During the October 1980 Presidential debate, Ronald Reagan uttered a phrase which has become the standard by which all Presidencies are measured: “Are you better off than you were four years ago?” With the Republican Party convention nineteen months away, Republicans need to begin asking: “Is our country better off under President Trump?” In answering, many would argue that with low unemployment, low inflation, and real wage growth, they and their country are indeed better off. Many more would argue that Trump’s economic policies have come at a cost, and that his actions as President have inflicted great harm on the US, both at home and abroad. Leaving alleged Russian collusion aside, Trump’s detractors point to the following:
Ballooning Federal Deficits. Trump stated he could make the US debt free “Over a period of eight years”. Treasury Secretary Mnuchin once opined on the Trump tax plan, “Not only will this tax plan pay for itself, but it will pay down debt”. However, a recently released Treasury Department report indicates that the national debt has risen over $2 trillion since Trump took office.
 Denigrated the pillars of our democracy and the agencies that support them. Trump has continually branded the press “The enemy of the people”, specifically mentioning CNN. Trump noted, “There is great anger in our Country” with certain reporting. Trump has alleged widespread voter fraud and formed a White House commission to investigate it. Trump repeatedly has belittled or criticized US intelligence agencies including the FBI, which he has referred to as a “Den of thieves”.
Have Trump’s attacks really mattered? In Fall 2018, Cesar Sayoc was charged with sending pipe bombs to several people and institutions including CNN.  Trump dissolved the Election Fraud Commission in 2018 after the Commission found no evidence of fraud.  FBI favorability among Republicans has dropped 16 percentage points since January 2017, according to a Pew Research poll.
Undermined Law Enforcement. Once proclaiming “I am the law and order candidate”, Trump has undermined law enforcement on several levels. Trump has roundly criticized the basic law enforcement practice of “Flipping”, the process of inducing a witness or co-conspirator to assist in solving/prosecuting crimes. Telling Fox News he’s been seeing people charged with crimes flip and implicate someone higher up in the chain for decades, Trump said, “It almost ought to be outlawed. It’s not fair”. Trump derided people who do cooperate with law enforcement saying of Michael Cohen, “He’s a weak person”, and labeling him “A rat”.
On the other hand, Trump encourages non-cooperation with law enforcement. In a tweet, Trump attributed the quote, “I will never testify against Trump” to Roger Stone who has been mentioned in the Mueller probe. Trump commented, “Nice to know that some people still have guts!” Finally, Trump dangles pardons as rewards for non-cooperators. Regarding a possible pardon for Paul Manafort, Trump stated, “It was never discussed, but I wouldn’t take it off the table”.
Alienated our staunchest allies. England, France, Germany and Canada have been longtime allies and coalition partners in US military interventions. The Trump Administration has placed tariffs on aluminum and steel imports from Canada, Mexico, and the European Union, citing “National security concerns”. The administration has withdrawn from agreements previously negotiated with these partners including the Paris Agreement and the Iran Agreement. Trump has criticized the leaders of these countries labeling Canadian PM Trudeau “Very dishonest and weak”, and meddled in their internal affairs, most recently, Brexit and the French riots. The global image of the US abroad continues at an historic low, according to a recent Pew Research study. While a median of 50% of the 25 nations polled have a favorable view of the US, only 27% expressed confidence in Trump in world affairs. Trump’s lack of approval among key allies is particularly stark. In Canada, only 25% approve of Trump; in Germany it is 10%, and in France, 9%.
Emboldened our Adversaries. Trump lavished praise on Russian President Putin and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un after summits with them. Details of those discussions were never made public. What Americans do know is that since Trump took office, Russia: has continued its involvement in Syria; been implicated in chemical nerve agent attacks in the UK; flew two nuclear capable jet bombers near the Alaskan coast on September 11; fired on and seized Ukrainian ships in November, and most recently took an American citizen with no intelligence ties hostage for alleged espionage. While Un has ceased missile launches post-summit with Trump, intelligence agencies have reported that North Korea is continuing its nuclear weapons program.
Indifference to human suffering. At home, under an AdministrationZero tolerance policy”, thousands of children were separated from their parents after illegally crossing the US border, a misdemeanor violation. Despite a judge’s order to reunite the separated families, as of September 2018, 304 of the 416 children remaining in the government’s custody had not been reunited because their parents had been deported without them. Abroad, Washington Post Reporter Jamal Khashoggi, a critic of the Saudi Arabian government, was killed and dismembered inside the Saudi consulate in Turkey. Trump, despite being advised by the CIA Director that Saudi King Salman was behind the murder, refused to hold the Saudis accountable for the incident.
Possibly violated Federal Law. Federal Prosecutors in Manhattan alleged in court documents that Trump, according to Michael Cohen, directed and coordinated payments made to two women with whom Trump had extramarital affairs. Prosecutors contend the payments were made to suppress information of the affairs so as to prevent it from influencing the Presidential election, in violation of Campaign Finance Laws. Particularly telling was the prosecutors’ assessment that Cohen’s information “was largely consistent with other evidence gathered”.
In his 1989 farewell speech, Reagan reflected on the status of the America he often referred to as the “Shining city on a hill.” “More prosperous, more secure and happier than it was eight years ago… still a beacon, still a magnet for all those who must have freedom,” he said.  Today, Reagan would probably say of that shining city, “More prosperous, but less secure and happier than it was two years ago”. But what would he say of the beacon? “Well”, he would characteristically  lament, “It’s been turned off.”
Robert Turkavage is a retired FBI Supervisory Special Agent, a 2016 NJ delegate for John Kasich, and a 2018 Republican Party candidate for US Congress (NJ).
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