My latest in PJ Media:
Today is the day we ostensibly remember the American presidents, and as it comes around this year we all know that to say “America First” is racist, anti-Semitic, and evil in all kinds of other ways, and that the best U.S. presidents have been those who were most respected around the world, in places such as Communist China, the socialist European Union, and the Islamic Republic of Iran. Don’t we?
Well, there are still a few dissenters among us. While roughly half of the American population today thinks that the current occupant of the White House is one of the worst presidents in history, an active danger to the nation, there is still that pesky other half, which refuses to bow to our socialist, internationalist moral superiors and regards president Trump as an unparalleled champion of the American people, a true defender of the common man in a way that has not been seen in Washington for many, many decades.
On this President’s Day, it’s worthwhile to ask the question: what exactly is wrong with being America First? If the president of the United States doesn’t put America first, exactly which country should he put first? Or should he put some nebulous idea of “global interests” first, with those interests being defined not by Americans, but by the likes of China, the EU, and Iran?
In Donald Trump’s Inaugural Address on January 20, 2017, he declared: “From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land. From this moment on, it’s going to be America First…. We will seek friendship and goodwill with the nations of the world — but we do so with the understanding that it is the right of all nations to put their own interests first.” In response, neoconservative (and now Democrat) elitist William Kristol tweeted: “I’ll be unembarrassedly old-fashioned here: It is profoundly depressing and vulgar to hear an American president proclaim ‘America First.’”
Profoundly depressing and vulgar for the chief executive of a nation to put the interests of that nation before other considerations? Really? Throughout the history of the United States, most Americans would have found Kristol’s statement somewhere between baffling and treasonous. Yet Trump’s statement that “it is the right of all nations to put their own interests first” primarily, rather than those of the world at large, has been out of fashion since World War II, and in many ways since World War I. It has been mislabeled, derided, and dismissed as “Isolationism,” a fear or unwillingness to engage with the wider world, even as it is becoming increasingly interconnected and interdependent.
But to be America First does not necessarily mean that America will withdraw from the world; it only means that in dealing with the world, American presidents will be looking out primarily for the good of Americans. The term America First has also been associated, quite unfairly, with racism and anti-Semitism. The founding principles of the Republic, notably the proposition that, as the Declaration of Independence puts it, “all men are created equal, and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights,” shows that putting America First has nothing to do with such petty and irrational hatreds.
In fact, the Founding Fathers and every president up until Woodrow Wilson took for granted that the president of the United States should put his nation first and would have thought it strange in the extreme that this idea should even be controversial.
Indeed, this is the oldest criterion of all for judging the success and failure of various presidents: were they good for America and Americans, or were they not? This should still be the primary way that the success or failure of presidents is judged. It is the guiding criterion that George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Founding Fathers who were not presidents such as Alexander Hamilton would likely use when judging the occupants of the White House up to the present day.
The president’s most important job is clear from the oath that every president recites in order to assume office, and it isn’t to provide health care for illegal aliens, or to make sure that Somalia isn’t riven by civil war, or to make sure America is “diverse.” It is simply this: “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of president of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
So what makes a great president? One who preserved, protected, and defended the Constitution of the United States. Or to put it even more simply, a great president is one who puts America first. That’s the criterion I used in my forthcoming book, Rating America’s Presidents: An America-First Look at Who Is Best, Who Is Overrated, and Who Was An Absolute Disaster.
There is much more. Read the rest here.
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