Not a Way To Lead

Not a Way To Lead

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

The spill out from Trump’s first G20 Conference continues to make waves in numerous international areas.  The fact is that Trump appears merely to have used the meeting to meet with Putin and did not really care about the rest of Conference’s business. 

The most important result of the meeting was the clear willingness on the part of the international community to move ahead on its own without the U.S. in the areas of trade and climate change. How this will develop is unclear, but the very fact that once Trump indicated his lack of interest to make common purpose with the other 19 members, Angela Merkel stepped forward and led her colleagues ahead without Trump.  The symbolism of this move will only evolve as one measures the repercussions from the America Firsters driving the Trump Administration.  

What was equally important and what received considerably less attention so far was the President’s behavior towards another of his key Cabinet members. As he had done previously with Rex Tillerson, Trump contradicted his Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin for the second time this weekend.  

In February, within hours of Mnuchin having indicated that he would study China’s control of the Yuan before he would declare China to be a currency manipulator, Trump turned around and referred to China as the “grand manipulator” of currency.  In Hamburg, when Trump met with Putin the matter of future cybersecurity regulation was discussed. Mnuchin addressed the matter on Saturday and referred to the conversation with Putin as a “significant accomplishment” that had been achieved at the meeting. Within hours Trump turned around and tweeted that he and Putin discussed the matter but there was no agreement reached.

This process degrades the office of the Presidency and undermines the standing of the United States. The American people, other politicians, and foreign leaders will chaff at the conduct of the American Government. In the future it will be impossible to make respected policy. No one will know what to believe.

It has been obvious for some time that Trump does not mind contradicting himself and challenging his “fake news” opponents. Now it seems that the entire Trump Administration is becoming a new cast of the “gang that couldn’t shoot straight.” Trump can embarrass himself as much as he wants but it seems likely that this behavior must eventually drain support from his Cabinet. These are largely officials who had respected public reputations and they are not likely to continue to fall on their own sword for Trump. The time will come when someone will walk away from this White House. When that happens, there could be a race to the doors among other Cabinet officers or White House staff.  

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