The Absence of a Decision-Making Process

The Absence of a Decision-Making Process


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

There is much discussion concerning the fact that the U.S. may well be headed for a recession. Leaving aside the specific economic factors which are contributing to this analysis, for President Trump his main concern appears to be not the economy per se but what the consequences could be to his re-election prospects. In addition, as is always Trump’s modus operandi, his is seeking who—other than himself—he can blame should there be a serious economic downturn in the run-up to the 2020 election.

The problem with the President concerning the economy, is that he is not examining or considering what might be the most constructive way to act so as to avoid a recession. This model of presidential decision-making is precisely the opposite of what Presidents do as they face any kind of looming crisis. President Trump is not willing or interested in addressing any of America’s problems in a systematic and holistic manner. Trump just assumes he will glide though it and blow the problem away. The dangers are very serious for numerous sectors of the economy and for broad segments of the American people, but in the realm of international relations this style of decision making could have catastrophic consequences to the country, now and in the future.

The President’s flip-flopping on U.S. trade policy with China and his future intentions as announced this week, represent only the latest example of an Administration that is wandering about from one global crisis to the next without any sense of what it means to govern.

In this Administration, U.S. foreign policy is being made by tweets, smiles, and presumed personal relationships. As is the case with economic planning, President Trump’s approach to foreign affairs is that he has no comprehensive, coherent approach. There is virtually no country in the world with which the U.S. interacts and with which Trump engages where one can articulate what precisely America’s policy is. President Trump is leading with slogans and a desire to disengage America from events occurring throughout the world. This strategy succeeds until it comes up against his personal economic or financial interests which stop him from adopting a complete isolationist policy.

Historically, since the Spanish American War or even World War I—with the exclusion of the Roaring Twenties and Thirties—the United States has conducted foreign policy that participated in more and more of the world problems. These included military, economic, security, and human rights crises. American presidents consistently have been engaged to a greater or lesser degree in the affairs of the world. President Trump has made it clear that he does not want America responding to every global crisis. It is not a case alone of his desire not to be the policeman to the world, rather one has a sense that Trump wants to prove that he is able to conduct the affairs of state without any involvement abroad.

In domestic issues it is clear as well. Americans may be crying out for the Government to take serious action to curb gun violence. After a few encouraging signs following the mass shooting in El Paso and Dayton, one sensed that perhaps the President was ready to move in a concrete manner to support increased background checks and to reduce the availability of assault and semi-automatic weapons. After his remarks yesterday, is appears that he already has recanted. The President suggested he would wait to see what legislation Congress will deliver to him rather than indicating a clear policy direction. His only indication was that he appeared to be crawling back into the arms of the arguments presented by the NRA. Senate Republicans are unlikely to move ahead on gun legislation without having the President’s support. The President has no real policy framework, despite overwhelming national polling to the contrary; thus, little if anything will be done to curb gun violence because.

This presidential style of decision-making presents numerous problems for the well-being of the country. Critical complications will occur when the country faces a serious national security crisis. President Trump’s lack of a reliable decision-making process could bring the nation to the brink of catastrophe.


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