Trump’s first year: A damage assessment

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Tom Nichols is a professor at the Naval War College and the Harvard Extension School and the author of “The Death of Expertise.”

It is now a year into the Trump presidency, and, shutdown crisis aside, the business of government goes on more or less as usual. Most of the planet remains at peace, and the administration’s handful of accomplishments — including a tax bill, the rollback of some regulations and a conservative Supreme Court justice — are pretty standard fare for a Republican White House.

Were President Trump’s critics, then, overwrought in their predictions of doom? PJ Media’s Roger Simon has declared that Never Trumpers (like me) should apologize for their apostasy and get into the trenches to fight the advancing leftist hordes. New York Times columnist David Brooks, although still reluctant in his defense of Trump, suggests that were it not for the president’s bizarre tweets, “we’d see a White House that is briskly pursuing its goals.” 

This is nonsense. Trump’s presidency has done daily damage not only to the Republican Party and the conservative movement but, more important, to our constitutional system of government. The president is eroding the unwritten norms that serve as the civic girders beneath our political and legal infrastructure. And his foreign policy, insofar as he has one, is diminishing our global standing and jeopardizing our security.

It is sometimes difficult, in the wind tunnel of noise created by Trump’s most hysterical critics, to distinguish what is merely appalling from what is genuinely dangerous. Not everything the administration has done is wrong or disastrous — it has even gotten a few things right, such as the strike last year against Syria. But it is clear that Trump has already left so much destruction in his wake that it may be hard to put the pieces together again after he’s gone.

The superficial appearance of normalcy in the rest of the government is not a sign of a robust democracy, but of confusion and a lack of direction. Because Trump does not have any kind of vision or even a basic set of policy preferences, and because he has no tolerance for the boring details of governing (including staffing important political appointments), the bureaucracy has remained mostly on auto­pilot in the past year. This situation will not last, and it should be no consolation to realize that potentially awful outcomes have been averted not by statecraft and prudent administration, but by inertia and incompetence. ...

Read entire article at The Washington Post

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