Seth Barrett Tillman: Today’s Question On CONLAWPROF: Where Would You Put Trump?

Professor ZZZ asks: “Trump is not Stalin but in the history of national (federal) political figures in this country, I’m wondering … where [would] you put Trump? … Having a POTUS so publicly awful along those lines lowers the horrible bar so dramatically that we will pay for years to come. Not being Stalin but being Roy Cohn is a hell of a legacy.”
Tillman responded:
[. . .]
Trump is ahead of Woodrow Wilson: World War I, and! his resegregation of the federal civil service. I grant you that being ahead of Wilson is not saying much…but then, the nation survived Wilson, and no one today thinks of Wilson as having lowered the bar vis-a-vis future presidents. Professor ZZZ seems to be worried about this. He wrote: “Having a POTUS so publicly awful along those lines lowers the horrible bar so dramatically that we will pay for years to come.” Really?—Will we pay for it in years to come, or is this just a shabby slippery slope-type argument?
I cannot say I see much sense in Professor ZZZ’s references to Roy Cohn. Roy Cohn’s permanent claim to fame is his association with McCarthy and aggressive anticommunism. Trump, by contrast, has been criticized for being too close to Putin. It is not exactly the same; actually, the two are not alike at all.
If words and pretty speeches are the measure of a president, then Trump comes up short. The question is whether that is the correct standard for measuring presidents in a dangerous world.

Read the whole thing.

Seth’s last line is a good summary of the general flaw with many anti-Trump arguments. However, Seth doesn’t go far enough with specific examples:

-Trump didn’t withdraw US forces precipitately from an overseas conflict, leaving the worst of our enemies to fill the resulting power vacuum as Obama did in Iraq.

-Trump didn’t reverse longstanding US policy, deprecating alliances with pro-American countries, in a foolish and futile effort to buy the love of the Iranian mullahs as Obama did.

-Trump didn’t let himself get played by the North Korean dictatorship as Clinton, both Bushes and Obama did.

-Trump didn’t use the IRS to harass his political opponents – as Nixon threatened to do, as the Clintons did to right-wing activist organizations, and as Obama did to organizations and individuals who were active in the Tea Party movement.

-Trump didn’t use the FBI and CIA to spy on his Democratic rivals’ election campaigns as Obama seems to have done to Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.

I can think of numerous other examples of unwise or malicious actions taken by previous presidents that Trump hasn’t done. Feel free to add additional examples in the comments.

9 thoughts on “Seth Barrett Tillman: <i>Today’s Question On CONLAWPROF: Where Would You Put Trump?</i>”

  1. I would say the best comparison would be Andrew Jackson who was considered illegitimate by the Deep State of the day, the Federalists.

    The “Corrupt Bargain” did not work this time but was also analogous to what was attempted with Trump.

  2. It was said of Obama that he was so without substance that he was like a mirror. His supporters projected their views and fantasies onto him, and then they were reflected back in an idealized form which left people with warm feelings without otherwise providing anything of value. Look behind the mirror and the illusion is shattered.

    Trump on the other hand is like a sponge. He absorbs the criticism, the praise, the good press, the bad press, the good advice, the bad advice. And then he just grows bigger and more influential as a result.

  3. @ Grurray – it is significant that Obama has said that about himself, that he learned to be a screen on which people, and more specifically white people, project what they want to see. It is still true.

    I read Professor ZZZ’s comment in light of the question “What nation is he really talking about?” There is a liberal establishment that is a part of America, but crosses international borders for alliances with liberal establishments in other countries, especially Western European ones. Picture a Venn diagram with Circles for America, Canada, and European Countries. The EU encompasses a majority of European citizens wgho see that as their real nation. AAmerican liberals are in a circle which includes part of America and the EU- sympathetic. Trump has been a disaster for them, certainly. That nation has taken damage, and I can understand that they worry they will not soon recover.

    They do not see that the power and status of their tribe within America is something separate from the interests of America as a whole. The two are entirely equivalent to them. The claim that a head of GM, an Eisenhower cabinet nominee, said “What’s good for GM is good for America.” That never happened, but something like that is the liberal mindset. They think that what is good for liberalism must be good for America.

    Dictators also think like that.

  4. Having a POTUS so publicly awful along those lines lowers the horrible bar so dramatically that we will pay for years to come.

    Hillary would have lowered POTUS bar even more. She truly would have been an awful president. We dodged a bullet.

  5. If we manage to muddle along for another thirty years, I am certain that we will hear prominent Democrats complain of the current Republican candidate for president that “X is a radical racist unAmerican and stupid as well, not a statesman like Trump was.” Long-dead Republicans can be almost saintly, live ones are always allies of the devil–it makes the speaker sound balanced, provided his audience is ignorant enough.

  6. yes Netanyahu despite his mit and Harvard credentials, is equally despised among the Israeli left, same with the Brexit crew, boris Johnson has some of trump’s personality, but farage is really unacceptable, to them, fillon or le pen same things, adam labor a Hungarian writer, has similar animus toward orban, same with camillieri, whose anti Berlusconi asides he left in the endnotes, but that thankfully didn’t transfer to his Montalbano series, that does more often than not broach il estado profundo,

  7. Israel was the left’s little plucky hero when it was Socialist.

    Arron and Netanyahu turn it to the right and prosperity follows. Result, it a Nazi regime.

  8. Weaponizing the bureaucracy was Clinton and Obama’s triumph

    devolving power from Washington was Trump’s

    Trump exaggerates but he is more straightforward and honest than most presidents – the last decades have seen signatures on pointless treaties, etc – climate change, peace. The truth is, Congress wasn’t going to back (nor the voters nor Trump) the Paris (was it Accordes? treaty?) so not signing it was honest, as was withdrawing from the treaty with Iran, as was his attitude toward NATO. Facing reality and fulfilling promises in Israel wasn’t just good for Israel, it was refusing to pretend any more that facts were not true and that the fact of war for thousands of years was loss of territory – especially if you started the war and your victim turned out to be the victor.

    I suppose if you think we should be dominated by unelected bureaucrats and executive decisions with little Congressional and public input, then he is pretty awful. That isn’t exactly utopian in most of our minds.

    Then there’s fast and furious, Benghazi and the death of an ambassador, limiting soldiers in ways that made them vulnerable but not effective (of course, many presidents made choices that ended in unnecessary deaths but this seemed to be different in the lack of seriousness of Obama), an attorney general who could (and did) literally say that “his people” shouldn’t be pursued as others were.

    Perhaps that’s the point – Obama acted like he was a serious person – or put up a fairly transparent “look” of a serious person. And, of course, in important ways he wasn’t (or his worldview simply took neither American democracy nor American political theory seriously). Trump may be awful because he sounds unserious – hyperbolic, thin-skinned, etc – but he’s very serious about the core values of America. I suspect that when the noise of the msm and even of his own voice has faded and historians look at the choices he’s made, they will not rate him “awful.”

    But it seems to me a low bar that he is better than Obama. He’s better than Buchanan because he isn’t blinking and pretending that problems solve themselves – that so many kicked so many cans down the road that gathered momentum and size until fixing them was painful means he’s better. Not great – he hasn’t worked on entitlements, the border and medicine are a mess. But he isn’t ignoring them or pretending that some fix will work that everyone knows won’t.

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