President Trump took over at a time of peace and prosperity but acted as though the United States were mired in war and recession. His inaugural address painted a bleak picture of “American carnage,” with “rusted-out factories,” “crime and gangs,” and the “wealth of our middle class … redistributed across the entire world.” This litany of exaggerated woes was designed to provide a rationale for an outsider such as Trump to take power. “I alone can fix it,” he has promised in the manner of countless caudillos.
Trump’s dystopian vision has become a self-fulfilling prophecy. He began his presidency by creating chaos in the nation’s airports with an unnecessary executive order banning immigration from seven majority-Muslim nations whose travelers did not pose an imminent threat. Now, 16 months later, he has created or worsened at least half a dozen major crises.