The ‘it takes a Trump to change Washington’ defense of the president

Some supporters of President Trump have adopted the following defense of the (at times) nasty, over-the-top rhetoric Trump uses against his adversaries: Trump is “no Mr. Nice Guy,” but “sometimes it takes a Donald Trump to change Washington.” In fact, Trump’s recently released campaign ad makes this pitch in just that language.

As a means of making ethical Trump supporters feel better about backing the president, this defense has appeal. But is there anything to it?

Not much. Ronald Reagan changed Washington without being Trump-like.

That was then, to be sure, but let’s look at the accomplishments the Trump ad cites. It mentions three: “creating 6 million jobs,” cutting illegal immigration in half, and obliterating ISIS.

Our economy created 6 million jobs. No one knows how many of them Trump can justly take credit for. But whatever the number, no job was created by Trump calling his political opponents names.

Nor has Trump’s rhetoric stopped a single illegal immigrant from entering the U.S. Policies to prevent illegal entry do not depend on calling GOP Never Trumpers “human scum” or, for that matter, calling anyone anything.

The smashing of ISIS certainly had nothing to do with the nasty words Trump directs at his domestic political opponents. ISIS would be in no better shape had Trump eschewed this rhetoric.

The same is true of what I consider two other major accomplishments of the Trump administration: (1) the nomination and confirmation of good judges and Justices and (2) the cutting back of excessive government regulations. Neither achievement required Trump to lash out intemperately at his adversaries.

This was true even in the Kavanaugh confirmation fight. Susan Collins was the key vote on this. I’d be surprised if she was swayed by anything Trump said, nasty or otherwise.

I believe that all five of these accomplishments would have accrued under a President Ted Cruz or a President Tom Cotton. They didn’t “take a Donald Trump” and they didn’t require his rhetoric.

Taking a longer run view, I agree that harshly attacking the biased, agenda-driven, left-liberal mainstream media will likely produce benefits. So will ridiculing political correctness.

Trump does both things and does them effectively. I think he deserves credit for this.

But excessive rhetoric on these fronts can be counterproductive. I have no problem with the term “fake news” or with lashing out at specific news stories that are false or misleading. However, when Trump mimics a news reporter with a disability, for example, all he does is generate sympathy for the reporter and perhaps, by extension, the mainstream media.

In sum, there may be a little bit of merit to the idea that some of Trump’s intemperate and uncivil rhetoric has its positive uses, but I don’t think there’s much.

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