(November 7, 2023) As five Republican presidential candidates gather Wednesday night for a make-or-break debate, they should focus not on each other but on the candidate not there. They must make the case that Donald Trump was a bad president who would be even worse, an utter disaster, if he took office again.

If Trump is to be defeated in the Republican primaries, the other candidates need to explode the myth that his presidency was successful. While Trump was president, almost the only things he did right were ones any Republican president would have done, perhaps even better than he did, or that others in the administration did despite Trump as much as because of him. More importantly, Trump failed at so many things that it’s tough to keep track of them all.

Start with inflation: President Joe Biden may have detonated price hikes with his plethora of bad policies, but it was Trump who assembled the dynamite and attached the fuse. It is an undeniable fact that even before the pandemic hit, Trump was the biggest spending non-World War II president in history in raw numbers, inflation-adjusted numbers, and in terms of debt compared to the size of the economy. As some of us noted back then, there’s usually a lag time between inflationary causes and effects, and we predicted that inflation would start howling early this decade — specifically because of Trump’s spending and his jawboning the Federal Reserve to keep interest rates artificially low.

If consumers don’t like the prices of gasoline and groceries, they should blame Trump almost as much as they blame Biden.

Speaking of the pandemic, Trump made a mess of it. He spent two key months refusing to take it seriously. Then, when it began spreading on the U.S. mainland, his early briefings were disasters. He said it would go away almost immediately, as if by magic. He said it could be eradicated by injecting disinfectant or using ultraviolet light. For several months, he encouraged school shutdowns. His behavior was embarrassing, and his incompetence was essentially deadly. Somehow, the United States, with all its advantages, experienced the world’s third-highest number of coronavirus deaths per capita….. [The full column is at this link.]


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