News & Politics

Where Trump Went Wrong

AP Photo/Seth Wenig

Back in August 2020, Trump declared correctly that Kyle Rittenhouse appeared to have acted in self-defense. Media reports suggested it was yet another of his irresponsible statements. In fact, Trump was right about Rittenhouse, as he was right about most things — but, alas, wrong about a number of significant issues.

Donald Trump may have been a controversial personality during his tenure in the White House, but he was on balance a great president in the mold of Andrew Jackson, Teddy Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan. He was beholden to no one, had extensive and successful business practice, and understood the productive base and beneficial trade agreements that underwrite a vibrant economy. But he made two fundamental errors of judgment.

First, it appears in retrospect that he did not recognize how deep the Deep State was and how fetid and vast the political swamp. To his credit, he made a heroic effort to “drain the swamp” but managed only to filter out the surface scum. His adversaries were legion and merciless. One thinks of the Lizard people from the hit miniseries V who were able to take on human form, shape-shifters par excellence who now proliferate at every turn in the corridors of power. The legacy political class is densely populated by these subversive, corrupt and avaricious changelings. Even Mr. Smith who went to Washington in his principled quest for probity and honor would have failed had not his benefactor providentially suffered a crisis of conscience. The odds were always against Trump and one cannot entirely fault him for the disaster. The unequal terms of the battle were largely to blame for the fiasco. One David pitting his courage against an army of Goliaths would eventually run out of pebbles.

But one wonders if Trump had acted more decisively, had used the instrument of Executive Action more effectively, had been more suspicious of his putative allies and less concerned with legislative decorum, had fully realized that the Left was not a political consortium or Party but a dedicated enemy more dangerous to the integrity of the nation than North Korea, Iran and Communist China put together, and had acted as Lincoln did in a time no less fraught than the present — one wonders if the outcome might have been different.

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Perhaps this was too much to expect of a single individual, especially a president who had almost every news outlet, digital platform, congressional majority, administrative cohort, woke mob and federal agency poised to overthrow him. I suspect that Trump did not quite understand that he was no longer a player in the business world where certain rules apply but a protagonist in a political inferno where there are no rules, and, in short, did not realize the enormity of the eruption that was gathering its force against him. Perhaps the result would have been the same had he acted more precipitously to confront the challenge that would cost him a legitimate presidency—but perhaps not.

Secondly, Trump was the prime mover of Operation Warp Speed, a project to produce and rush the COVID-19 vaccines to market in record time. “That means big and it means fast,” Trump said, “A massive scientific and industrial, logistic endeavor unlike anything our country has seen since the Manhattan Project.” The issue is obviously complicated, involving internal disputes, competing claims for credit, persistent backbiting, the facepalming of the president by his own people, and the dubious input from medical personnel (also members of the swamp), but Trump fully believed, no doubt spurred by medical counsel from his own trusted specialists, that Big Pharma was the answer to the pandemic. Trump did, in fact, suggest the effectiveness of a therapeutic drug like Hydroxychloroquine, but unwisely relented after a disingenuous and adverse media and medical barrage against its use.

The dilemma and confusion we are experiencing today, the mask mandates and lockdowns, the conflicting results from the vaccines, the breakthroughs and variants, the collapse of the economy, the institution of vaxxports, and the profound and destabilizing divisions among the public are owing at least in part to Trump’s untutored enthusiasm for a solution that is clearly problematic and that has polarized an entire country. Again, Trump was not wholly at fault for the debacle. His intentions were good, he was often misadvised by those he trusted, and he certainly did not have the leisure for independent research or consultation with the best and most reputable epidemiologists in the collegiate forum. Nevertheless, it was a failure of perception and a lapse of due diligence to which we conceivably owe the traumatic situation in which we now find ourselves.

As every honest bio-specialist knows, it is inadvisable, indeed, it is arguably dangerous, to “warp speed” a vaccine, especially one that relies, in its current targeted application, on an unprecedented form of gene therapy. Reliable vaccines require five to twelve years of longitudinal trials and mRNA vaccines are not really vaccines in the usual sense of the term but genetic delivery systems. Trump should have known this — or at least, might have been aware of the devil in the details had he not placed his confidence in medical bureaucrats like Drs. Anthony Fauci and Deborah Birx. Suspicion, not trust, was the proper attitude to adopt, despite the sense of overwhelming crisis.

In every other respect, Trump was an efficient and dedicated commander in-chief. Trump shines compared to Obama, who steered the nation on a path to self-destruction, hollowing out the Constitution, weaponized the government against a sector of the citizenship, and made a total shambles of foreign affairs. The contrast with the administration of Joe Biden could not be more dramatic. Biden brings to mind a cutting rejoinder by theoretical physicist Wolfgang Pauli swatting down a technical paper from another physicist with the remark: “This isn’t right; it’s not even wrong.” Biden’s utterly abysmal performance is so bad that it’s not even bad.

Trump, however, is feisty, resilient and immensely capable. He would now, presumably, have a better measure of the swamp’s dimensions and come prepared with a set of night-vision goggles to detect the creatures who inhabit the dark precincts of habitual deceit. Additionally, though we cannot be sure, he may be able to see that the hasty and panic-driven response to the virus was ill-contrived, and that the more rational and moderated approach to the emergency adopted by a country like Sweden, that did not mask, lock down or mandate (at least until recently when it imposed a partial vax mandate, though the country has had a negative excess mortality rate since the start of 2020), was far to be preferred — and is still to be preferred. Just maybe, Trump might see that current COVID policy can lead only to an indefinite number of further waves. Given a virus that mutates around the boosters, the imminent fourth wave is only a harbinger of what is to come.

In any event, one may hope for Trump’s return to the presidential sweepstakes in 2024, battle tested-and-hardened, with a better knowledge of the political snake pit, less prone to give credence to questionable advisors, ready to take arms against a fraudulent media apparatus, indifferent to the seductions of a glitzy presidential curatorship, and willing to assume a Lincolnesque determination to fight the country’s domestic enemies tooth and nail. It’s a tall order, but a second term is needed to correct the mistakes of the first.