I think I’ve decided that the best way to incorporate the reality of Donald Trump being president is to just assume that what he’s saying at the time is undergirded by willful ignorance, lack of knowledge, boasts, and the idea that he’s a huckster showman who has little working knowledge of the United States Constitution, the country’s history, and his responsibilities as the head of its executive branch. In fact, I have begun to sleep better at night assuming that he’s going to make a shockingly terrible decision on a weekly (daily?) basis, and at some point will provoke both domestic and foreign crises simply to keep himself in the news.
Perverse? Yes, but such is the state of our politics.
The litany of Trump’s ignorance of diplomatic and presidential protocol is concerning, especially for a 70 year old man who has some impressive educational accomplishments. I certainly understand that he believes that he was elected to shake up the system and to drain the political swamp in DC. The problem is that there is a right way and a wrong way to make great change. The right way is to have a comprehensive plan as to how you’re going to do it and to tell your friends first how your approach might affect them. Gushing over the dictators in Pakistan, the Philippines and Kazakhstan is not the way to do that, especially when British PM Theresa May only gets a “come by if you’re in the US” invitation. Trump is playing the businessman who doesn’t want to upset any potential customers, but this is reason one why electing business people with no political experience is a terrible idea.
And then there’s Taiwan and China. Somebody needs to tell the know-nothing who will occupy the Oval Office come January, that the Chinese have a great deal of power and that they are not afraid to use it. He can’t treat the Chinese as some backwater nation that can be cowed with 45% tariffs or threats about undercutting American companies with cheap materials and labor. Might Trump be the one who ultimately tames China and revives US trade? Possibly, but he’s not going to do that by wading into the one issue that China cannot abide, which is recognition of Taiwan. Perhaps Obama can save this bit of face before he leaves, but he and his team need to pointedly remind Trump that there are still some rules he needs to respect.
But what do you expect from a man who is surrounding himself with generals. Talk about sending a message. The problem, again, is that Trump is sending the message that he doesn’t really understand the constitution. The military is supposed to be under civilian control, not making major decisions about the country’s policies. And the bigger problem is that because Trump doesn’t have a clear plan and is ignorant of both policy and world events, he’s going to have to rely on those generals for advice, and there are going to be a lot of them in the room during cabinet meetings. If he appoints a Secretary of States that he doesn’t really respect, like Mitt Romney, Trump will more likely minimize his advice and turn to his military men. Not that Mitt Romney knows how to be Secretary of State. On-the-job training is going to be a hallmark of this administration. The will make unnecessary mistakes. I hope they learn from them.
As for domestic affairs, the deal with United Technologies and Carrier was a public relations win for Trump, but at the expense of the taxpayers in Indiana who will pay more and get less because Trump and Mike Pence did the Republican thing and gave the company a tax break. Bribery? Yes. Smart? No. Because Trump will not be able to replicate what he did with Carrier with other companies. If he had thought about a long-term strategy, maybe he would have a template to work with., but he’s making it up as he goes along and the people who voted for him based on his jobs promise will be terrifically disappointed with the trade-off.
And my bet is that those 1,000 saved jobs will ultimately go to Mexico. After all, as Trump has said, it’s just good business.1