President Trump has been a wildcard president so far — easily irritable, unpredictable and often openly defying norms of governance. But, his foreign policy has largely continued the status quo.
Writing in the most recent issue of Foreign Affairs, Elliott Abrams, a senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, argues the Trump regime is “not a revolutionary administration.” In fact, he believes, “The broad lines of its policy fits easily within the last few decades […] his foreign policy has been remarkably unremarkable.” Everything from his cabinet appointments and his backtracking on NATO, to his attitude on China and his missile strike in Syria, points to an abandonment of his anti-establishment rhetoric from the campaign.
But there’s another trend at work in the Trump administration, too: decision-making at the Pentagon has been pushed further down the chain of command to Secretary of Defense James Mattis and the military commanders below him. In a break from liberal tradition, power is actually being shifted away from the president. This not only has bad practical consequences, but risks setting a precedent that could change the nature of our institutions. The military could end up as essentially an autonomous agent, setting policy without public debate. This means military actions would be free of any political accountability.
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When a Portland man stabbed the defenders of two women who appeared to be Muslim in May, he was quickly identified by his conservative and white supremacist politics. He had supported Donald Trump, ranted against Muslims, and appeared at rallies with neo-Nazi gear. That he also supported Sen. Bernie Sanders and the Standing Rock protests was less reported.
When another man shot at members of congress on June 14, leaving GOP House Whip Steve Scalise in critical condition, different media personalities quickly played a similar game with a new twist: suspect James Hodgkinson was a proud Sanders supporter who frequented anti-Trump social media pages. Minutes after the shooting, Donald Trump, Jr. repeated a sentiment most often expressed by progressives of late: that violent rhetoric sometimes has violent ends….
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After more than 100 days in office, President Trump’s approval rating is at 42 percent, the lowest for any president in the post-WWII era.
Lacking any significant legislative accomplishments, and governing almost exclusively by executive order, Trump places the blame for his lackluster performance not on himself or his staff—or even his opposition in Congress.
Instead, he singles out the “archaic” rules of the House and Senate, calling it a “rough system” that jeopardizes the public good.
Government Gridlock is Good
If the president is having a hard time because of the peculiarities of our system of government, that means the system is doing exactly what it is supposed to do.
Specifically, Trump criticizes the filibuster, claiming that it forces the government to make bad decisions. Trump’s views on the filibuster are not surprising, having never shown an ounce of principle on anything, he seems to have no problem with archaic rules and institutions when they benefit him.
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The marketers behind Hulu’s new miniseries, “The Handmaid’s Tale,” must be geniuses. A remake of the classic 1985 dystopian novel, the show has generated lots of free press comparing the theocratic right-wing dictatorship in the story to President Trump’s administration.
Writing for The Los Angeles Times, Charlotte Ann reports that she’s “lost count” of the number of articles that describe the series as “timely”:
Here’s just a short list of print and online outlets where the T-word appears in connection with the re-creation of Atwood’s fictional America turned into a grim theocracy called Gilead that treats women like breeding cattle: the Hollywood Reporter, the Washington Post, the Guardian, Mother Jones, Harper’s Bazaar, the Daily Beast, Bustle, NPR, and CNN. The 77-year-old Atwood herself chimed in, telling the Los Angeles Times’ Patt Morrison: “We’re no longer making fiction — we’re making a documentary.”
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During his campaign, President Trump characterized the Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im) as “unnecessary” and likened it to “featherbedding for politicians.” The Ex-Im, a federal agency which provides taxpayer backed financing to foreign businesses and governments, has for the last two years been in a state of limbo because Republicans refused to confirm nominees to the agency’s board. This has left it exactly one board member shy of the three needed to approve transactions in excess of $10 million.
Earlier this month, the president announced his nomination of two former congressmen to fill positions in the Ex-Im: Scott Garrett, to serve as the bank’s president, and Spencer Bachus, to serve on the agency’s board of directors. These nominations, especially Garrett’s, demonstrate the president’s resolve to thoroughly reform the Ex-Im. If the Senate confirms Bachus and Garrett, the agency will once again function without impediment.
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