Before President Trump spoke at Mount Rushmore last week, the Left decided that it was a monument to “white supremacy,” conveniently forgetting that Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have all been there in recent years and spoken favorably of the place. Now, amid a clamor from Leftist savages to blow up Rushmore, hard-Left “journalist” Don Lemon of CNN has a more temperate idea: just put Barack Obama up there with Washington, Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Lincoln. Lemon actually has a good idea: Rushmore needs a fifth face. But it should not be that of Obama, but of Donald Trump.
Lemon said Tuesday: “Even though a rich diversity of people helped build the country, and many of us, meaning ancestors, for free — did not get paid for it, could not get an education, could not build wealth, are not on statues, Confederate or otherwise, are not on Mount Rushmore. I think, listen … if they are going to put someone on Mount Rushmore, considering the history of the country, the first black president should be front and center.”
Lemon’s sidekick Chris Cuomo agreed, saying: “Add to Mount Rushmore. I think that’s first of all, it’s a more salable idea than the idea of taking away Founding Fathers.”
Quite right, Fredo. But as Mount Rushmore is supposed to celebrate American heroes, Barack Obama is not the best choice for the honor. The forthcoming Rating America's Presidents: An America-First Look at Who Is Best, Who Is Overrated, and Who Was An Absolute Disaster evaluates the presidents on the only basis upon which they ever should be evaluated: were they good for America and Americans? On that scale, Obama left the United States weaker, and Americans poorer and in a more precarious position, than they were before he took office. This is true despite the fact that he received more uncritical adulation than any president in recent memory.
The fact has been secured amid today’s race hysteria, but the current rage makes it all the more important to remember that throughout his tenure, Obama stoked racial tensions rather than calming them. When he took office, the Justice Department was pursuing a case against the New Black Panther Party for voter intimidation in Philadelphia. Obama’s attorney general, Eric Holder, abruptly dropped the case in May 2009 and refused to cooperate with further investigations, giving the impression that the Black Panthers were getting away with voter intimidation because of their race.
Obama’s response to several widely publicized incidents exacerbated racial tensions. On July 16, 2009, black intellectual Henry Louis Gates found himself locked out of his Massachusetts home and began trying to force his way in. An officer arrived to investigate a possible break-in; Gates began berating him and was arrested for disorderly conduct. Obama claimed that the police “acted stupidly” and noted the “long history in this country of African-Americans and Latinos being stopped by police disproportionately,” although there was no indication of racial bias in this case. He invited Gates and the police officer to the White House for a “beer summit,” which the media hailed as a manifestation of his determination to heal racial divisions, when in fact it was just the opposite: he was taking a case of misunderstanding and disorderly conduct and portraying it as a racial incident requiring presidential reconciliation.
Obama made a similar rush to judgment in the case of Ahmed Mohamed, a Muslim high school student who was arrested in September 2015 after bringing what appeared to be a suitcase bomb to his Texas high school. Mohamed claimed it was a homemade clock and that he was a victim of “Islamophobic” bigotry. Obama invited him to the White House, making the boy a symbol of the nation’s “Islamophobia” and the need to overcome it. Mohamed’s father filed a lawsuit against the school district, which was dismissed when he failed to establish that the school had engaged in any prejudice or discrimination.
Obama oversaw the rapid politicization of the supposedly apolitical civil service, including targeted Internal Revenue Service harassment of groups with “tea party” or “patriot” in their names, as the director of the IRS Exempt Organizations division, Lois Lerner, admitted in 2013.
Throughout the Obama administration, meanwhile, illegal immigrants crossed more or less freely into the United States across the border from Mexico. Epitomizing the failure of the Obama administration’s immigration policies was the killing of a young woman named Kate Steinle on July 1, 2015, in San Francisco. The killer was an illegal immigrant, José Inez García Zárate, who had seven felony convictions and had been deported five times.
The Obama foreign policy was no better. Shortly after taking office, he embarked upon two world tours that critics quickly dubbed the “apology tours,” as at every stop Obama had some negative words for the U.S. He had little to say about America being the most generous, and most free, nation on earth.
Obama was enthusiastic about the “Arab Spring” uprisings of 2011. The establishment media backed him up by claiming that they were democratic revolutions. Reality was, as always, different: the “rebels” were generally Sharia supremacists and often outright jihadis. The U.S. backed the Muslim Brotherhood regime that came to power in Egypt in 2012, despite the Brotherhood’s dedication to jihad for the implementation of Sharia. The Brotherhood regime was overthrown in 2013, as protesters held signs in Cairo denouncing Obama for supporting terrorism.
On September 11, 2012, Islamic jihadis stormed the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, and murdered the U.S. ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens, and three other Americans. The Obama State Department had done nothing when Stevens repeatedly requested additional security, and administration figures claimed that the massacre was a spontaneous reaction to a YouTube video – a strong implication that America’s freedom of speech was at fault.
There is much more, including the disastrous Iran nuclear deal and his showering billions upon the Islamic Republic as the Iranian mullahs chanted “Death to America.” Yet when Obama left the White House, he was hailed and lionized as much as he had been when he took office. Yet he had done nothing but weaken the United States on virtually all fronts. Only a courageous leader with a strong capacity for independent thought could even begin to undo the havoc Obama wrought.
That man was Donald Trump. In his inaugural address, Trump announced that “today we are not merely transferring power from one Administration to another, or from one party to another—but we are transferring power from Washington, D.C., and giving it back to you, the American People. For too long, a small group in our nation’s Capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost. Washington flourished—but the people did not share in its wealth. Politicians prospered— but the jobs left, and the factories closed. The establishment protected itself, but not the citizens of our country.... That all changes—starting right here, and right now, because this moment is your moment: it belongs to you.”
But the guardians and beneficiaries of the old order were not going to give way easily. Most Americans assumed that when Trump became president, he would be able to implement his own agenda insofar as he could secure the cooperation of Congress, as other presidents had done. But Trump encountered an entrenched coterie of bureaucrats at all levels who were determined to thwart his every move. While the media dismissed talk of a “deep state” as a conspiracy theory, the New York Times admitted its existence on September 5, 2018, when it published an anonymous op-ed that proclaimed, “I work for the president but like-minded colleagues and I have vowed to thwart parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations.”
If Trump had not been elected, the deep state still would have been operating, but its existence would not be known. Now it is out in the open, and the battle for America is on. Trump’s supposedly “worst inclinations” involved defending America and putting it back on its feet. In June 2016, Obama ridiculed Trump’s pledge to attract U.S. companies that had moved out of the country back to the United States, sneering, “What magic wand do you have?” Trump’s magic wand was an unprecedented initiative to cut regulations on businesses and drastically lower taxes. It began to work immediately. In 2019, unemployment was at 3.5 percent, the lowest it had been since 1968. The Trump administration also set record lows for unemployment among blacks and Hispanics and record highs for the stock market.
The Trump-era economy boomed until the coronavirus pandemic wiped out the gains that had been made; it began rebounding quickly, however, and there was no doubt that it would have been even weaker still had the steps Trump took to get it going again not been taken in the first place.
The coronavirus crisis was in many ways a vindication of points Trump had been making for years, including his repeated assertion that China (where the virus originated) was no friend of the United States, and constituted an economic threat—not an ally. Trump and George Washington were proven correct about avoiding foreign entanglements: the nation was unwise to outsource so much of its manufacturing to the People’s Republic or to any other foreign country. The crisis showed that Trump was also correct that strong border controls were essential for national security, as one of his earliest responses to the crisis was to restrict travel from China to the United States, for which the Democrats, predictably focused on destroying his presidency and not on what was best for Americans, charged him with “racism.”
The coronavirus crisis demonstrated anew why Trump is a great president: because he puts America first. After a long line of internationalists occupied the White House since 1933, with the sole and partial exception of Ronald Reagan, Trump unashamedly made America first, a principle that had been discredited as “isolationist” since the bombing of Pearl Harbor, not just a slogan, but the cornerstone of his administration. This should have been taken for granted: putting America first is actually the central duty of the president, as encapsulated in his oath of office, in which he solemnly swears to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
In line with that oath, Trump withdrew the U.S. from the Iran nuclear deal that weakened the country internationally. His multitude of critics responded with claims that the deal was working, that Iran was more peaceful than it had been, and that it was rejoining the family of nations. This was not true and never had been true. The deal had just been concluded when the Islamic Republic’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, reaffirmed his nation’s hostility toward the U.S.: “Even after this deal our policy towards the arrogant U.S. will not change.” Two days later, Khamenei said in a speech, “According to Qur’anic principles, fighting against arrogance and global imperialism is never-ending and today, America is the very epitome of arrogance.”
Trump placed new sanctions on Iran that immediately began to have an effect: as the Iranian economy suffered, the Iranian people increasingly turned against the regime, and there were demonstrations all over the country.
Rating America's Presidents details a great deal more that Trump has accomplished. He became president when the nation had lost its way. He made herculean efforts to bring it back to what the Founding Fathers had intended it to be: a bastion of freedom.
As Trump said: “I never forget, that I am not President of the world, I am President of the United States of America. We reject globalism and we embrace patriotism. We believe that every American citizen, no matter their background, deserves a government that is loyal to them. The Democrat Party and the extreme radical left are trying to abolish the distinction between citizens and non-citizens.”
Indeed. But it is, or ought to be, simple common sense: every head of government the world over should make his or her top priority the protection and strengthening of his or her own nation, not the interests of some other nation or group of nations.
Trump is not a great president solely for restoring this principle. He also inherited from Obama an economy that was worse off than it had been since the Great Depression, with spiraling unemployment, rapidly expanding welfare rolls, and job growth at record lows. Trump immediately began to turn the economy around, overseeing an unprecedented rise in the stock market, record growth in wages, and decreases in unemployment to levels not seen in nearly fifty years.
Trump also did all he could to protect American citizens from a tidal wave of illegal, unvetted immigrants that threatened the American economy and the safety of American citizens. In this, however, he encountered fierce resistance from a cadre of bureaucrats and judges appointed by Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, who challenged his attempts to put America first at every turn.
Trump vowed during his campaign to Make America Great Again—a slogan that the Democrats tried to portray as racist and hateful. Even as he faced vociferous and relentless opposition from a supposedly objective mass media and unremitting hostility from the allegedly loyal opposition, Donald Trump made good on that promise.
He became president when internationalism and the steady decline of America was taken for granted. In three years, Donald J. Trump, against extraordinary odds, turned that around, and in doing so, became nothing less than one of the greatest presidents in American history. After a long string of internationalist mediocrities, the presidency was once again occupied by a man who put America first.
Put him on Rushmore.
Robert Spencer is the director of Jihad Watch and a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center. He is author of 21 books, including the New York Times bestsellers The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) and The Truth About Muhammad. His latest book is Rating America’s Presidents: An America-First Look at Who Is Best, Who Is Overrated, and Who Was An Absolute Disaster. Follow him on Twitter here. Like him on Facebook here.