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Entering a New Year With Trump
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Entering a New Year With Trump

Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.

It matters little whether Michael Wolff’s new blockbuster book on the Trump era is all true or only partially true. So much of what first was leaked and now has been published reinforces many of the biases that Trump detractors already hold. Much of the material presents a picture of a very scary Administration led by a President whose behavior is so irrational and unpredictable that it suggests a need to pray hard for the safety of the Republic.

In the realm of foreign policy there is a very disconcerting picture presented of a President who has run roughshod over many of the fundamental historical planks of U.S. foreign policy.  Whether this is being driven by an actual vision for U.S. foreign policy motivated by “America First” or–as is more likely–being driven by a president who believes he can conduct U.S. foreign policy with 140 character tweets, is almost irrelevant. It is very clear, however, that Trump is on a tear.

It appears that the President has two fundamental conflicting desires inherent in all his policies; domestic as well as international. Is he interested in carving a new direction for the country or, as continues to appear to be more likely, is he obsessed by a determination to deconstruct, repeal, and void all of the major initiatives of the Obama Administration?  It remains unclear whether President Trump has a genuine vision that transcends his personal dislike of Obama and as well as his loyalists’ hatred of liberal Democrats.   

The specific foreign policy pronouncements since January 2, 2018 are staggering.  Trump has attacked North Korea, Iran, Pakistan, as well as the Palestinians.  He has attacked the U.N. and America’s European allies.  The Trump Administration has threatened to cut off funds and assistance to Pakistan and the Palestinians; has ridiculed President Kim Jong-un just to annoy the young dictator; and has encouraged Israel’s political leadership to expand its control over the Palestinians suggesting possible acquiescence by the U.S. for a one state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict. His apparent backing of the Iranian protesters is actually a constructive break from Obama’s reluctance to support those actively challenging the regime. Trump’s real unknown will occur when the question of whether to re-impose sanctions on Iran is considered in the coming days.  This question represents precisely the problem with the Trump regime as America’s allies are constantly faced with not-knowing what the President’s thinking is or will be on any particular problem. This appears to be coupled with the President’s apparent indifference to what the policy consequences might be.

All of this would be troublesome enough were not for the recent disclosures that the President apparently instructed his lawyer to meet with law enforcement officials to discourage active pursuit of the Trump campaign’s collusion with the Russians.  Such actions suggest the clearest probability to date that Trump did engage in and instructed his counsel to try to obstruct the judicial system.

The continuing disconcerting behavior of GOP party members underscores a sense of fear of Presidential retribution should they support an independent investigation and question the President’s conduct.  Political courage is virtually non-existent among those Republicans who want to maintain an active political future in their Party.  At the same time, the Democrats expect dramatic political changes to occur in the 2018 congressional elections. They want a more muted challenge to Trump now, so as not to undercut a potential, major congressional turnover next November.

Finally, this political jockeying and international instability is happening as Congress faces an array of compulsory legislatives votes between now and the President’s State of the Union address scheduled for January 30. Congress needs to act on the budget to avoid a government shutdown.  It must also resolve spending priorities and limits; and whether to fund the “Wall” and DACA; among other items.

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