In his single term as president, George H. W. Bush negotiated the peaceful reunification of Germany. He liberated Kuwait while losing few American lives. He signed legislation to end acid rain. He did a budget deal that reduced federal deficits, enacted the Americans With Disabilities Act, and successfully resolved the collapse of the savings-and-loan industry.
Jimmy Carter, in his one term, deregulated passenger aviation. He updated the regulation of rail freight, shipping, and trucking, laying the foundation for America’s modern delivery system. He negotiated the Camp David Accords, ending belligerency between Egypt and Israel. He avoided a major crisis in Central America with his Panama Canal Treaty.
William Howard Taft also achieved much in his one term as president. It was his Department of Justice that busted the Standard Oil monopoly. Taft forcefully advocated a central bank for the United States, although that project was not completed until the year after he lost the presidency to Woodrow Wilson. Taft urged free trade with Canada and negotiated the treaty that ended a century of rancorous North American waterway disputes.
To say the least, Donald Trump is not a president in the league of Bush, Carter, or even Taft. Few presidents have left office with so little accomplished, impeached and disgraced. Trump took a lot of credit for the economic growth of his first three years, but the economy was already growing strongly when he took office. Pick a measure, almost any measure, and the trajectory of his first three years was identical to that of Barack Obama’s final three years: unemployment, manufacturing, wages, you name it. And whereas Obama passed a successful economy to Trump, Trump bequeaths a wreck to his successor.