Trump: Not as bad as promised

The Hamilton Spectator - - OPINION -

This ap­peared in the Wash­ing­ton Post.

One hun­dred days into the Don­ald Trump pres­i­dency, we have nei­ther achieved the nir­vana he promised nor en­tered the dystopia crit­ics, in­clud­ing us, feared. Since nir­vana was never likely, it may be more pro­duc­tive to ex­am­ine why we have, so far, avoided the worst. Pre­lim­i­nary thanks are owed to Congress, judges, the Con­gres­sional Bud­get Of­fice, the Amer­i­can cit­i­zenry, and vot­ers in the Nether­lands and France.

And, to a highly limited ex­tent, to the pres­i­dent. He did not, on Day 1, tear up the NAFTA, the Iran nu­clear treaty or the Paris cli­mate change ac­cord. He has not aban­doned NATO or em­braced Vladimir Putin. He has ap­pointed sober-minded ad­vis­ers to im­por­tant po­si­tions, no­tably de­fence sec­re­tary and (on his sec­ond try) na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser. When Bashar As­sad used chem­i­cal weapons against de­fence­less civil­ians, Trump re­sponded with ap­pro­pri­ate force.

On the other hand, Trump’s early record also of­fers cause for alarm. His in­ex­pe­ri­ence and ide­o­log­i­cal drift have been ev­i­dent in his ad­min­is­tra­tion’s slow and lurch­ing start. Though a con­sis­tent for­eign pol­icy has yet to emerge, there is rea­son to fear he will di­min­ish U.S. eco­nomic, po­lit­i­cal and moral lead­er­ship in the world. Trump has re­versed a gen­er­a­tion-old trend to­ward open­ness, be­com­ing the first pres­i­dent in mod­ern times to con­ceal his tax re­turns and scrap­ping an Obama-era pol­icy of pub­lish­ing a list of White House vis­i­tors.

No con­clu­sions can be drawn from any of this. Will Trump al­low his team to shape a more tra­di­tional for­eign pol­icy, with a dose of trade bel­liger­ence, or will he un­der­mine long-stand­ing al­liances — or will he jump from one stance to an­other day by day? We don’t know. How will the White House re­spond when tested by a crisis, as it surely will be? Will Congress and the FBI se­ri­ously in­ves­ti­gate Trump’s con­nec­tions to Rus­sia and that na­tion’s in­ter­fer­ence in the 2016 elec­tion?

Un­til that last question is an­swered, it is surely too soon to say the sys­tem has worked. But the sys­tem is at work, and — de­signed by the Found­ing Fathers, shaped and tested over time, pushed and pulled by mil­lions of en­gaged Amer­i­cans — it re­mains an im­pres­sive piece of ma­chin­ery.

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