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What If? Four Hypothetical Questions Regarding The Presidency of Donald J. Trump

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Joseph R. Biden is now officially President Joseph R. Biden, the 46th President of the United States. For the next four years, or perhaps less, we will undoubtedly be bombarded with mainstream media propaganda trumpeting Biden’s most minor success as groundbreaking triumphs. We should expect to hear reports such as, “President Biden today was remarkably lucid when he correctly remembered the first names of three Cabinet secretaries; three!” Meanwhile, we’ll see a continuation of the kid-glove-treatment the media gave to President Barack Obama for eight years regarding scores of egregious and obvious failures, such as Benghazi, Fast and Furious, and the slowest economic recovery since World War II. We’ll need to fend for ourselves, as always, in order to stay well-informed as we sift through the garbage. But before we do, let’s take a moment to reflect on the recently completed presidency of Donald J. Trump, and consider how things might have turned out had Trump handled a few situations differently. Second-guessing and Monday morning quarterbacking, yes, but such exercises can be productive if we wish to avoid repeating some of the history we just witnessed.

#1 – What if President Trump’s 2020 Campaign had focused more of its attention on his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic?

Negative ads attacking one’s opponents are, by far, the most common type of political advertising, as anyone who has watched American television in the month of October, of any year, can attest. And the reason we see an abundance of such ads is simple: they work. But to say 2020 was a unique year would be a tremendous understatement and the approach of Trump’s campaign needed to be unique as well.

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The challenge posed by COVID-19 is one of the greatest challenges America, and the world, has ever known. Forty years from now, those of us who are still around will likely be peppered with questions from our grandkids asking us to reminisce about the pandemic. And President Trump had much to tout. Democrats and their media had already begun to politicize the pandemic while most of us were still making jokes comparing coronavirus to Corona beer. But through the first few months of the pandemic, as the result of fleeting and unexpected moments of honesty and reason, multiple Democratic governors rightfully praised the actions of President Trump, sometimes profusely. Governors Andrew Cuomo (NY), Gavin Newsom (CA), and Phil Murphy (NJ) – Democrats all – made statements so clearly complimentary, a freshman Film Studies Major could have easily assembled them into an effective montage, and the piece should have been aired relentlessly. If such a tactic had been used and that ad had been pushed, would the election have turned out differently? Would Trump still be president? We’ll never know, but it would have been a better strategy than the one they employed.

#2 – What if President Trump had focused his post-election rhetoric on addressing specific voting irregularities rather than asserting he was the rightful winner?

Within a week of November’s election, the reality of the results became clear: there were indeed significant abnormalities regarding election processes and there was substantial evidence of voter fraud. But the possibility of any of it being provable to the extent of justifying the overturning of three states’ election results (which is what Trump would have needed to be declared the winner) was extremely unlikely.

While Trump Campaign attorney Sidney Powell was hollering that she would “release the kraken,” alluding to overwhelming but non-existent evidence supporting Trump’s election claims, President Trump needed to recognize reality and limit the damage to the credibility of himself and his campaign. But he didn’t. Trump continued insisting that the election was “stolen,” but he never came close to proving that assertion in court. As a result, it is Trump’s words and his level of culpability in the Capitol riots on January 6th that have been the focus, and that reality is likely not to change. If Trump had applied the tact of, “I may not have won, and we may never know the level of fraud and nonsense that took place, but whatever problems occurred need to be identified and corrected,” it would have sent a clear and reasonable message. Instead, Trump’s legacy has a major black eye and America is no closer to eliminating fraudulent elections in the future than we were before the election.

#3 – What if President Trump had concentrated his comments regarding the Georgia Senate election on blocking Joe Biden’s radical agenda instead of his own vindication related to the presidential election results?             

It is bad enough we’re going to be subjected to a Joe Biden presidency, but adding insult to injury is the fact he’ll have a Democrat-controlled Senate as well. Many pundits made the case that the Georgia Senate elections were almost as critical as the presidential election itself, and that point is difficult to argue against. It was imperative that Republicans retained at least one of those seats, but they lost them both. As a result, the Senate is now split down the middle with fifty Republicans and fifty Democrats, and Vice-President Kamala Harris is the tie-breaker as Senate President. The only thing protecting America from a total, leftwing onslaught is the Senate filibuster, whose tenuous existence hangs by a thread, clinging to the hopes that at least one Democrat will vote against its abolishment.  

President Trump stumped for the GOP candidates in Georgia with multiple rallies, but his focus at those rallies was largely on the outcome of the presidential election. That election was over, and while it was reasonable for him make legal challenges to those results, those activities should have been a mere footnote at the rallies. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler needed to be elected to prevent Democrats from potentially destroying the country with Biden in the White House, and that should have been the only angle being pushed. And when Trump campaign attorney Lin Wood inexplicably called on Georgia voters to boycott the Senate election, Trump should have called out Mr. Wood for the dunce that he is; something at which Trump is extremely effective. The Georgia Senate election was not about President Trump, it was about preserving America.

#4 – What if President Trump had been less confrontational with so many of his supporters and ex-officials?

As President-Elect Donald Trump began to assemble his initial Cabinet in November of 2016, he made some outstanding selections, but also some questionable ones. Many of us at the time scratched our heads when he opted for Jeff Sessions as Attorney General and Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State. When both of them were eventually given the boot after only short stints, those of us who supported Trump understood his disenchantment, even though we weren’t enamored with the insults Trump threw their way as they left office. Similar situations followed as his presidency progressed, as we saw with the likes of Steve Bannon, John Kelly and John Bolton. A fair question to ask regarding the break-ups with such folks was this: if they’re so bad and incapable, why the hell did you appoint them in the first place? But many of us gave President Trump the benefit of the doubt.

Toward the end of his presidency, however, Trump’s aggression surged to new levels, and it appeared that no one was off limits. The president’s relationships with lawmakers such as Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) were always fragile, so combativeness with them during the waning days of his presidency was no surprise. But during his speech at the rally right before the Capitol riot, Trump went after his three Supreme Court appointees, particularly Brett Kavanaugh, citing a lack of “loyalty.” Earlier that day, in the lead up to Congress’ certification of the Electoral College results, Trump criticized Vice-President Mike Pence for not having the “courage” to overturn the election.

Even those of us who have been staunch Trump supporters had to step back. Supreme Court justices must have loyalty to only one thing: the United States Constitution. And Mike Pence didn’t lack courage in taking the stance he did, he lacked the constitutional authority. Justices Neil Gorsuch, Amy Coney Barrett and Kavanaugh will go down as highlights of Trump’s legacy, and for him to attack them the way he did was ill-advised and uncalled for. But for Trump to go after Pence in that way, who is one of the best Vice-Presidents of the past century and someone who had been unyieldingly devoted, was over-the-top. Trump was the one who came across as disloyal, not Pence and the justices, and his exit plan seemed to be a scorched earth policy. When reflecting on Trump’s presidency years from now, there will be a bevy of highlights to consider, but the way in which he treated allies and former cabinet members won’t be one of them.

PF Whalen

Image by Sambeet D from Pixabay