By D. J. Webb
Trump was always a symbol; the likelihood was that he would fail in office. And so it has proved. Nevertheless, it is sad to see an opportunity squandered in this fashion. Trump is now become a standard-issue neo-con. The latest dreadful announcement was his pledge to act in some as yet unknown way against the Assad government in Syria over an alleged chemical weapons attack in Idlib. I say alleged, as it is impossible to find out who did this, and even if Assad did it, why is it an American concern? And what is the plan to prevent further instability and further refugee flows? Far better to leave well alone, in my view.
Elsewhere in foreign policy:
*Trump has failed to back Israel as promised in expanding settlements in the West Bank: he should have said that, as an ally, the US had no opinion on this.
*Trump appeared bellicose towards China and then backed down.
*Trump is threatening North Korea, instead of winding down the US presence in Korea and leaving the problem of the Kim Jong-un regime to the North-east Asians.
*Trump has backed down on folding up NATO: at a minimum he could have made clear the security guarantee under NATO was not absolute, and in the event it was called upon, a non-automatic decision would be made whether to assist militarily.
*Trump has failed to recognise Russian possession of the Crimea and to lift sanctions on Russia.
What is he in office for, then?
*His domestic policy has been almost totally focused on a tweak of healthcare that would have harmed his key working-class support base, and failed anyway.
*Now he is looking for tax cuts, another standard Republican cause.
*He failed to respond to the judicial power grab over migration policy: he should have instructed border officials to implement his executive order and not the judiciary’s restraining order. Just as the judges believe they are bomb-proof as impeachment of them is difficult, impeachment of a president is similarly difficult and he could adopt the same reasoning himself.
*He has failed to close down the environment agency, education department and a number of others.
*He has boosted spending on the military, pointlessly.
Bearing in mind his “Muslim ban” applied only to six nations and was only to last for three months (pointlessly), it seems the anti-national policies remain in full force. A million more migrants in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania and no Republican president will ever win again. The only straw to clutch is that he has nominated a conservative to the Supreme Court; it remains to be seen what Gorsuch’s actual rulings on the court will look like, as the past is littered with disappointment in that regard. What about requiring university campuses to uphold free speech? What about birthright citizenship? Or official English? Or expelling Puerto Rico (making it independent, so high-crime Puerto Ricans can’t flood in)? What about outlawing positive discrimination and the whole approach of ensuring “equality of outcomes”? What about closing down the H1B visa racket that often requires Americans to train up their replacements from India?
Trump is combative, but it appears to be a combativeness without a political purpose. He is personally tenacious and has involved himself in tussles with the media and the FBI. I could understand this if the point of the tussles were to halt the FBI investigation into his supposed Russia ties in order to implement his promised policy of repairing relations with Russia, but this has already been ruled out. He seems he’s just defending himself, and not a political position.
The FBI investigation appears designed to prevent Trump from achieving a rapprochement with Russia. As such, it has been successful. Comey at the FBI is engaged in the deliberate destabilisation of a sitting president. Flynn was booted out for telling the Russian ambassador not to overreact to a US provocation and expel US diplomats in December (? the guy was 3 or 4 weeks away from becoming national security adviser and was, in my view, correctly telling the Russians to be patient). Now Steve Bannon is off the National Security Council too. Both have been superbly loyal to Trump, a man who is supposed to value loyalty. Their influence is replaced by McMaster, a neo-con general believed to be pushing for war with Syria….
The worst part of all this is the lazy assumption that Russia is an enemy and so any chats to the Russian ambassador are consorting with an enemy. Russia doesn’t have to be an enemy, as Eastern Europe is relatively distant from the US and there are few overlapping interests, other than the general US belief that it has to maintain its role as the only truly global power. Paul Kennedy’s Rise and Fall of Great Powers made clear that imperial overreach did for all previous great powers and will do so for the US too eventually.
Why doesn’t Trump sack Comey? Or give Comey a month to wrap up his investigation and present his findings publicly? After which, recognition of the Crimea as Russian and a lifting of sanctions on Russia would proceed. Or appoint a special prosecutor to examine Comey’s shielding of Obama administration cronies who have leaked classified information to the press? Or examine Comey’s shielding of media outlets that have published this leaked information?
Trump has been boxed in, but all the while has gradually learned to adhere more closely to the standard Republican line. The prominence of the Trump children (are Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump the real first couple?) suggests Trump’s conservative instincts are being toned down by the more centrist inclinations of his children. This is the one formula that cannot make America great again. I have wearied of the Trump Family Regime.