No president from either party over the past three decades has earned the inheritance of Ronald Reagan on the world stage quite like President Trump has.
Sure, the two men could not appear more different in style.
Reagan was nearly incapable of un-sunniness. Even from his hospital room after being shot, the image of Reagan was of a man smiling.
Mr. Trump, on the other hand, sometimes careens into channeling the justified rage so many Americans feel toward professional Washington politicians.
But even that difference is often overstated. While the media focuses on Mr. Trump’s hot condemnations of the evils arrayed against America, he is more often sunny and funny and entertaining. And, don’t forget, Reagan was no squishy cupcake when it came to enemies wishing harm to America.
When it comes to leadership in this big, nasty world, Mr. Trump is more like Reagan than any other president since.
George H.W. Bush was a silk-stocking Yankee of high privilege while Reagan was an outsider from the Midwest who grew up in a modest home.
Whereas Reagan believed fervently in “America First” — to borrow a theme from Mr. Trump’s campaign — George H.W. Bush dreamed of a “new world order” where supposedly benevolent global elites would dictate the new orders.
How has that worked out?
After the Kuwait war, Mr. Bush squandered the highest approval ratings of any president up to that point and promptly lost to Bill Clinton in the next election.
When it came to foreign policy, Mr. Clinton’s North Star was whatever was the latest trouble his unzipped pants had gotten him into.
Mr. Clinton famously lobbed his “Monica Missiles” into Sudan and Afghanistan as a diversion from the scandal involving the young White House intern, Monica Lewinsky.
Though fairly popular abroad, Mr. Clinton did not enjoy much actual success on the global stage. He is best remembered for Haitian boat people, failed Middle East peace talks and a disastrous raid in Mogadishu in which 19 U.S. troops were killed, two Black Hawk helicopters shot down and the bodies of crew members were dragged through the streets and mutilated.
Like his father, George W. Bush dreamed of a new world order after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Mr. Bush should forever be praised for preventing any other attack on U.S. soil, but his dream of thwarting jihadi terrorism through nation-building lasted only as long as it would take America to elect the next dunce to the White House.
Which, of course, is exactly what happened in 2008 with the election of Barack Obama. His legacy will forever be reigniting the passion of jihadi terrorism on our shores. Oh, and handing control of the Middle East over to a soon-to-be nuclear Iran.
Mr. Trump is a stunning departure from all his predecessors back to Reagan.
Drawing rebuke and scorn, Reagan refused to live in a world that accepted Mutual Assured Destruction as a normal existence. He vowed to change that.
A nuclear Korean peninsula with missiles aimed at our Western cities has long become a new accepted norm. But not to Mr. Trump.
Same with Iran, radical Islamic terrorism and illegal immigration streaming across our border with Mexico.
Even the methods chosen by the two presidents have much in common.
When Mr. Trump grew disgruntled with North Korean despot Kim Jong-un, he wrote him a personal — almost corny — letter canceling their planned summit.
“I felt a wonderful dialogue was building up between you and me, and ultimately, it is only that dialogue that matters. Some day, I look very much forward to meeting you.”
Similarly, whenever a new Soviet leader would come to power, Reagan would sit down and write a personal note appealing for peace.
Like Mr. Trump, Reagan appealed for peace for the Soviet people. But, like Mr. Trump, Reagan’s top priority was to Make America Great Again.
• Contact Charles Hurt at email@example.com or on Twitter @charleshurt.