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Trump's political future depends on whether he can change

Trump's political future depends on whether he can change
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Barring a miracle from the Supreme Court, the Trump era appears to be ending, at least for now. And at this point it seems — again, depending on the high court — to be ending in about as undignified a manner as President TrumpDonald TrumpHarry Reid reacts to Boehner book excerpt: 'We didn't mince words' Man arrested for allegedly threatening to stab undercover Asian officer in NYC Trump says GOP will take White House in 2024 in prepared speech MORE’s millions of critics would have predicted. 

As someone generally supportive of this president, I often have regretted the lapses in taste and civility that he has exhibited. It never seemed very important that so many of his speeches and press briefings were filled with self-serving references to himself. When cant and emotionalism (not to mention snobbery) abate, it will be seen that Trump’s accomplishment in coming from completely outside politics or high military service to win the White House — and then implementing a brilliant economic program and fulfilling his pledges to renegotiate disadvantageous trade deals, curb illegal immigration, bring real assistance to lower-income groups and pursue a foreign policy that was unambiguously in America’s national interest without asking anything unreasonable of allies — has been a tour de force.

Like a talented comedian or circus acrobat, only when he has left the stage will it be possible for most people to set aside the entertainment aspect of his performance, whether they liked or were revolted by it, and recognize his remarkable achievements. Within a couple of months, the process of evaluating his record will become much more rigorous, and the frequent gaucheries will start to recede from memory, like the folksiness of Harry Truman, the syntactical problems of Dwight Eisenhower, the crudities of Lyndon Johnson, the banalities of Jimmy CarterJimmy CarterBiden: Between a rocket and a hard place? Dealing with Iran: Will Joe Biden be the new Jimmy Carter? G. Gordon Liddy, central figure in Watergate scandal, dies at 90 MORE, the brown suits of Ronald Reagan and the malapropisms of the Bushes. 

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Most of the presidents just mentioned, including Trump, were capable, but none of them, from the most to the least distinguished, was sent to the White House by a casting agency. Nor may any journalistic interpretation be accepted as having the remotest relationship to historical judgment. Richard Nixon was one of the most talented, successful presidents in history but remains in the dungeon of sanctimonious hypocrisy in which the media imprisoned him. Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaUS raises concerns about Iran's seriousness in nuclear talks Matt Stoller calls on Biden administration to keep McKinsey away from infrastructure Obamas describe meeting Prince Philip in statement mourning his death MORE glows still in his suave, stylish personification of America’s rejection of racism and embrace of the fundamental equality of all men; he was the conjuration of Jefferson the slaveholder’s egalitarian vision. Yet, Obama was in fact (and will be seen by history to have been) a mediocre, below-average president. All he produced was ObamaCare (which was unsuccessful), the “green” tyranny (which was nonsense) and the Iranian nuclear agreement (which was a disaster).

Trump’s accomplishments as president are beyond debate and will quickly prevail in the national memory over the nonsense in which he often enshrouded them. 

Of course he has not, as he has claimed, done as much for African Americans as Abraham Lincoln or even Johnson did. (Fox News’s Harris Faulkner had to remind him when Trump favorably compared his performance to that of Lincoln: “Mr. President, we are free.”) But he did a great deal to improve the economic conditions of African Americans and the persistent allegations of his racism, including from the Obamas, are a shameful defamation, rebutted by the large increase in voting support of African Americans that Trump achieved last month. 

Of course he did not win the election by millions of votes, as he claims; in both his presidential elections, he trailed his chief opponent in the popular vote. But it also is obvious that the ballot-harvesting and skulduggery alleged in the Democratic-governed states of Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin (as well as in Georgia, whose Republican governor and secretary of State have effectively betrayed the president) produced a tainted election; 70 percent of Republicans, and about a quarter of Democrats, say so. Despite attorney Sidney Powell’s exaggerated legal claims, and Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiGaetz hires legal counsel amid DOJ probe Georgia lieutenant governor: Giuliani election claims helped lead to new voting law Rep. Lee Zeldin announces bid for New York governor MORE signing on to a lot of lawsuits where the remedy demanded vastly exceeded the evidence of skulduggery, there is clearly enough to justify Trump’s claim that he was cheated, even if it has been impossible to separate fraudulent “harvested” ballots from genuine ones and to verify authenticity in a large number of cases.

With all that said, how much more easily this Trump term would have gone if the president had used more sugar and less vinegar. 

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No one can forget the disgraceful antagonism with which he was greeted — not only in Senate Minority Leader Chuck SchumerChuck SchumerThe first Southern state legalizes marijuana — what it means nationally H.R. 1/S. 1: Democrats defend their majorities, not honest elections McCarthy asks FBI, CIA for briefing after two men on terror watchlist stopped at border MORE (D-N.Y.) promising “scorched earth” and the late Rep. John LewisJohn LewisDemocrats see opportunity as states push new voting rules Lobbying world Patagonia to donate million to Georgia voting rights groups MORE (D-Ga.) saying Trump was “illegitimate,” but also in Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellHarry Reid reacts to Boehner book excerpt: 'We didn't mince words' Democrats see opportunity in GOP feud with business Biden resists calls to give hard-hit states more vaccines than others MORE (R-Ky.) and then-House Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanTrump faces test of power with early endorsements Lobbying world Boehner throws support behind Republican who backed Trump impeachment MORE (R-Wis.) sitting on their hands for six months and deserting Trump on the replacement of ObamaCare. That the president did not have an uncontainable reflex to turn the other cheek is understandable, but if he could have handled some of the less toxic chaff thrown at him with the wry humor and even a little self-deprecation for which charming presidents such as Franklin Roosevelt, John KennedyJohn Neely KennedyMORE and Ronald Reagan were so renowned, it would have been much more difficult for the national political media to maintain and infect the country with their relentless hatred of him, right to the present.

However, Trump has won his fight with the media. He has been a successful president and he has driven the media to an inexcusable frenzy of totalitarian dishonesty. They are purring like tabbies and preening their coats at what they take to be their victory, but not one American in eight believes a word they say or print; they are despised, with the rarest exceptions, by the half of the country that admires the president, and considered useful but ethically tainted lackeys and idiots to the ramshackle Trump-hating coalition that soon will govern the nation.

Whether Trump has a political future or not depends entirely upon him. If he wishes to leave the arena now, he can do so honorably and confident of a comparatively generous historic treatment. The presumptive president-elect clearly is not an individual of the stature or stamina necessary for such a demanding position, and almost nobody claims he is. Democrats are an uneasy and opportunistic agglomeration of corrupt city machines, urban guerrillas, the subversive wasteland of academia, the Luddite teachers unions and the detritus of the old Democratic Party of Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden eyes bigger US role in global vaccination efforts Trump says GOP will take White House in 2024 in prepared speech Kemp: Pulling All-Star game out of Atlanta will hurt business owners of color MORE’s Scranton youth.

Trump has cracked open the Democrats’ African American and Hispanic American fiefdoms, and if he acquires more presidential dignity — and an enhanced judgment of when and what to tweet, of when and when not to be back in the people’s faces as he has been, exhaustively, for four years, and can sometimes be discreet and patient — he could still have a brilliant political future. There is no rival to him as Republican leader and, after four years of Joe Biden and Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisPelosi planned on retiring until Trump won election: report How Kamala Harris can find the solution for the migration crisis White House unveils official portraits of Biden and Harris MORE, the Democrats will be sitting ducks. Even as his enemies celebrate, Donald Trump, by calculation or inadvertence, will be the chief architect of America’s next political decade.

Conrad Black is an essayist, former newspaper publisher and author of 10 books, including three on Presidents Franklin Roosevelt, Richard Nixon and Donald Trump. Follow him on Twitter @ConradMBlack.