Over the years, my caricatures of Donald Trump have evolved but not as much as my opinion of him. When Trump announced he was running for president, I admit that I didn’t take this millionaire, hotel magnate, reality TV show celebrity as a serious candidate. I doubted his ability to do the job. So I drew him as a clown. In fact, my cartoons were as critical of him as many of my liberal cartoonist friends.
Then Trump started a war with the media, tagging major news outlets as “fake news.” Ahem, I’m in the media.
And while Trump promised to pursue conservative policies, this conservative cartoonist doubted his sincerity. After all, it wasn’t that long ago that he was on the left.
In the crowded primary field, Trump got the most attention by being the loudest. His tweets could not be ignored by the media and resulted in Trump dominating news coverage.
I found his personal attacks sophomoric. I mean, calling his opponents “Low-energy Jeb,” “Lyin’ Ted,” “Little Marco,” “Crazy Bernie” and “Crooked Hillary” was not presidential. It was childish but it worked. He won and they lost.
In this braggadocios “I’m the greatest” culture, Trump became the Muhammad Ali of politicians. His claims of, “I will be the greatest jobs president that God ever created,” “I’m really rich,” “I’m very highly educated,” “I’m the best (fill in the blank)” stretched credulity but was certainly entertaining.
In one of the debates, Trump admitted that he was an entertainer but said, “more than an entertainer, I’m a businessman and it’s that kind of mindset that this country needs.” Soon his rallies were filled with believers that he was the real hope and change America needed.
In 1992, millionaire businessman Ross Perot said that the country needed to be run like a business. He was great at listing the country’s problems, but he didn’t communicate how he’d fix them.
Trump identified the problems and fixes. His political promises were simple, repeated often and easily remembered — build the wall, repeal and replace Obamacare, cut taxes, destroy ISIS, renegotiate better trade deals and make America great again.
So how in the world did Trump change my mind? He started keeping those promises.
First, he picked Mike Pence as his running mate. As I’ve written before, I’ve known Pence for over 20 years and he has the conservative bona fides. So, of course, I supported this decision.
Then, after taking office, Trump began to reverse President Barack Obama’s executive orders and burdensome regulations on businesses. He approved the Keystone XL pipeline. He cut taxes and the economy picked up steam. Again, I supported these decisions.
Sure, he failed to repeal Obamacare but its individual mandate was repealed in the tax-cut bill.
As a Christian, I have been accused of hypocrisy and my faith has been questioned for not condemning Trump’s past extramarital affairs, his language and treatment of women. Look, I know he is a deeply flawed man. So am I. The Bible says we all are. But evangelicals believe in grace and forgiveness and are commanded to pray for our leaders. So I support him in prayer.
Trump has proven to be pro-religious liberty, pro-life and pro-Israel. He moved the American embassy to Jerusalem, pulled out of the Paris climate accord and the Trans-Pacific Partnership and began negotiations to denuclearize North Korea. I support all of these policies.
There have been a few hiccups. Trump signed a budget bill that increased the national debt, which is now over $21 trillion. The Russia probe is still a cloud over his administration and I don’t like trade wars.
But here’s the dominating reason I’ve changed my mind about Trump’s ability to lead: judges. I support his picks of Justice Neil Gorsuch, his new U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and the host of conservative federal judges that Trump has gotten confirmed.
I shudder to think of the activist judges that a President Hillary Clinton would have picked.
In my opinion, Trump has had the most successful 18 months as president than any other I’ve ever drawn. So yes, I support his presidency.
I admit that I was wrong about Trump. He’s not a clown. He’s a businessman, entertainer and now the president that I didn’t want but now think we need.
About the Author
Gary Varvel is a cartoonist and columnist for The Indianapolis Star, where this column first appeared.