Anyone who has been a student of Trump in business, as a campaigner and as president has surely figured out what drives the man’s behavior. It isn’t novel or unique to 45. In fact it’s as old as the con game itself; i.e. how much can I get away with and not get caught?
His serial lying, very public adulterous affair with Marla Maples, and his Trump University scam are all exemplars of this. That very same M.O. is now on full display in three areas of his presidency, each one of which will be examined, though in no particular order.
A few weeks ago, when the president rolled out his “zero tolerance” policy (ZTP; 1) it was common knowledge among his closest associates that separating child from parent was to be used as a deterrent; i.e. a way of sending a message to potential illegal immigrants that their children would be subjected to that same treatment.
Initially, the policy of taking a child away from his/her parent gained little attention. Some cynics even saw this as “test-marketing” as in “How much can I get away with….?’ Of course, as the separations mounted and the associated human suffering increased, the ZTP policy came under increased scrutiny. In turn, there was a growing acknowledgement that the newcomers had the legal right to a hearing, and that any separation of child from parent could only be maintained for a prescribed period of time. After that, the law dictated that parent and child had to be reunited.
These latter requisites caught Trump, his Health and Human Services Department and Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials flat-footed and dumbstruck. From all evidence, 45 has concocted his ZTP with no regard for the aforementioned statues, especially the requirement that parent and child had to be reunited within a set time-frame.
Absent any sort of thoughtful pre-planning, Team Trump utterly failed to set up any type of system whereby they could quickly and accurately locate parent and offspring in their diverse locations. Not surprisingly then, dozens of kids remain disconnected from their parent(s) as officials beg the court for more time to complete the reunification process. There is a “Save us from ourselves” aura about this entire mess; a product of Trump’s “Ready fire, aim” policy-making and the ensuing predictable incompetent management of the consequences flowing therefrom.
Negotiating with our NATO allies
The European members of NATO have a long history of not paying their fair share to sustain this organization and its’ defenses against any aggressor(s). Early in his presidency, Trump pushed those same countries to up their respective contributions. That was a legitimate undertaking and it worked,; at least to an extent. Member-nations did increase their levels of funding, while still falling short of more appropriate levels of support.
Rather than acknowledge the improved contributions and seek a negotiated timetable for more, 45 has decided that belligerence and alienation are to be preferred to constructive dialogue. He is gambling that NATO members can be bent to his will because of their dependence on US participation in NATO if the organization is to survive as a viable force.
Serious foreign policy experts like Max Boot (2) have taken issue with Trump over this approach, calling it reckless and ill-considered. The temptation here is to again refer to 45’s “Ready, fire, aim” style.
Trade and tariffs
We are on the cusp of a full-blown trade war with China as well as key European countries like England, France and Germany. History has repeatedly shown that there is no such thing as an out-and-out winner in a trade war. The fact is, all the “combatants” lose; the only question then becomes which country or countries suffered the biggest losses , and which one(s) the smallest?
Trump is either ignorant of this history or has made the conscious choice to ignore it and proceed to push the aforementioned trade partners into a game of “chicken”. It is 45’s calculation that the other side(s) will “blink” first. Of course, in this sort of “tit-for-tat” game, jobs are lost and the cost of goods subjected to the tariffs, increase. (3)
Events are still unfolding in each of the three areas covered above. As regards “Immigration”, there is already an abundance of evidence of incompetence. As for NATO, Trump is, as this is being typed, meeting with three key members. Hopefully, he will use those tete a tetes to soften his rhetoric and strike a more conciliatory tone, even as he pushes for greater contributions from NATO members. Finally, there is the matter of trade. So much here remains unsettled and we will have to wait and see what develops.
- The problem with any “zero” policy is that it leaves no room for flexibility or conformity with the law. In the case of immigration, people seeking political asylum get treated the same as truly illegal entrants and deported.
- Boot is a Senior Fellow on the Council of Foreign Relations. An outspoken critic of 45, Boot has described himself using words that best fit what we use to call a “conservative”.
- A member of your blogger’s family has acknowledged that his own business has experienced a “small”, negative impact of the Trump tariffs on imported metals.