It is impossible to ignore, let alone forget the Trumpian assault on our institutions. But since nearly 74 million people chose Donald Trump over Joe Biden, our new President would be well-served by following through on his emollient comments to the American public since the election. Nothing would be more welcome than a calm interlude during which partisanship and bitterness subside, if only slightly. Abraham Lincoln said, “Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?” That’s too much to hope for, of course. However, as a gesture to start to heal our fractured national psyche, President Biden should recognize publicly some of the accomplishments of the Trump regime. Four major accomplishments come to mind, two of them domestic and two of them international.
First, Operation Warp Speed is the main (perhaps the only) constructive feature of the Trump Administration’s efforts to confront the worst domestic crisis since the Vietnam War — the COVID-19 pandemic. https://www.hhs.gov/coronavirus/explaining-operation-warp-speed/index.html. Notwithstanding President Trump’s dangerous dismissal of the nature and severity of the pandemic, and his boneheaded endorsement of hydroxychloroquine, the development of vaccines within less than a year is noteworthy. It is difficult to imagine any vaccine gaining approval in less than 5 years, let alone multiple separate vaccines being on the track – developed by Pfizer, Moderna, and AstraZeneca, and perhaps others. And while the roughly $10 billion to pay for it was made available through Congressional action via the CARES Act, the Administration deserves credit for its support.
Second, criminal justice reform became a reality under the Trump Administration. The First Step Act, Public Law 15-391, became law only after tortured travels through both Houses of Congress, and it had many shepherds, with wolves lurking at every corner. Without the White House’s involvement, however fitful, the sheep would have died on the trip.
Third, the Trump Administration unapologetically identified China as an international thief and bad citizen of the world. Previous administrations continued to pretend that the emperor had clothes — or was about to try some on. In fact, one of the Trump campaign’s more effective commercials focused on Joe Biden’s soothing posture (from another era) to the Chinese regime. It’s true that the Trump Administration’s response often smacked of xenophobia and convenient blame-shifting for domestic COVID-19 deaths, and also true that President Trump failed to secure Chinese respect for American companies’ intellectual property, but the American populace is now unquestionably alerted to this global threat. President Biden would be well-advised to maintain the firm positions of his predecessor, without the namecalling.
Fourth, the Trump Administration’s accomplishments in the Middle East provided the first glimmer of hope in over 40 years for breaking the logjam of Arab states unwilling to stray from utter loyalty to the Palestinians, no matter how closely Palestinian leadership has been aligned with Iranian misconduct and intransigent hatred of Israel. Opinions may vary about the wisdom of exiting the initial Iran deal, but it was always no more than a stopgap measure. The U.S. about-face regarding Iran is a breath of fresh air which underlines our belated abandonment of wishful thinking. It reflects our long-overdue recognition that the world cannot tolerate a violent, fanatical, unscrupulous, nuclear-armed Iran. And the Administration should not let up on the pressure on the Palestinians to think long and hard about their irredentist approach to Israel.
Recognition of these accomplishments may undercut, if only by a smidgen, the unreasoning hatred of the Trumpistas for the Biden-ites. But it is the right thing to do.