The Trump team, like so many administrations before them, has been preparing to sell the accomplishments of its first year in office. If the government shuts down, these efforts won't matter because it will all be overshadowed by the impact of the loss of government services on the public and a debate about who is responsible.
But if not, we already know basically what they will say: Donald Trump and the Republican leadership are responsible for an economic boom that is helping working people, for the record highs of the stock market and the low unemployment rate. They will not mention that many economists credit the unemployment and job growth trends to developments already underway during the eight-year recovery of the Obama presidency. And as for the stock market surge, many attribute the bump to an increase in Boeing profits and the windfall to corporations from the tax bill -- not to any Trump-devised policy that will help working people in the long run.
There will be debates about the impact of eliminating the individual mandate and remarkably whether or not the President of the United States is racist.
But the most lasting and alarming legacy of the first year may be on the international front where the dysfunction in the White House and the devaluing of diversity and basic rights at home are sending the message to the world that the indispensable United States is slipping backward on basic values. And the President's erratic and strategy-free leadership have made the United States less safe -- in four major ways.
First, and perhaps most apparent, is the impact of the President's bombastic rhetoric and cavalier attitude toward nuclear weapons and the use of force. The White House will say that Trump does things differently, that he is not afraid to talk tough to our enemies and take a fresh approach. The problem? The prospect of miscalculation and miscommunication, as many former high-level national security officials have warned, leaves the United States more vulnerable. Kim Jong Un has shown no indication that the President's name-calling and tweeting are pushing him to the negotiating table. Instead he seems to be pushing the limit with more tests and more rhetoric of his own.
Second, while the White House is still cleaning up after the boss called African countries "shitholes," the most lasting impact is that it makes it more difficult for many African countries to work with the United States. Why does this matter? Because terrorist groups such as Boko Haram, ISIS and al Qaeda have a strong and growing presence in Africa, and the United States needs the cooperation and support of African leaders to execute its military and national security efforts in multiple countries.
Third, because Trump and his team have expressed unwillingness to hold up our end of the bargain on the Iran deal, Europeans and the other partners in the Iran agreement are left in the impossible position of possibly renegotiating a deal within weeks that took years to secure. This makes it harder for European leaders to work with the United States because they simply can't afford to trust that we will abide by our commitments. And putting the Iran deal at risk could leave us blindly wondering how close Iran might be to acquiring a nuclear weapon.
And finally, Trump's affinity for foreign dictators such as Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, human rights abusers such as President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines and leaders intent on doing harm to the United States such as Russian President Vladimir Putin has left many in foreign capitals wondering who exactly are our friends and who are our adversaries. This puts the United States in a precarious position where we are relying on longtime allies to build a coalition around a threat, as we did with ISIS in 2014, or even in building global support for an initiative we care about, as we did with the Paris climate agreement.
The United States is a country that has survived far worse than a tumultuous presidency, but the damage done during just the first year of the Trump presidency on the international front is a dire warning of how much damage can be done in a four-year term.