It’s a day ending in a y, so CNN is once again in high dudgeon over Donald Trump’s appalling, dictatorial, megalomaniacal, proto-fascist misrule, noting with outrage and indignation that all we hold dear is threatened, for “on Sunday night, President Donald Trump tweeted out a picture of himself standing in front of Mount Rushmore — an image that made him look as though he was the fifth presidential bust on the iconic monument.” Even worse, “he tweeted out a sort-of denial of a New York Times report that he had spoken with South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem about the possibility of adding his own visage to those of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln.”
Even after three years, CNN’s writers don’t know when Trump is winding them up, but actually adding him to Mount Rushmore is not a bad idea at all. After all, Mount Rushmore is supposed to celebrate presidents who are American heroes. Rating America’s Presidents: An America-First Look at Who Is Best, Who Is Overrated, and Who Was An Absolute Disaster evaluates the presidents on the only basis upon which they ever should be evaluated: were they good for America and Americans? On that scale, Trump has a very good record indeed.
In his inaugural address, Trump announced that “today we are not merely transferring power from one Administration to another, or from one party to another—but we are transferring power from Washington, D.C., and giving it back to you, the American People. For too long, a small group in our nation’s capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost. Washington flourished—but the people did not share in its wealth. Politicians prospered— but the jobs left, and the factories closed. The establishment protected itself, but not the citizens of our country. … That all changes—starting right here, and right now, because this moment is your moment: it belongs to you.”
But the guardians and beneficiaries of the old order were not going to give way easily. Most Americans assumed that when Trump became president, he would be able to implement his own agenda insofar as he could secure the cooperation of Congress, as other presidents had done. But Trump encountered an entrenched coterie of bureaucrats at all levels who were determined to thwart his every move. While the media dismissed talk of a “deep state” as a conspiracy theory, the New York Times admitted its existence on September 5, 2018, when it published an anonymous op-ed that proclaimed, “I work for the president but like-minded colleagues and I have vowed to thwart parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations.”
If Trump had not been elected, the deep state still would have been operating, but its existence would not be known. Now it is out in the open, and the battle for America is on. Trump’s supposedly “worst inclinations” involved defending America and putting it back on its feet. In June 2016, Obama ridiculed Trump’s pledge to attract U.S. companies that had moved out of the country back to the United States, sneering, “What magic wand do you have?” Trump’s magic wand was an unprecedented initiative to cut regulations on businesses and drastically lower taxes. It began to work immediately. In 2019, unemployment was at 3.5 percent, the lowest it had been since 1968. The Trump administration also set record lows for unemployment among blacks and Hispanics and record highs for the stock market.
The Trump-era economy boomed until the coronavirus pandemic wiped out the gains that had been made; it began rebounding quickly, however, and there was no doubt that it would have been even weaker still had the steps Trump took to get it going again not been taken in the first place.
The coronavirus crisis was in many ways a vindication of points Trump had been making for years, including his repeated assertion that China (where the virus originated) was no friend of the United States and constituted an economic threat—not an ally. Trump and George Washington were proven correct about avoiding foreign entanglements: the nation was unwise to outsource so much of its manufacturing to the People’s Republic or to any other foreign country. The crisis showed that Trump was also correct that strong border controls were essential for national security, as one of his earliest responses to the crisis was to restrict travel from China to the United States, for which the Democrats, predictably focused on destroying his presidency and not on what was best for Americans, charged him with “racism.”
The coronavirus crisis demonstrated anew why Trump is a great president: once again, because he puts America first. After a long line of internationalists occupied the White House since 1933, with the sole and partial exception of Ronald Reagan, Trump unashamedly made America first, a principle that had been discredited as “isolationist” since the bombing of Pearl Harbor, not just a slogan, but the cornerstone of his administration. This should have been taken for granted: putting America first is actually the central duty of the president, as encapsulated in his oath of office, in which he solemnly swears to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
In line with that oath, Trump withdrew the U.S. from the Iran nuclear deal that weakened the country internationally. His multitude of critics responded with claims that the deal was working, that Iran was more peaceful than it had been, and that it was rejoining the family of nations. These claims were not true and they never had been true. The deal had just been concluded when the Islamic Republic’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, reaffirmed his nation’s hostility toward the U.S.: “Even after this deal our policy towards the arrogant U.S. will not change.” Two days later, Khamenei said in a speech, “According to Qur’anic principles, fighting against arrogance and global imperialism is never-ending and today, America is the very epitome of arrogance.”
Trump placed new sanctions on Iran that immediately began to have an effect: as the Iranian economy suffered, the Iranian people increasingly turned against the regime, and there were demonstrations all over the country.
Rating America’s Presidents details a great deal more that Trump has accomplished. He became president when the nation had lost its way. He made herculean efforts to bring it back to what the Founding Fathers had intended it to be: a bastion of freedom.
As Trump said: “I never forget that I am not President of the world, I am President of the United States of America. We reject globalism and we embrace patriotism. We believe that every American citizen, no matter their background, deserves a government that is loyal to them. The Democrat Party and the extreme radical left are trying to abolish the distinction between citizens and non-citizens.”
Indeed. But it is, or ought to be, simple common sense: every head of government the world over should make his or her top priority the protection and strengthening of his or her own nation, not the interests of some other nation or group of nations.
Trump is not a great president solely for restoring this principle. He also inherited from Obama an economy that was worse off than it had been since the Great Depression, with spiraling unemployment, rapidly expanding welfare rolls, and job growth at record lows. Trump immediately began to turn the economy around, overseeing an unprecedented rise in the stock market, record growth in wages, and decreases in unemployment to levels not seen in nearly fifty years.
Trump also did all he could to protect American citizens from a tidal wave of illegal, unvetted immigrants that threatened the American economy and the safety of American citizens. In this, however, he encountered fierce resistance from a cadre of bureaucrats and judges appointed by Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, who challenged his attempts to put America first at every turn.
Trump vowed during his campaign to Make America Great Again—a slogan that the Democrats tried to portray as racist and hateful. Even as he faced vociferous and relentless opposition from a supposedly objective mass media and unremitting hostility from the allegedly loyal opposition, Donald Trump made good on that promise.
He became president when internationalism and the steady decline of America were taken for granted. In three years, Donald J. Trump, against extraordinary odds, turned that around, and in doing so, became nothing less than one of the greatest presidents in American history. After a long string of internationalist mediocrities, the presidency was once again occupied by a man who put America first.
Put him on Rushmore.
Robert Spencer is the director of Jihad Watch and a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center. He is author of 21 books, including the New York Times bestsellers The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) and The Truth About Muhammad. His latest book is Rating America’s Presidents: An America-First Look at Who Is Best, Who Is Overrated, and Who Was An Absolute Disaster. Follow him on Twitter here. Like him on Facebook here.