President Donald Trump’s “mission accomplished” statement is reminiscent of President George W. Bush, dressed in a flight suit on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln, with a banner behind proclaiming those words in 2003 in response to “military victory” in the Iraq conflict.

That sentiment didn’t jibe with reality. Trump telling us recently, at an Indiana rally, that “things have never been better in America," thanks to him, might be equally premature. He’s updating “make America great” to “keep America great,” because “we’re so far ahead of schedule.”

Trump, using “alternative facts” to support much of his argument, uses hyperbole, claiming that we have “the best economy in the history of our country,” adding that before him, “America was in a lot of trouble.”

The discussion is fair; the question: are we better off now than before?

Like waiting for Mueller to finish before making any decisions about obstruction or collusion, the same might be useful looking at our economy.

In the meantime, it is fair to cut Trump slack on the economy and give him credit for cutting regulations, while criticizing him for some of those regulations that were curtailed that could hurt generations down the line. Too much regulation – bad; not enough regulation — bad. Is the Trump approach a solution, or is it solving some problems while creating others?

How the deficit affects America is concerning. If Trump has “created trillions of dollars of wealth since the election,” as he claims, why hasn’t that wealth led to a decreasing deficit?

Budget estimates are for an almost $1 trillion 2019 deficit; double what it was five years earlier under the Obama administration. Shouldn’t a “booming economy” create more tax base, lessening the deficit? Can’t we bring back a “Clinton boom,” which delivered four years in a row of surpluses?

In Maine, Gov. Paul LePage gets criticized for how he pushes his agenda; like Trump, LePage feels the mainstream media is unfair, using “fake-news” and “enemy-of-the-state” criticism to deflect anyone, anytime, criticizing him.

LePage has pushed a balanced budget and should get credit for not accepting deficit spending to fuel Maine’s economy. The way he does it, the programs he cuts, and the tax reforms he pushes, are fair game for discussion. How we get there should matter.

Trumps’ freezing of wages for government employees is a case in point. The Trump administration understands somebody has to pay for tax decreases and “fiscal responsibility” must fall on the backs of somebody; in this case the middle class is being asked (told) to shoulder it.

What Americans have to decide is: is this a “smoke-and-mirrors” economy, or is it real and sustainable?

James Carville proclaimed "It’s the economy, stupid” when working on Bill Clinton’s 1992 election campaign, using polling that 64 percent of Americans disapproved of how the economy was performing under the elder President Bush.

“Are you better off than you were four years ago” is a mantra that led Ronald Reagan to victory over President Jimmy Carter in the 1980 election.

It stands to reason that the economy will be a major factor in both midterm and presidential elections in 2018 and 2020, respectively.

Will some questions be answered by then? Perhaps.

In the meantime, it’s up to the American people to look beyond rhetoric, and the blaming and shaming, to the facts.

In the end, facts matter.

The men behind the facts matter, too. Reading a thread on Facebook from Trump supporters accusing the late Sen. John McCain of selfish egotism in planning his own funeral and not inviting Trump is head-scratching.

It is one thing to be on board with Trump’s politics when it comes to the economy, immigration and border security, education and welfare, but to be so disingenuous that you call others out on their rudeness or egotism is hypocritical and crass.

Perhaps the commonsense candidate can have a slogan; “Make America classy again.”

“I would encourage people to look around them in their community and find an organization that is doing something they believe in, even if that organization has only five people, or ten people, or twenty people, or a hundred people. And to look at history and understand that when change takes place it takes place as a result of large, large numbers of people doing little things unbeknownst to one another. And the history is very important for people to not get discouraged. History is instructive. And what it suggests to people is that even if they do little things, if they walk on the picket line, if they join a vigil, if they write a letter to their local newspaper. Anything they do, however small, becomes part of a much, much larger sort of flow of energy. And when enough people do enough things, however small they are, then change takes place.”

— Howard Zinn, historian, activist, playwright (1922-2010)