WASHINGTON -- A terrible thing happened this week. No, not one of the same old terrible things -- wars in Syria and Afghanistan or terrorist bombings in big cities -- but a new terrible thing.
President Donald J. Trump, he of the loose lips that sink ships and the blundering love messages to the Russians in the Oval Office, has actually done some good on his trip to the Middle East! As my beloved mother would have said, “Will miracles never cease?”
The Middle East is, after all, a region of miracles. Moses parted the Red Sea without so much as getting his feet wet. Muhammad flew on a winged horse from Jerusalem to heaven. And Jesus Christ rose from the dead to save all humanity.
And now it seems quite possible that President Trump might deserve some small credit for his stops in Saudi Arabia and Israel to kick off or confirm various projects that, in fact, look quite good. It wasn’t all weaving, waving and sword dancing in King Salman’s extraordinary palaces. But what, then, was it?
While his time of troubles in Washington was growing ever bleaker, overseas Trump was behaving well and representing the country as a serious leader. And the idea of going first to the sacred places of the world’s three great religions was certainly an interesting one.
In Riyadh, the president carried through programs obviously thought out before the trip, and he put an American stamp of approval on the modernization of the ultra-conservative Saudi state, which is finally moving ahead to change and reform.
Most important to me, however, he toured and congratulated the launching of the new Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology, which has 350 technicians tracking online radicalism and monitoring 100 TV channels in 11 languages. It is particularly important that it is based in the country whose private citizens are known to finance many of the terrorist groups.
Further, this opening marked the first time that Islam, using the true canons of the religion, formally joined the fight to combat Islamist terrorism.
Then, as the president visited Israel, there was the aura of a potential Israeli-Palestinian peace deal. Impossible? Well, my friend, the perceptive foreign correspondent and fellow columnist Ben Barber writes in The Huffington Post:
“Madmen saints, prophets and political visionaries have long emerged from the trackless deserts with previously unthinkable ideas. Half the battle is already won. Egypt, firmly under control of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, and Jordan, under the strong leadership of King Abdullah, and even Saudi Arabia are already in peace pacts with Israel or have offered to sign a peace with Israel.”
Yet, even in my quiet office in Washington, with my beloved white cat, Yankee, asleep at my side, I can hear many of my journalist friends and American compatriots veritably screaming at me: “How could you praise Donald Trump -- for anything?! What on Earth has gotten into you? Is Trump paying you? Or the Russians?”
Well, calm down. Let’s think. I am not surprised by the Trump presidency, because anyone who really looked at Donald Trump’s personality and life before he was elected should have seen that all of his actions are inevitable. This is simply the way he is.
But as someone whose entire life has been spent in print journalism and the written word, I also have to say that we have been -- and are -- guilty of not covering Trump fairly. The bile at the very mention of his name is so palpable in many circles that we are failing to grasp the important reasons he was elected.
Many Americans are angry -- about illegal immigration; about selfish American corporations that take their riches, jobs and loyalties abroad, leaving American workers and towns impoverished; about the elites who think they know everything; and about greedy billionaires who play financial games with our nation’s future.
Donald Trump should never have been president. He may do even worse things than he already has to our nation before he is through. Yet, where are the Democrats or the independents or the whatevers who are open enough to stop railing against him and start cunningly co-opting his appeal for a chance at making things right in the future?
That is why I say a terrible thing has happened -- because I feel morally obliged to mention these unspeakables, and one speaks of them only at risk of being totally isolated and rebuked.
Admitting that Trump has done some things right means recognizing that part of what we have done has been wrong. And that would be the beginning not only of wisdom, but of a real American future.
Georgie Anne Geyer has been a foreign correspondent and commentator on international affairs for more than 40 years. She can be reached at gigi_geyer(at)juno.com.
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