Trump’s early setback
The U.S. is effectively without a leader. This is not good for the country or the world.
During a recent visit to the Washington suburb of Bethesda, I stopped in at an Apple store. The first clerk, named Ali, told me his father was Ethiopian. The next clerk, Arya, was from an Iranian family. I looked around the shop. Most of the customers’ first language was not English.
Immigration has always added value to American society. Today, in this post-industrial era, Silicon Valley, the world’s center of innovation, attracts the most talented minds. President Donald Trump’s plans to limit immigration to the United States will most certainly undermine this dynamism.
People who know the issue well consistently say that U.S. employment is up and that immigrants do not pose a problem. Opposition to immigration is from those left jobless in areas where production has ceased and from those who are past the age where they can retrain for new professions.
The Trump administration’s stance on immigration is a good example of poorly researched methods to tap populism. Its measures to prevent immigration have been halted by the judiciary, and it should come as no surprise that these measures, which were hastily drawn up, without preparation or consultation with experts, got stuck in the courts.
Trump is stubbornly trying to enact policy with staff chosen from outside of the usual U.S. politics, limited in ability and who approach events ideologically. This has rendered the Trump administration ineffective.
When it realized it would fail to repeal former President Barack Obama’s healthcare plan, the White House was forced to withdraw its bill from the House of Representatives. Trump had made this a central plank in his campaign, declaring with great fanfare that he would abolish mandatory health insurance. The whole affair looked like a defeat. Speculation in the media says his planned tax reform awaits a similar fate, with Congress more interested in reducing public spending rather than cutting taxes.
Institutions to become weaker
Let’s take a closer look at the Trump administration’s challenges. Close observers of U.S. politics point out that never before has a president, elected five months ago and in office for three, failed to appoint cabinet secretaries and senior bureaucrats by this stage.
A friend of mine who is a senior official says a secretary has yet to be appointed at his department after the nominee had to with- draw due to problems in his background. Meanwhile, a number of ideological personnel have materialized at the department. These individuals rarely meet with the career bureaucrats and are the “vanguard forces” aimed at capturing the department by shaping it with their ideological preferences.
Veteran senior officials with experience have begun to resign. The fear is that the bureaucracy will move further away from professionalism and institutions will become weaker, unable to fulfill their duties.
Checks and balances
The Trump administration’s aim in pursuing a hardline ideological stance should be to sustain voter support. However, in a system based on checks and balances, this approach actually makes things harder for the administration, resulting in failures.
John McCain, the senator from Arizona and former Republican presidential candidate, was asked in late March at the German Marshall Fund’s Brussels Forum what advice he had for Trump. McCain said that first Trump needed to reach out to the other side and find consensus with Democratic members of Congress in order to pass the laws he wants.
The second point he made was that the president must learn to work with the bureaucracy, and the third was that the president needs to stop waking up early and sending tweets. The president’s predilection for writing whatever comes to his mind on Twitter has resulted in confusion and forces his staff to spend their time trying to reduce the damage these proclamations incur, while neglecting their other work.
Business ties with Russia
There are two other factors that have made the Trump administration’s work difficult. For one, it’s clear that some figures are having trouble explaining their ties with Russia. General Michael Flynn, who served as national security adviser, was forced to resign over false statements he made about matters predating his appointment. It appears that, as this issue deepens, others are bound to get caught up in it.
Country without a leader
The second factor is that members of Trump’s cadre have not fully cut their business ties and face conflicts of interest. Among those facing such concerns is Jared Kushner, the president’s special adviser and son-in-law.
The U.S. administration, which has still not successfully begun its tasks, which has been unable to calculate fully the results of its actions and doesn’t know how to reconcile with its rivals , is trying to control the situation by stumbling through and zigzagging.
At the start of his term, when he should be enjoying a honeymoon with voters, the president’s approval rating has fallen to 30 percent. This is a first in U.S. history. Those in the most uncomfortable position are Trump’s voters, low-income white Americans. The country is effectively without a leader. It’s impossible to say this is good for the United States or the world. Will it improve? That does not appear likely.
The president’s approval rating has fallen to 30 percent. Those in the most uncomfortable position are Trump’s voters, low-income white Americans. The country is effectively without a leader. It is impossible to say this is good for the United States or the world.