The pres­i­dent’s on­go­ing chal­lenges

Near­ing the 100-day mark, trou­bles at home and abroad per­sist

The Washington Times Daily - - OPINION - By Don­ald Lam­bro

The Trump administration is still in the throes of get­ting its for­eign pol­icy act to­gether, ex­press­ing con­flict­ing mes­sages on Russia, Syria and other trou­bles abroad as it nears the 100th day of his pres­i­dency.

In do­mes­tic mat­ters, Oba­macare is still the law, at least for the time be­ing, Pres­i­dent Trump’s tax cut plan is fac­ing a tan­gle of Repub­li­can pol­icy disputes in Congress that will not be taken up un­til Au­gust at the ear­li­est, while the econ­omy shows deep­en­ing signs of weak­ness.

Per­son­nel trou­bles are ram­pant in the administration’s ranks, too. Many top man­age­rial po­si­tions re­main un­filled in count­less de­part­ments and agen­cies. In the De­part­ment of Jus­tice alone, re­place­ments among the na­tion’s U.S. at­tor­neys have yet to be named.

Its mes­sage co­or­di­na­tion is in chaos, and nowhere was that more ob­vi­ous than last week when the pres­i­dent said he’s “send­ing an ar­mada, very pow­er­ful” to­ward Korea in the face of North Korea’s threat­en­ing mis­sile tests.

But it turned out that the USS Carl Vin­son air­craft car­rier strike group was go­ing in the op­po­si­tion di­rec­tion, cruis­ing thou­sands of miles away from the Korean Penin­sula.

Mean­time, Mr. Trump re­mains at odds with his top ad­vis­ers on how to deal with Russia and its al­liance with Syr­ian dic­ta­tor Bashar al-As­sad and Iran. “Things will work out fine be­tween the U.S.A. and Russia,” he tweeted last week. “At the right time ev­ery­one will come to their senses & there will be last­ing peace.” No one in his high com­mand be­lieves that.

Last week, his CIA Di­rec­tor Mike Pom­peo lashed out at Rus­sian pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin, de­scrib­ing the Krem­lin thug, who has helped Mr. As­sad butcher his own peo­ple, as “a man for whom ve­rac­ity doesn’t trans­late into English.”

In a speech at the Cen­ter for Strate­gic and In­ter­na­tional Stud­ies, Mr. Pom­peo de­scribed Moscow as an unre­deemable ad­ver­sary.

While Mr. Trump was still prais­ing Mr. Putin and char­ac­ter­iz­ing him as a good guy he can deal with, U.N. Am­bas­sador Nikki Ha­ley was con­demn­ing him for his sup­port­ive role in the Syr­ian gassing of civil­ians, declar­ing “how many more chil­dren have to die be­fore Russia cares” enough to stop Mr. As­sad from his con­tin­u­ing atroc­i­ties.

And Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son con­tin­ues to at­tack Russia with­out letup, this time for be­ing “in­com­pe­tent or com­plicit” in the lat­est chem­i­cal war­fare bomb­ing raid that killed dozens of Syr­i­ans.

Other top Trump ad­vis­ers no longer even try to of­fer a lu­cid ra­tio­nale for the pres­i­dent’s undy­ing sup­port for the Krem­lin boss who in­vaded Ukraine.

When Mr. Trump’s na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser, H.R. McMaster, was asked in an ABC News in­ter­view for an ex­pla­na­tion of the pres­i­dent’s op­ti­mism “that things will work out fine” with Russia, he made a joke of it.

“Well,” he said, “when re­la­tions are at the low­est point, there’s nowhere to go but up.”

Mean­while, the econ­omy is show­ing wors­en­ing signs of dis­tress across the coun­try in con­sumer spend­ing, weaker eco­nomic growth, un­sold busi­ness in­ven­to­ries, and fall­ing home sales.

Retail sales were down in March, par­tic­u­larly among auto deal­ers, which tum­bled 1.5 per­cent, and restau­rants, down 0.6 per­cent. Build­ing ma­te­ri­als also fell last month, an­other sign of the hous­ing in­dus­try’s sharp de­cline among new home con­struc­tion, down by 6.8 per­cent, ac­cord­ing the U.S. Com­merce De­part­ment, and fewer ex­ist­ing home sales, too.

U.S. home builders were re­ported to be “slightly less op­ti­mistic” about fu­ture sales, ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Home Builders/Wells Fargo builder in­dex re­leased this week.

U.S. fac­tory out­put also fell in March, in what the Fed­eral Re­serve said was its big­gest de­cline in seven months.

That’s lead­ing to in­creased lay­offs among some of the na­tion’s ma­jor man­u­fac­tur­ers, in­clud­ing Boe­ing which plans to lay off hun­dreds of engi­neers in Wash­ing­ton state and else­where as a re­sult of slow­ing sales.

The lat­est lay­offs by the air­craft gi­ant fol­lowed dis­missal of nearly 2,000 em­ploy­ees ear­lier this year.

All of this is putting pres­sure on the administration and House Repub­li­can lead­ers to bring pro-growth tax cut leg­is­la­tion up for a vote ear­lier than its Au­gust tar­get date.

As of now, there is grow­ing po­lit­i­cal op­po­si­tion among Repub­li­can con­ser­va­tives to Trump’s bor­der tax that will raise con­sumer prices, and likely lead to re­tal­i­a­tion among our trad­ing part­ners.

Mean­time, Mr. Trump is ask­ing Congress to give fed­eral work­ers a nearly 2 per­cent raise, and the U.S. Trea­sury re­ports the govern­ment ran up a bud­get deficit of $176 bil­lion in the month of March alone, nearly 15 per­cent higher than a year ago.

Hold on to your wal­let.

The econ­omy is show­ing wors­en­ing signs of dis­tress across the coun­try in con­sumer spend­ing, weaker eco­nomic growth, un­sold busi­ness in­ven­to­ries, and fall­ing home sales.

Don­ald Lam­bro is a syn­di­cated colum­nist and con­trib­u­tor to The Wash­ing­ton Times.

IL­LUS­TRA­TION BY LI­NAS GARSYS

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