Trump’s Mess – Part One
I have tried to support and defend Trump as President, but it is getting harder and harder. I supported him as the common man’s response to the establishment, but he is making the establishment look better than it used to.
I don’t think he should have fired Comey or interfered with the Russian hacking investigation, although he should have prepared a strong defense against whatever allegations were made against him and his administration. I still don’t believe that Trump is a pawn of Putin or a traitor, although he might be guilty of some criminal conduct before or after his election. It seems like the most egregious criminal offenses in politics are committed during the coverup, rather than in the questionable act itself. We should let the investigations proceed unimpeded and see what they turn up. Unfortunately, the Clinton Whitewater investigation showed that once these start, they never end, but Trump is stuck with it because of the way he ran his campaign and transition.
The fact that Trump wants good relations with Russia does not bother me. I don’t think Putin’s Russia is the old Soviet Union. I don’t think it is the existential threat to the US that the Soviet Union was. Putin’s challenge to the US is partly personal, because the US has been so critical of him personally, and partly an effort to make Russia great again (like Trump’s America). Off and on for a thousand or so years, Russia has been a significant player on the European continent. It defeated Napoleon and Hitler. The divide between east and west Europe has moved to the east or west, depending on the relative strength of Germany, France, or Austria, and Russia. As Russia strengthened, the border moved west, as western Europe strengthened, the border moved east, in either case often to the detriment of Poland with occasionally disappeared, swallowed up by one side or the other. I think Putin is trying to reassert Russia’s traditional importance, and it does not necessarily threaten the balance of power in Europe, although it might threaten some Central European states in one way or another. Whatever might happen would probably still be better than being part of the Warsaw Pact during the Cold War. The most obvious appearance of these tensions is Ukraine, which is where the two forces of east and west are meeting at the moment. Nevertheless, I do not see the current Russian threat as anywhere near the existential threat the old Soviet Union posed during the Cold War. It’s a rivalry that can be managed. So far, neither Trump nor Putin is doing a good job of managing it, but it can percolate without serious damage.
I think the scare tactics about the Trump-Russia connection are mainly a Democratic political attack strategy. They create the impression Russia is a danger to the US without explaining why. But I think partly the Russia scare is due to Jewish racial fears. Jews lived in oppressive conditions in Russia for hundreds of years. The mass exodus from Russia was largely due to the 1974 Jackson-Vanik amendment, which restricted trade with countries that limited Jewish emigration to the US or Israel. The four Jewish staffers for Senator Scoop Jackson responsible for the amendment were Richard Perle, Elliott Abrams, Douglas Feith, and Paul Wolfowitz, according to Commentary Magazine. These past experiences automatically associate Russia with evil in Jewish minds.
All of these staffers went on to have important positions in later Republican administrations. . According to urban legend, Richard Perle was the main person responsible for persuading Reagan to reject the opportunity to eliminate all US and Soviet nuclear weapons at his summit with Gorbachev in Reykjavik, Iceland. Putin is no doubt very grateful to Perle.
On foreign policy, I am more concerned about what is going on in the Middle East with Qatar, Iran, and Saudi Arabia, if only because Trump seems more personally responsible for that, while Putin seems more responsible for what’s happening with Russia. Trump was just in Saudi Arabia and hailed his visit as a great success. Right after he left, Saudi Arabia appeared to take two actions against Iran — making Qatar a pariah in the Sunni Middle East, and perhaps encouraging a terrorist attack on Iran by ISIS. Trump has already applauded Saudi Arabia’s ouster of Qatar. Qatar’s main offense seems to be less than fulsome opposition to the Muslim Brotherhood. Meanwhile, it hosts a very important American military base and sponsors the best news service in the Middle East, Al Jazeera.
Domestically, I thought during the election that Trump was a Democrat at heart, and that his Democratic leanings would come out when he arrived in office. So far, there is no sign of them. He has embraced hard right policies on immigration, healthcare, and taxation, the main issues he has addressed so far. As a former consular officer for the State Department, I favor enforcement of immigration laws, which have been generally ignored by both Democrats and Republicans for fifty years or longer. Immigration laws have been enforced (or not) like Prohibition was. Once Prohibition was enforced by Eliot Ness and the untouchables, it was repealed. People pretend to care about immigration, but wealthy individuals like their foreign gardeners, cooks, and care takers, while businesses like their foreign engineers and coders.