By Wayne Grudem – August 21, 2020
President Trump receives non-stop criticism in the press. I agree that criticism is necessary when a president makes mistakes, but where are the voices expressing apprecia
tion for the good things Trump has done? It’s unfair always to criticize and never to recognize any of the good things a president has done.
It might be a refreshing change to recall some of the remarkable, nation-changing good things that Trump has accomplished for America. Here is my personal list.
Because of space limitations, I have not given extensive arguments explaining why I think these actions are good for the United States. But more extensive arguments can be found in my books Christian Ethics, Politics According to the Bible, and The Poverty of Nations.
1. Judges: Trump has appointed two Supreme Court justices, 53 federal appellate judges, and 146 District Court judges (as well as two judges for the Court of International Trade) who have been confirmed by the Senate so far. In addition, 64 more have been appointed and are awaiting Senate confirmation. All of them are committed to interpreting the Constitution and laws according to the original meaning of the words, rather than according to what a modern liberal judge thinks the law should have said.
As an evangelical Christian, I am glad to see that Trump’s two Supreme Court appointments have already been responsible for highly significant cases that increase religious freedom, such as the decisions (1) to allow state aid that is given to non-religious schools to be given also to religious schools (Montana decision), (2) to protect the right of religious schools to hire and fire employees based on the school’s religious convictions, and (3) to allow religious groups to be exempt from government regulations that would otherwise cause them to violate their consciences in matters of birth control (and, by implication, probably in matters of abortion and same-sex marriage, but that has not yet been tested).
2. Historic tax cuts and deregulation: After eight years of high unemployment and meager growth under President Obama’s administration, the Trump tax cuts of 2017 and Trump’s extensive canceling of excessive government regulations on businesses have given a tremendous boost to the American economy. An estimated 25,000 pages of regulations have been canceled, resulting in a savings of $3,100 per household per year. Another result of tax cuts combined with deregulation has been the addition of thousands of new jobs, so that unemployment (before the coronavirus crisis) fell to the lowest point in 50 years, and unemployment among African-American and Hispanic workers was the lowest it has ever been in history.
On election day, 2016 (11-8-16), the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at 18,332.74.
This afternoon (8-21-20 at 2:29 p.m.) it stands at 27, 898.82, which is an increase of 52% in 3 ½ years, even including several months of the coronavirus epidemic. This is remarkable.
These economic changes affect ordinary people’s everyday lives, not just wealthy people. Tens of thousands of people who were unemployed have recovered the dignity of steady employment (including getting paid during the coronavirus crisis). Millions of ordinary Americans whose retirement savings are partially invested in the stock market (including my wife and me) are finally receiving some protection and even growth in their savings.
3. Building a stronger US military: Reversing the massive budget cuts that had seriously weakened our military under the Obama administration, President Trump has increased military spending by nearly $150 billion per year from $605 billion in 2016 to $750 billion, steadily rebuilding US military readiness.
4. Protecting unborn babies: Numerous executive orders have increasingly restricted government funding for abortions (such as the reinstatement of the Mexico City policy). On February 22, 2019, the Trump administration announced that it would not allow organizations that provide referrals for abortions to receive federal family-planning money, which implies a cut in funding for Planned Parenthood (the nation’s largest abortion provider) unless they perform abortions in a separate facility and not refer patients to it. And on May 2, 2019, the Trump administration’s Department Of Health And Human Services issued a new rule protecting healthcare workers who decline on the basis of conscience or religious conviction to participate in procedures such as abortion or assisted suicide. Trump was the first president ever to personally attend the pro-life March for Life in Washington, DC on January 24, 2020.
5. Expanding educational freedom: President Trump appointed Betsy DeVos, one of America’s leading advocates for greater school choice, to be Secretary of Education, resulting in rising support for charter schools, taxpayer-funded vouchers, and tax credits for private-school vouchers, programs aimed at expanding options for parents looking beyond traditional public schools as she brings attention to them.
6. Standing with Israel: Reversing President Obama’s repeated marginalization and shunning of Israel, President Trump has reaffirmed our commitment to support and defend Israel. He decisively moved the United States Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. He recognized the Golan Heights as part of Israel. He has welcomed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the White House several timesand has repeatedly reaffirmed our support for Israel. I recently read in the Jerusalem Post a statement that Israel has never had a better friend in the White House than Donald Trump.
7. Negotiating a historic agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates: On August 13, 2020, President Trump announced that Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) had come to a historic agreement to establish full diplomatic relations between the two countries, including the establishment of permanent embassies and the beginning of direct airline flights between the two countries. This is important because Dubai, the largest city in the UAE, is the leading financial center in the Middle East and plays a leading role in world air travel and tourism. The agreement will “strengthen regional checks on Iranian power.” It also has the potential to set a pattern for future agreements establishing peaceful relations between Israel and other Arab countries in the Middle East.
8. Actually building a border wall: President Trump has relentlessly battled against Democratic stonewalling and liberal federal judges to build an effective, secure border wall along more than 200 miles of our southern border, and it could possibly reach as much as 450 miles by the end of 2020. Critics object that most of this construction is simply replacing old barriers that were already in place, but they fail to recognize that the government’s first priority has been to secure the highest traffic areas, and in many of those areas the old fence was not up to the job. An effective border wall is absolutely necessary to keep our nation secure and to gain some control over an immigration crisis that has spiraled out of control. It won’t stop all illegal immigration, but eventually it will likely stop over 95% of people who try to enter on foot.
This is important, because once the American people feel that the border is secure, it will be much easier to gain the political consensus necessary for a humane and just solution regarding the undocumented immigrants who are already here, and for widespread support for the legal entry of large numbers of immigrants who will contribute much of value to this great nation.
9. Comprehensive immigration reform proposals : President Trump has proposed and worked for sensible, comprehensive reform of our broken immigration system that would change our policy on legal immigration from a system based on extended family connections and randomness to a system based on merit, so that we prioritize admitting people who will be most likely to contribute positively to American society(as well as those who are escaping from genuine threats to their lives in their homelands).
10. Religious freedom and freedom of conscience: President Trump’s administration has repeatedly and continually worked to defend religious freedom, and his Justice Department has defended religious freedom in numerous court cases, such as supporting the case of Colorado cake designer Jack Phillips at the Supreme Court (Phillips faced massive fines for politely declining to design a cake celebrating a same-sex wedding), and the right of faith-based organizations not to be forced to provide access to abortifacients through their health care plans, overturning the Obamacare HHS regulation that had forced them to do so.
In addition, in the first year of Trump’s presidency, the Department of Justice issued a strongly-worded, 25-page memorandum detailing exceptionally strong protections for religious liberty.
11. Withdrawing from Paris climate accord: President Trump wisely and decisively removed United States from the Paris climate accord, a radical environmentalist program which, according to a Heritage Foundation study, would have brought massive increases to US energy prices with no statistically significant benefit to the environment. Doubling or tripling of US energy costs (as under the Paris climate accord, according to the Heritage Foundation) would have harmed the poor most of all as they spend the highest portion of their budgets on energy. In addition, it would have cost America more than 206,000 jobs by 2040.
12. Energy production and energy independence: President Trump gave approval to the Keystone pipeline, the Dakota access pipeline, and oil production from the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge,, a vast uninhabited region which could produce up to 20 percent of our petroleum needs. His administration has also granted more permits for mining of oil, gas, and coal from federal lands. The result has been lower energy prices (which benefits everyone) and also US energy independence so that we are now becoming the leading exporter rather than a net importer of energy.
13. Waterways of the US: The Trump administration’s decision to abandon the “waterways of the US” policy rightfully returned control of water on private lands to the owners of those lands, rather than the federal government seizing control over nearly all waterways in the United States. These rules have hindered farmers, ranchers, and developers. American Farm Bureau Chairman Zippy Duvall praised the action, saying: “Farmers and ranchers care about clean water and preserving the land, which are essential to producing healthy food and fiber and ensuring future generations can do the same. That’s why we support the new clean water rule. It provides clarity and certainty, allowing farmers to understand water regulations without having to hire teams of consultants and lawyers. We appreciate the commitment of the agencies involved and this administration to crafting a new regulation that achieves important regulatory oversight while allowing farmers to farm. Clean water, clear rules.”
14. Halting the increase in Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards: The Trump administration decision halted the Obama-imposed harsh annual increases in projected average miles per gallon required in new cars every year. This decision will lead to more consumer choice and less expensive and safer cars, which is much better than the Democratic policy of ever-higher mileage goals, requiring ever-lighter and smaller cars, which means more dangerous cars and less consumer choice.
15. Defeating ISIS: President Trump gave our military forces the freedom to defeat ISIS and drive them out of large sections of Iraq and Syria, which they did. This is far superior to the Democratic policy of inaction and appeasement, which had allowed ISIS to take over large areas of the Middle East. Under President Trump’s leadership, US military forces located and killed ISIS founder and terrorist leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi on Oct. 26-27, 2019. President Trump also directed the killing of Iranian terrorist mastermind Qasem Soleimani on Jan. 2, 2020.
16. Persuading European nations to pay more for NATO: President Trump has insisted that NATO countries start to pay their fair share of defense costs, and some NATO countries have responded by increasing their defense budgets. In 2017, five countries met the goal of spending 2% of their GDP on defense and that has now increased to nine according to the alliance’s latest budgetary data. The U.S. is set to spend over $750 billion (3.7% of GDP) on its military this year and leads the “above 2%” group, which now includes Bulgaria (3.25 percent), Greece (2.28 percent), the United Kingdom (2.14 percent), Estonia (2.14 percent), Romania (2.04 percent), Lithuania (2.03 percent), Latvia (2.01 percent) and Poland (2 percent)
17. Protections against false accusation on college campuses: President Trump’s administration has restored many due process guidelines that universities must follow in processing title IX accusations of sexual assault on university campuses.
18. Protecting freedom of speech on college campuses: President Trump issued an executive order giving more specific protections to freedom of speech on college campuses by threatening the loss of federal research dollars if they do not allow for free speech for all students and faculty members. On many campuses, conservative and religious students and faculty members have had their views censored or have faced retribution for expressing conservative or faith-based views
19. Protecting boys’ and girls’ bathrooms, locker rooms, and sports teams: On February 22, 2017, President Trump directed the Department of Education to revoke the Obama-administration’s guidance letter that had directed schools to allow children who claim to be “transgender” to use the bathrooms, locker rooms, and showers of their choice, and to join sports teams of their choice, even when their choices differed from their biological sex.
In a related decision President Trump issued an executive order banning transgender persons from entering our military forces, which would have allowed biological males free access to women’s bathrooms, locker rooms and showers, and similarly allowed biological females to enter men’s facilities. Present Trump’s order was upheld by the Supreme Court which lifted the block on the order by a 5-4 vote. While litigation will continue, the order stands for now.
20. Negotiating new trade agreements that are more favorable to the United States: President Trump has negotiated new trade agreements with Mexico, Canada, and China, and all of them give more favorable treatment to the United States than the previous treaties did.
21. Streamlining environmental reviews for major construction projects: In order to build a new section of highway, a new subway line, or a new gas pipeline, the necessary environmental impact statements have recently taken an average of 4.5 years, and many ran for six years or longer. These delays massively increased construction costs and delayed relief for over-congested highways for many years. But on July 15, 2020, President Trump’s White House released new guidelines limiting environmental impact studies to two years and limiting less-extensive environmental assessments to one year. The Wall Street Journal says these new rules “could literally cut thousands of years of cumulative delay” for construction projects. This will be a huge help in renewing America’s aging infrastructure.
22. Sending weapons to Ukraine: Whereas President Obama sent only humanitarian aid, President Trump authorized the selling of actual military equipment to Ukraine, including Javelin missiles which were necessary to defend against Russian aggression.
23. Standing up to China and Russia: Trump has been the first president to decisively denounce China’s blatant practice of industrial espionage and bullying, stealing of intellectual property, and violating international copyright protections. He has followed up with strong trade sanctions against China, an increased US naval presence in the South China Sea, and the closing of the Chinese consulate in Houston, which was a center of Chinese espionage. The Trump administration has closed several Russian consulates in the US and expelled over 60 Russian “diplomats” (espionage agents), issued sanctions against several Russian officials, and persuaded several European nations to increase their defenses against potential Russian invasion.
24. Withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal: President Trump withdrew the US from the Iran nuclear deal, called the Joint Comprehensive Plan for Action, which would have allowed Iran to build a nuclear bomb within the next few years.
25. A wise COVID-19 response: President Trump imposed strict restrictions on travel from China on January 31, 2020, long before other leaders recognized the danger of this coronavirus. Then, when the COVID-19 virus began to spread rapidly within the United States, the dominant media narrative was a fear that we would run out of hospital beds to care for the sick. President Trump immediately mobilized the military to construct huge new hospital facilities in New York City and elsewhere, and soon there were enough beds. The next fear was that we would run out of ventilators. President Trump persuaded leaders of American industry to fast-track the manufacture of ventilators, and soon there were enough ventilators. Then the question was how soon to reopen buildings and meeting places, and President Trump wisely left the decision to local governors and other local officials who best know the different situations in their individual locations.
Finally, the FDA has fast-tracked the trial and approval process for a vaccine, and the federal government has made commitments to purchase millions of vaccines from various companies as soon as they are approved for widespread use. Several promising vaccines are now in the advanced stages of testing on human subjects. The previous record for rapid FDA approval of a new vaccine was four years from initial research to final approval, but under President Trump’s leadership experts are now optimistically predicting that an FDA-approved coronavirus vaccine will be available as early as October 2020, which would be nine months from the time the outbreak of the coronavirus in Wuhan, China became known.
In addition, President Trump, working with Congress, quickly passed three coronavirus relief packages, with the result that millions of Americans continued to receive pay in spite of their workplaces being temporarily closed.
Unfortunately, many Democrats have decided to make the coronavirus tragedy a political issue, repeatedly criticizing President Trump’s response. With the benefit of hindsight, Monday morning quarterbacks can always claim they would have made better decisions in Sunday afternoon’s game, but they didn’t have to make instant decisions in the midst of the contest.
We need to recognize that President Trump, in dealing with the coronavirus crisis, has repeatedly had to make hard decisions in a situation where he had incomplete information and conflicting advice from different scientific, medical, economic, and educational experts. Others may disagree, but it seems to me that in a very difficult situation he has done a commendable job of balancing the need to protect Americans’ health, the need to avoid destroying our economy, the need to protect businesses from bankruptcy, and the need to get children back to school so that they will not be deprived of many crucial months in their education.
26. Reforming the Department of Veterans Affairs: On June 23, 2017, President Trump signed the Veterans Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act, which gave the Secretary of Veterans Affairs streamlined authority to fire unproductive employees and to appoint new medical directors at VA hospitals. But even before that law, the Trump administration had begun to clean house, and over 500 employees were fired from the Veterans Administration in the first six months of Trump’s presidency.
27. Criminal justice reform: President Trump signed the First Step Act on December 21, 2018.This law gives judges more flexibility in reducing mandatory sentencing guidelines in individual cases, eliminates the “three strikes” requirement of life imprisonment for some offenses, improves opportunities for academic and vocational education within prisons, provides more support for the successful reentry of released prisoners into society, and requires prisoners to be placed in prisons near their place of primary residence where possible
28. Reducing prescription drug prices: on July 24, 2000, President Trump signed four executive orders aimed at reducing prescription drug prices. These included requiring federal health centers to make insulin and epinephrine available at massive discounts to low income persons, prohibiting secret deals between drug manufacturers and pharmacy “benefit manager” middlemen, ensuring patients directly benefit from available discounts at the pharmacy counter. allowing more importation of prescription drugs from Canada and other countries where prices are lower, and reducing prices for Medicare Part B drugs if they are available for lower prices in other economically advanced countries.
I personally doubt the wisdom of using price controls instead of fostering greater competition to reduce drug prices, but I’m still listing this as a good action because it may be a useful first step in providing a signal that Republicans are serious about solving the real problem of expensive drugs that many people cannot afford.
29. Protecting federal property from rioters: The movement that began as peaceful and well-justified protests against the murder of George Floyd was soon co-opted by the presence of lawless rioters whose goal was destruction of property by looting and arson that began in Minneapolis and soon spread to Seattle, Portland, Chicago, New York, and other cities. In contrast to the weak Democratic mayors and governors who adopted a policy of appeasement that only encouraged more violence and even resulted in the burning of a police station in Minneapolis, President Trump announced in Washington, DC that any destruction of federal statues and monuments would result in fines up to $10,000, and suddenly the attacks on these statues came to an abrupt halt. When rioters threatened to destroy the US courthouse in Portland, and the governor and the mayor were not protecting this federal property, President Trump sent in federal officers learn to protect it, which they did. The courthouse was not destroyed and the slightly over 100 US marshals and DHS officers inside the building were protected until eventually the mayor of Portland sent local and state police to protect the building.
According to the 1807 Insurrection Act, the president has the legal authority to take any measures (including deploying federal troops or other law enforcement officials) necessary to suppress any insurrection, domestic violence, unlawful combination or conspiracy, even without an invitation or permission from the governor of the state in which that federal property is located. An example of this happened in 1957 when President Dwight Eisenhower sent federal troops into Arkansas, over the objections of Governor Orval Faubus, to enforce federal school desegregation orders and protect African-American schoolchildren from a mob that had gathered to stop them outside Central High School in Little Rock.
In a further response to the violence threatening many of our cities, President Trump’s Department of Justice has now launched Operation Legend, in which over 1000 additional federal agents have been dispatched to work alongside local law enforcement officers in nine cities to apprehend the most violent instigators of these riots. They have now located and arrested 1485 suspects for violent crimes, including 90 homicides.
30. Welcoming evangelical Christians into positions of influence: This may not be important to others, but, speaking as an evangelical Christian, I see it as a positive factor that, rather than marginalizing evangelical Christians (as was the practice of the Obama administration), President Trump has appointed a remarkably large number of evangelicals to high government offices. These include Vice President Mike Pence, Ben Carson (Secretary of Housing and Urban Development), Betsy DeVos (Secretary of Education), Rick Perry (former secretary of energy), Scott Pruitt (former administrator of Environmental Protection Agency), Dan Coats (former director of national intelligence), Mike Pompeo (Secretary of State), Russ Vought (Director of Office of Management and Budget), and Kayleigh McEnany (White House Press Secretary), and others.
In addition, he has frequently welcomed evangelical pastors and other leaders to the White House, for both public and private conversations.
The context: refusing to waiver in the face of the most biased reporting in American history: These 30 good actions have all been accomplished in spite of a remarkably hostile national media. The Media Research Center analyzed all the evaluative statements made by reporters, anchors, and nonpartisan sources (such as experts or voters but not people identified as Democrats or Republicans) during June and July of 2020 on “World News Tonight “ ( ABC), “Evening News” (CBS), and “NBC Nightly News” (NBC). They counted 34 positive evaluative statements made about President Trump and 634 negative statements during those two months. By contrast, there were eight positive statements and four negative evaluative statements about Biden during the same time period. (Biden had become the presumptive Democratic nominee on April 8 when Bernie Sanders suspended his campaign.)
These numbers indicate that, for every time that viewers heard a negative evaluation of Biden, they heard 158 negative evaluations of Trump. For every positive statement they heard about Trump, they heard 18 negative statements. This is not balanced reporting, nor is it responsible journalism. Someone may object that the Media Research Center is a politically conservative content analysis organization, but that does not invalidate their tabulations, which I suspect would be consistent with the perceptions of any viewers who watch these newscasts for a few days. A similar kind of bias could also be seen on CNN or MSNBC.
Research director Rich Noyes at the Media Research Center was quoted as saying, “I have been studying the news media and elections for more than 35 years. Trust me – there has never been anything like it.” He called this “the most biased presidential campaign coverage in modern media history.”
I point out this media bias in order to observe that President Trump’s unwavering commitment to common-sense conservative political policies is remarkable. Few human beings would have the courage and strength of character to persist in the face of such overwhelmingly hostile mainstream news coverage. And he has not done this while avoiding the press but has held 17 solo press conferences and 44 joint press conferences in 3 ½ years (as of July 20th) plus numerous less formal interchanges with the press when he leaves or returns to the White House by helicopter.
In addition, he has done all this while enduring 3 ½ years of “resistance” by a massive special counsel investigation (that came to nothing), impeachment by the House (that came to nothing), and numerous nationwide injunctions against his executive orders issued by individual US District Court judges. In this context, Trump’s resolute pursuit of the policies on which he campaigned seems to me to be commendable.
Divine blessing or divine judgment? Speaking as an evangelical Christian, I believe that God exercises providential control over the history of nations. The Old Testament says, “The Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will and sets over it the lowliest of men” (Daniel 4:17). Similarly, the New Testament says, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God” (Romans 13:1).
But that doesn’t mean that all rulers are good. Sometimes God gives a nation oppressive rulers as a means of divine judgment, as when he led Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, to carry off the Jewish people into exile (2 Kings 24:10- 25:21). At other times he gives leaders who will bring blessing to a nation, as when God led Cyrus, king of Persia, to decree that the Jewish people could return to their homeland (Ezra 1:1-4).
So here is a question for my fellow Christians: If you believe (as I do) that God is sovereign over the affairs of nations, do you think that Donald Trump’s presidency has been an evidence of divine blessing or divine judgment? I admit that perceiving divine purposes in human events is a task that cannot be proved with certainty one way or another, but when I look over this list of 30 actions, it appears to me to be far more characteristic of divine blessing than of divine judgment. If others disagree, I respect your right to have a different opinion, but that is my view.
Conclusion: If President Trump is reelected (as I hope he will be), we can expect four more years of the same type of White House activity: more originalist judges, ongoing lower taxes and deregulation, continuing funding for a stronger military, further restrictions on abortion, more school choice, continued support for Israel, hundreds of additional miles of border wall, a humane and just solution to immigration, continuing protection of religious freedom and freedom of conscience, abundant safe energy production, continued protection against Islamic terrorism, a stronger NATO alliance, more free speech protections on college campuses, continued protection of separate boys and girls sports teams and locker rooms, more trade agreements that are fair to the US, accelerated renewal of our aging infrastructure, unflinching resistance to Russian and Chinese aggressiveness, continued isolation of Iran and multilateral containment of their hostile expansionist ambitions, normalization of relations between Israel and other Arab nations, and further solutions to the problem of high drug prices.
No doubt more beneficial actions could be added to this list, but these should be enough to justify another four good years with Donald Trump as president.
Wayne Grudem is Distinguished Research Professor of Theology and Biblical Studies at Phoenix Seminary in Arizona.
The views expressed in this article represent the views of the author and should not be understood to represent the position of Phoenix Seminary.
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