To begin, a disclaimer for this article: This is not an attempt to sanitise the legacy of the 45th President of the United States. Indeed, it’s telling that it would be much easier to publish a piece about 100 things Donald Trump has got wrong than it is to find five things he has got right. Moreover, even within these five examples, there are caveats and blunders, and unwanted outcomes.
However, there are some areas where the President, perhaps by accident, has pursued courses that were the right ones, even if the execution did not come off properly:
The First Step Act
The Formerly Incarcerated Reenter Society Transformed Safely Transitioning Every Person Act, or First Step Act (funny how acronyms work), was signed by President Trump on 21st December 2018. The bill, which represents one of the biggest steps in criminal justice reform in US history, is aimed at stopping reoffending and redeeming criminals. It had backing from the left and right, and a dash of Kim Kardashian. Today, Trump gloats about his involvement, and, as ever, inflates his role in anything positive. However, he was a critical figure it getting this bill over the line.
Another area where some of the right sentiment got lost in the bluster. Trump was wrong to say that NATO signatories owe the US money for not spending 2.0% of their GDP on defence (it’s a goal, not a mandatory pledge) but he had a point about some – very wealthy – countries not pulling their weight. Look, we all want to live in a world where all countries spend zero on the military, but that’s not the case. America should not view itself as a kind of realm of Gondor, protecting Europe from threats. Yet, Trump fails to mention that America put itself in this place willingly. If other countries do up their spending, then perhaps one day the ‘world’s policeman’ can retire.
Pursuing Space Travel Again
His understanding of rudimentary space travel might be as basic as someone playing the Ticket to the Stars slot in one his casinos – remember “Mars (of which the moon is a part)” – but the successful launch of NASA/Space X rocket in May 2020 was a good thing. We do not need to need to extol the virtues of space exploration, and it was the right thing for NASA to partner with the private sector. There needs to be political will behind it, though, and it seems to be coming from Trump. As for Space Force, we’ll hold our tongue on that.
Criticism of China
Conservative news sites tend to exaggerate the left’s softness on China, but there is a point to be made. Too often, liberals have viewed China through a kind of the enemy of my enemy is my friend prism. Trump is right to question China’s trade practices, and perhaps he is even right to get belligerent over economics. However, as ever with Trump, there are caveats and mixed messages. Moreover, he has remained silent on the one issue we should all be talking about vis à vis China – gross human rights abuses.