Early on in the Trump administration, the president arranged for the release from detention Egyptian-American Aya Hijazi. She'd been held for three years, along with her husband and four employees of their charity that cares for Cairo's street children. The charges against them pursued by Egypt's justice department that they had sexually abused children are widely recognized to be baseless. Despite the dubious charges and Aya's American citizenship, no resolution for this tragic situation presented itself until there was a new occupant in the White House. Trump had run as an outsider, a disruptor, a negotiator. Aya's case would put these claims to his first test.
In order to secure her return to Virginia, Trump had Egypt's strongman president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi over to the White House and said a few nice things about him. al-Sisi got the full on schmuze treatment. Trump's schmuzing incensed the Washington press core to no end. The previous administration had kept al-Sisi at arms length, but reversing course did the trick. When Aya visited the White House to thank the president for his effective intervention, all the networks and most newspapers covered it. Fox News was almost alone in demonstrating any enthusiasm. Democrat lawmakers, even those that had begged for her release earlier, were strangely silent now. The public either offered effusive praise for the president or kept quiet. Following the most divisive election in a lifetime, the breakdown was predictable. Those who had supported the president in the election were apt to congratulate him; those who didn't had nothing to say.
I wondered if maybe we were just too close to the election at the time. Hurt feelings still stung. People were still talking about Hillary's 3 million vote advantage. For them Trump only prevailed on a technicality. Or maybe this would be the new normal. For 40 percent of us, Donald Trump can do no wrong, while for another 40 percent he can do nothing right. The remaining 20 percent are an endangered species. Unfortunately, the political divide is still growing. We're closing in on the sort of tribalism common to the least happy and successful nations on Earth. This is the new normal.
Last Sunday, when it was announced that Mexico had agreed to sweeping proposals to remedy the crises at our southern border, cheers were not heard from the plush new studios of NPR. Silence on the subject from media sources and Democrat presidential candidates would be an improvement compared to the swill they offered. You may have heard that Trump's threatened tariffs elicited no new policy proposals from the Mexican side. You may have heard that threatening to place tariffs on a country to force actions outside of trade is reckless and counterproductive. You may have heard or read that Trump achieved nothing more than resolving a problem that he himself created. You may have heard these ideas because they are hard to avoid from newsroom echo chambers. None are true. Truth is beside the point when it comes to racking up points against Donald Trump. I think the thinking goes that Trump is so awful that anything you say against him is justified. It serves a larger truth even if it lets a few untruths sneak out in the effort. Giving him credit for anything is never acceptable.
Credibility is no longer a matter of getting things right, unless getting things right means something much different from what it once did. It has morphed into picking sides politically and only broadcasting what appeals to your political faction, while casting others in the worst light possible. This is what passes for "the news" these days.
Our president is unique. He's one of a kind. I get it if you find his style unpalatable. He's made me squirm often. I can't believe the stuff that comes out of his mouth. For style points the guy rates around minus 4. When it comes to what he's actually done, there's more reason for hope. If you're not on board with tax cuts for 80 percent of taxpayers, reducing burdensome and unnecessary regulations, reforming criminal sentencing so that deserving inmates don't have to spend their lives rotting away behind bars, full employment, or rewriting trade agreements that disadvantage us then you certainly have good reason to disapprove of, if not hate, him. If you think any of these accomplishments have merit and you still can't stand the president then maybe you ought to rethink that. Maybe you're favoring style over substance. Maybe you're listening to Trump's negative national press without granting it the skepticism it richly deserves.
I didn't support Trump in 2016. I'm reconsidering that position for 2020. Maybe the argument we heard for him during that last election was correct after all. Maybe a disruptor is exactly what we needed. Maybe we need him still.