President Obama after Newtown. President Bush after 9/11. President Clinton after Oklahoma City. None of those presidents were to blame for those terrible atrocities. What they were responsible for were their words and actions after the events took place; how they handled the aftermath of those tragedies and their attempts to comfort and provide leadership for the nation.
I can't blame President Donald Trump for what was reportedly the largest political assassination attempt in our country’s history. Not for the largest mass murder of Jews in our country’s history, either. I can't blame him for the racism, violence, sexism, xenophobia, or bigotry that has come to the forefront of American politics; after all, he didn’t create the worst parts of American politics, even though he is the best at making use of them.
But Americans will remember the president, like his predecessors, for his words and actions while in office and for the policies of his administration.
Supporters will point to the promises kept: The United States embassy in Jerusalem. Historic tax cuts. A recovering economy. A conservative Supreme Court. Placing America’s interests first.
But what else will there be?
He will be remembered for his words and actions as president, and for the policies of his administration.
He will be remembered for “some very fine people on both sides.”
He will be remembered for choosing to keep an appointment with his adoring fans less than 24 hours after a horrific national tragedy rather than address Congress or even the American people directly (unless you count Twitter).
He will be remembered for shifting blame to the “Fake News,” “Enemy of the People,” and “Main Stream Liberal Media” the same week news outlets were the target of a bomber who drove around in van covered with pro-Trump and white supremacist regalia.
There will also be the vilification of immigrants and asylum seekers, and the trauma children endured with forced separation from their families. Mocking and alienating our closest allies while turning a blind eye to the world’s despots and dictators. Legislating gender identity to effectively erase the existence trans people. Working to remove health care from millions of Americans. Weakening longstanding protections to keep our air and water clean. Supporting a tax cut that predictably and disproportionately enriched corporate America, to the extent that it forced the president to pitch an imaginary “middle-class tax cut” to give Republicans something to campaign on.
It’s easy to place blame for the last week/month/year on people we disagree with. Politicians — Democrats and Republicans — social media, and the American public all had their role in how we got here.
But Trump’s legacy will be of his own design.
Updated Nov. 4, 2018 9:01am
By Jake Kohn
Jake Kohn is a graduate of Brooklyn Law School and Yeshiva University and is a member of the New York and Washington D.C. Bar Association. He works as a policy associate with a focus on rural development and housing at a public interest lobbying and government relations firm.
The opinions expressed here are the author's alone and do not represent an official position of his employer.