One year with TrumpOn Saturday, U.S. President Donald Trump celebrated his first year in office. In an opinion column in The Wall Street Journal titled “The Trump Paradox,” Daniel Henninger wrote, “This era’s most disliked president has produced a successful first year in office.” Ever since he announced his candidacy on June 16, 2015, Trump has dominated headlines. Some are worried about the “Trump risk,” while others have enjoyed the “Trump effect.” We expect the stream of Trump news — and controversies — to continue for at least three more years.
Whether Trump is hated or not, the U.S. economy has strengthened and militant Islamic extremists have been subdued during Trump’s first year. Despite his relatively good scoreboard, his approval rating has hovered at around 37 percent in recent polls by CBS and NPR. His rough policies and governing style might have gotten things done, but Americans are generally unhappy about the way he has divided the nation and reduced America’s dignity on the international stage.
The Trump paradox has had an unexpected impact on the American media and liberal front. Reporters do not have to chase after news anymore because there is enough news from Trump’s tweets. To put it differently, he has become a president whom reporters “love to hate.”
Trump’s election victory dealt as severe an upset to supporters of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. Some bet he would be impeached or forced to resign before his term ends. Some have even accused him of being unfit for the presidency, questioning his sanity.
There is an ironic turnaround, too. Some Americans say the liberal front has never been more united, all thanks to Trump. Citizens who otherwise would have been apathetic to politics have become engrossed with political affairs due to the interesting drama that Trump feeds.
Many do not just dislike Trump; they abhor him. When I asked some Americans why they hate him so much, they say he has brought crisis to American democracy. They cannot accept a president so beyond the typical image of a U.S. president.
He is even unwelcome by Republicans. When I asked one conservative columnist about his opinion of Trump, he said that there was no disaster so far, surprisingly.
So why did Americans vote for Trump if they hate him so much? Trump won votes not only from white blue-collar workers, but also conservative Christians. One pastor who returned from missionary service in the United States said the Christian community did not approve of Trump’s history, but agreed on his direction for state affairs. It is a paradox that pupils of Jesus’ teachings would support a contradictory figure like Trump.
For Koreans, Trump is also a source of mystery. With a liberal president in Korea and conservative one in the United States, many worry about the chemistry between the leaders of these two traditional allies. But Trump surprisingly gets along with his Korean counterpart Moon Jae-in. He was polite and all-praising during his visit to Seoul in November. While former U.S. President Barack Obama’s policy on North Korea was “strategic patience, Trump’s borders on “strategic zigzagging.” The common people can hardly figure out whether he really wants to attack North Korea or engage in dialogue with the regime.
Even after a year, the world cannot figure out Trump’s language. His historic evaluation has already been set, albeit not complete. He is likely to go down in history as the most undervalued president. Nevertheless, politics is a living organism. Once the world comes to grips with Trump better, we may be able to see some surprisingly positive results.
A Pulitzer-winning journalist said that he does not know whether there will be more unconventional politicians like Trump after him. Whoever becomes the next leader of America, we must turn the alliance between Seoul and Washington toward a “pleasant surprise.”
JoongAng Ilbo, Jan. 20, Page 25
*The author is a senior writer on knowledge for the JoongAng Ilbo.