- - Sunday, September 9, 2018

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

The anonymous New York Times op-ed by a purported Trump administration senior official has a fatal flaw: The op-ed focuses on President Trump’s words rather than his actions and decisions, which have been remarkably successful both on the economy and in foreign affairs. To suggest that those successes occurred because of his staff’s resistance to his leadership rather than to his direct orders is foolish and self-serving.

The op-ed displays a lack of understanding of how Mr. Trump achieves success. It says that Mr. Trump shows a preference for autocrats and dictators, such as President Vladimir Putin of Russia and North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un. In fact, Mr. Trump’s flattering words about both leaders are part of his negotiating tactics. If a CEO proposes to acquire another company, does he begin by denouncing the CEO of that company?

While sweet-talking both leaders, Mr. Trump has imposed severe financial sanctions on both countries and has taken a number of other actions against Russian interests, including sending missiles into its ally Syria, providing lethal defensive arms to Ukraine, imposing sanctions on Russian government hackers and spy agencies to punish Moscow for interfering in the 2016 presidential election, and pressuring NATO countries to spend more on defense as a hedge against Russian aggression. Most importantly, Mr. Trump has revved up America’s oil and gas production, thereby lowering Russia’s profits on its oil and gas exports, a crucial component of the Russian economy.

While Mr. Trump privately grumbles about almost everything and everybody except Melania Trump, and working in the Trump White House is indeed chaotic, whether the president expressed frustration about expelling Russia’s spies or about imposing more sanctions on Russia is irrelevant. The fact is he did it. The writer’s failure to list the actions Mr. Trump has taken against Russia undercuts the credibility of the piece and mirrors the dishonesty in coverage of the Trump administration that we see every day in the media.

Every organization has disgruntled employees who think they know more than their bosses. In the case of Mr. Trump, while many of his public and private commands are indeed unsettling, the bottom line on his administration could not be more clear based on the results. They include almost totally decimating ISIS, getting Saudi Arabia to attack radical Islamic ideology, cutting regulations and encouraging business development that has led to the lowest black unemployment rate since records were first kept in 1972, a jump in the gross domestic product compared with the Obama years, a rise in consumer confidence to the highest level in 18 years, the highest small business confidence in history, tax cuts benefitting all Americans and a soaring stock market.

Like President Reagan, who also was reviled by the press, Mr. Trump will eventually be recognized as one of America’s greatest presidents. After Reagan’s firmness and defense buildup led to the collapse of the Soviet Union, many in the press — such as CBS’ Lesley Stahl in a tribute to the late president — acknowledged that they had been wrong about Reagan. Indeed, in a 2011 Gallup poll, Americans rated Reagan as the greatest U.S. president, followed by John F. Kennedy, Abraham Lincoln and Bill Clinton.

Instead of leading from behind, the famous characterization of President Obama’s approach by one of his aides, Mr. Trump leads from strength. Instead of knocking America, as Mr. Obama did when he apologized for American “arrogance,” Mr. Trump is a cheerleader for the United States, telling government and business leaders at Davos that “America is open for business and competitive once again.” Mr. Trump did not build an empire worth billions of dollars by being an idiot, a nut or a bigot.

Mr. Trump’s actions, as opposed to some of his words, are indeed making America great again and changing the rules of the game.

• Ronald Kessler, a former Wall Street Journal and Washington Post investigative reporter, is the author of “The Trump White House: Changing the Rules of the Game” (Crown Forum).


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