I’m not a fan of Chris Christie, but he’s a world-class hatchet man. His current target is Donald Trump.
Why? Maybe because Trump didn’t elevate him while president (probably due to the fact that Christie successfully prosecuted Jared Kushner’s crooked father). Maybe so Christie can boost sales of his book. Maybe because Christie anticipates running against Trump in 2024. Maybe all of the above.
I’m less interested in Christie’s motive than in the substance of his attack. The essence of it is that Trump “didn’t get a lot of stuff done.”
Like, let’s just go through the list of things. The wall isn’t built. Obamacare is still there. We didn’t get an infrastructure package done that we wanted, so now we’re stuck with theirs.
All true, and there’s more. Trump said he would end the war in Afghanistan. He didn’t, although considering what happened when Biden ended it, that’s probably a good thing.
Trump did keep his promise to exit the Iran nuclear deal. However, he didn’t follow up by doing anything effective to stop Iran from developing nukes.
Apparently, Trump thought his sanctions would cause Iran to give him a better deal. They didn’t, nor could they reasonably have been expected to. If anything, the mullahs were closer to having nukes when Trump left office than when he took it.
I could go on, but I’ll confine myself to a pet peeve, the Department of Labor. Under Alex Acosta, the Obama DOL lived on during much of Trump’s presidency. Even under Gene Scalia, the administration continued to pursue a ridiculous discrimination case against Oracle based on a far-left theory of proving pay discrimination.
Trump can, of course, claim some important accomplishments. His most touted one is the strength of the economy, pre-covid. Trump deserves some credit for this, but takes too much. The ability of presidents positively to influence short-term economic results is vastly overrated.
Another accomplishment often cited by Trump’s biggest supporters — the three Supreme Court nominations — needs a caveat. Brett Kavanaugh wasn’t on the list of potential nominees that Trump publicized during the campaign, and so far Kavanaugh has been somewhat of a disappointment to conservatives.
However, I also want to add a caveat to Christie’s criticism of the former president. In my view, Trump was handicapped by (1) the considerable distraction of defending himself against the meritless allegations investigated by Robert Mueller and (2) the ineffectiveness and, in some cases, centrism of his initial team (Alex Acosta is a good example of both).
The second factor, but not the first, is Trump’s fault, though not entirely. Democrats did an effective job preventing him from getting some important team members in place for many months and sometimes well more than a year. Eric Dreiband, the head of the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division, is a good example.
Moreover, Trump’s team was both more conservative and more effective towards the end of his term, as the president learned on the job. In its last year or so, the administration took on leftism, including the woke variant, much more effectively than during the first three or so. I’m thinking of things like the DOJ’s suit against Yale for racially discriminatory admissions, its defense of religious freedom during the pandemic, the 1776 commission, and the Department of Education’s final rule on Title IX, which changed how colleges and universities must handle allegations of sexual assault and harassment.
I think a second Trump administration would have accomplished more than the first did, assuming the same level of congressional support. This would have been a reversal of the usual pattern for second term presidencies in American history.
How a second Trump administration beginning in 2025 would fare is a unclear to me. Right now, Trump seems so interested settling scores and relitigating the past that I wonder whether another slow start would be in the offing. There’s also the fact that Trump will be 78 years old by January 21, 2025.
Speculation about the future aside, my view of the past is that Christie’s attack on Trump is not without merit.