Trump’s First 6 Months Were Terrible, But He Got 3 Things Right
Six months in, the Donald Trump presidency feels like the ill-fated Apollo 13 spaceflight, which almost 50 years ago hurtled into the abyss after a major blowout and a cascade of mechanical meltdowns. Disaster appeared inevitable, and only a miracle could save the crew from doom.
Then, like now, it seemed tempting to submit to fate and accept the inevitable. When thinking about how Trump’s conduct in office has shaped America’s role in the world, almost everything that could go wrong has gone wrong (one of the few things that has kept it from being a full liberal fever dream is that Rudy Guiliani did not end up as Secretary of State). Many days, one feels like the beleaguered NASA flight controllers trying to steer the ship back to earth, stressed out, heads in their hands, with no good answers, wondering what’s coming next.
All of this has gotten me thinking about one of the key moments depicted in the movie Apollo 13, soon after the mission has taken a disastrous turn and the flight director (Gene Kranz, played brilliantly by Ed Harris) asks the simple question: “What do we got on the spacecraft that’s good?” That seems like the right thing to ask now, when it is too easy — and is in some ways overwhelming — to focus on what’s wrong with Trump’s foreign policy so far. It’s worth highlighting what’s right. After all, it just might help save us.
Three areas stand out. Let’s start with the easy one: the leadership of Secretary of Defense James Mattis and the performance of the U.S. military. Mattis has become the go-to talking point for Republicans trying to defend Trump, and is the life-preserver for observers and allies worried about the direction of the United States. Heaping praise on him has become a cliché. Is he the second coming of General George Marshall? No. But we’re lucky he’s there.