It's not easy to be complacent about what has happened in this country since the last half of 2016. We are now learning that high officials in the federal government were so upset about the prospect of a Donald Trump presidency that they may have wrongly used manufactured political propaganda masquerading as foreign intelligence to justify surveillance of Mr. Trump’s campaign.
This has echoes, of course, of the famous Watergate affair, when President Richard M. Nixon, in effect, authorized a break-in at the opposition party’s headquarters. That incident was small-scale in comparison to the scandal now possibly unfolding.
The most horrific irony, of course, is that Mr. Trump’s opponents still believe that he and his people colluded with the Russians to secure his election victory. If there was any Russian collusion, as we are coming to understand, it was between the Russians and Mrs. Clinton’s operatives.
More jarring still is that most of the mainstream media — The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, and MSNBC — devote a huge portion, if not most of their coverage, to a story line that the administration is and has been corrupt — and incompetent. At the same time, a few other media outlets, such as Fox News and Breitbart, just as consistently run with the story line that it is Mr. Trump’s critics who are themselves corrupt, unprincipled, and are undermining our republic's rule of law.
We can only hope that with enough time the truth will out, but this will only happen if the press somehow can return to the values of an earlier era, when the search for objective reality was more important than promoting a particular ideology.
Still, viewed objectively, the accomplishments of the Trump administration after only one year are impressive. The reform of our tax laws has put substantial cash in the pockets of workers. More favorable economic expectations have expanded spending on hiring and plant expansion. The stock market has, overall, been surging, and the regulatory burden of the federal leviathan has been eased.
Judges committed to the rule of law have been appointed and confirmed, and the most talented cabinet in many years has been active in augmenting our military, improving our diplomacy, and reforming our domestic policy.
It's true, of course, that we now have an administration more committed to improving the lot of all Americans than in redressing wrongs committed in the past against particular minorities. We also have an administration dedicated to reforming our immigration system rather than employing what was, to a great extent, an open-borders policy.
Mr. Trump’s campaign slogan, of "Making America Great Again" has been interpreted by his critics as exclusionist, insensitive, or even racist, but his supporters understand it is really none of those things. In the Washington beltway this is not generally recognized, but when the president appears among ordinary Americans this becomes clearer.
One such instance occurred last week, when the president addressed a crowd in Blue Ash, Ohio, near Cincinnati, at the headquarters of the Sheffer Corporation, a manufacturer of industrial cylinders. "We want every American to live a life of meaning, of purpose, and of joy,” the president said. He added, "And we want every American to have a job they love so they can wake up each morning excited to go to work, like all of you people are."
The president's view is that of the federal government as a job promoter, not as a welfare provider; this was a view promoting initiative and investment, and not of redistribution.
Mr. Trump’s philosophy appears to be alien to that of his political opponents and perhaps one can understand their surprise and frustration, as the economy turns around, and as his popularity rises.
Mr. Trump’s economic views are essentially the same as Ronald Reagan’s. Mr. Reagan also faced the same kind of vitriol and skepticism from his opponents. However, Mr. Reagan was never faced with an organized effort from within the federal government itself to undermine his presidency before it started. If this really happened — and we will know soon whether it did, particularly when we receive the report currently being prepared by the Justice Department’s inspector general — then those responsible should be dealt with, to serve as an example, ensuring this never happens again.
It's profoundly sad that in our time differences over policies are accompanied by a complete unwillingness to understand that one’s political opponents could well be persons of good faith and sincerity. It's a human trait to regard those who disagree with us as ill-informed if not evil. Such a trait ought to be resisted. It is a perennial danger in political parties, as our Framers understood.
We have a chance, now, as the administration’s policies of expansion and reform work to improve the lot of all Americans to put partisan insanity behind us. Mr. Trump, despite his biting tweets, his speeches, including his recent State of the Union address, has candidly offered to do this. Will his opponents be decent and patriotic enough to meet him half-way?
Stephen B. Presser is the Raoul Berger Professor of Legal History Emeritus at Northwestern’s Pritzker School of Law, the Legal Affairs Editor of Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture, and a contributor to The University Bookman. He graduated from Harvard College and Harvard Law School, and has taught at Rutgers University, the University of Virginia, and University College, London. He has often testified on constitutional issues before committees of the United States Congress, and is the author of "Recapturing the Constitution: Race, Religion, and Abortion Reconsidered" (Regnery, 1994) and "Law Professsors: Three Centuries of Shaping American Law" (West Academic, 2017). To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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