Let us be specific. Our government is in substantial (and unnecessary) disarray. So is our foreign policy, and our commitment to free trade and, sadly, to the rule of law.
Our government is, at the present time, largely adrift. In some instances, it is at war with itself. Some agencies are led by political appointees who hate the mission of the agencies they lead.
The Secretary of Defense, Jim Mattis, one of the few Trump appointees respected by the entire nation, Republicans and Democrats alike, has had it with this President. So have our traditional allies. And when it comes to upholding the rule of law, so has the United States Supreme Court. The financial markets have a severe case of the heebie-jeebies too.
Everyone seems to be waking up to a colossal, unbelievable reality. When President Donald Trump said he trusts his gut more than the advice he receives from any of his top advisors, he actually meant it. He places himself in the panthéon of great thinkers, when he is, in fact, an unread, shallow and insular thinker. He has, apparently, valued the advice of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan over that of his Secretary of Defense, Jim Mattis. We will abandon our Kurdish allies, and the Christian militias that have been holding out against the Assad regime in Syria. They may well be slaughtered as a result. Hezbollah and Hamas as well as the mullahs in Iran must be cross-eyed in disbelief at the news of the vacuum President Trump has decided to create in the region. And Russian President Putin? Don’t even ask.
So, who will replace Secretary Mattis. It certainly won’t be someone whose advice has to compete with President Trump’s gut, nor will it be anyone who holds the same general views as Jim Mattis regarding the importance of our alliances and the strong concern General Mattis has expressed about the folly of creating a vacuum in as combustible a hot spot as Syria.
The Supreme Court handed the White House a much-deserved rebuke, when the justices voted five to four that the law determining where an asylum seeker can request asylum is unambiguous and, in fact, quite specific. “Any alien who is physically present in the United States or who arrives in the United States (whether or not at a designated port of arrival …), irrespective of such alien’s status, may apply for asylum …” President Trump, through the legislative process, is entitled to seek a change in the law. What he is not entitled to do is unilaterally abrogate the law. Despots do that. American Presidents don’t.
Rumors have been flying that President Trump would like to can Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell for the Fed’s latest round of interest rate hikes. Trump says he’s “a low interest guy.” Well, aren’t we all. But with the economy roaring and unemployment at near-record lows and wage inflation finally showing up, that’s when interest rates are logically adjusted. The fed also needs the ability to adjust rates downward should we move into a recessionary cycle as many anticipate will happen before long. With rates so low, the Fed has little muscle to temper a recessionary slump.
The nation is now witnessing an extreme example of political Kabuki as Republicans and Democrats showboat over the wall. As we write this essay, just two days before Christmas, nine of the fifteen major federal agencies have been shuttered affecting about 800,000 federal employees, half of whom have been furloughed and will forgo their paychecks until the current hissy fit ends. To make sure the misery is felt, Senate Majority Leader McConnell has made it clear there will be no further discussion of the issue in the Senate before December 27th. Merry Christmas.
The list is long of top-level personnel departures from the Trump Administration including cabinet secretaries, chiefs of staff, national security advisors, key directors such as the director of the national council of economic advisors, our UN ambassador and various other agency heads. Who will take their place? Certainly not experienced professionals who expect their advice and years of experience to be respected. Certainly not anyone who has recoiled at the way President Trump humiliates those who have served in his administration. The Trump Administration does not seem to be the place for strong, resolute professionals who know their business, and who have built strong reputations in their fields by successfully leading great organizations or demonstrating keen perceptiveness about their area of expertise. No, they are not apt to want President Trump and, frankly, President Trump is not apt to want them. President Trump needs sycophants, whose advice never runs contrary to his gut.
President Trump believes he is one of the greatest Presidents in American history. But he isn’t competing for his place in history with the likes of Washington, Lincoln and Roosevelt. As of today, he is more likely to threaten James Buchanan, Warren Harding and Franklin Pierce for their respective places in history.
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