hopeful sense that it matters to most who a president is, how a president acts.
The week Trump took office, Gallup had his disapproval rating at 45 percent. This week it’s at 57 percent. We’ll see where it is one year from now.