It sure was a week, wasn’t it?
I don’t really read The New Republic that much, but Alex Shephard’s weekly Trump summaries are a gold mind, and I highly recommend them. They tend to be my main source for these weekly articles. Plus, he’s a lot funnier than I am.
As Shephard notes, Trump was riding high after last Friday’s confirmation of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. It could have been that moment pundits have been waiting for–when Trump finally started to get what he wanted from Congress. (Presumably, all hope of him actually becoming Presidential has been extinguished, since not even bombing Syria pull it off for more than a couple days.)
As with everything in this administration, the good news (for Trump) can never last.
Early into Trump’s Presidency, it seemed that he might virtually ignore international politics altogether, keeping his focus inward on domestic issues. But the past couple weeks have seen Trump storm onto the international stage with a vengeance, and to say that it has brought the world no comfort is like saying the surface of the sun is a bit warm.
There’s still conflict within Trump’s team, notably between his son-in-law Jared Kushner and Breitbart mastermind Steve Bannon. Bannon’s fall from grace probably signals more than anything else that the Trump administration is stumbling toward normality, but we clearly have a long way to go.
What was revealed most starkly over this past week is that, where Trump might have a series of domestic policy goals that one could squint at and kind of see a strategy, he has no such coherence when it comes to foreign policy. Oddly, some people apparently thought that his lobbing of bombs into Syria was the beginning of a new, organized offensive, or an effort to bring someone (Assad?) to the bargaining table. Instead, it was just Trump being upset because he saw dead babies on TV. The chemical attack that precipitated our response is obviously an emotional event–but we need more from our Presidents than emotional outbursts, and this is just too tall an order for Trump.
In the space of about a week, our relations with Russia, China, and North Korea deteriorated to their worst levels in years. There’s no real way for Trump to spin this is a victory, either. It makes the world–all of us–less safe.
What else happened? Jeff Sessions decided to bring back the War on Drugs, because maybe it won’t be a total failure this time (spoiler: it will be). This is also the week in which Press Secretary Sean Spicer claimed Hitler didn’t gas his own people. (Perhaps the issue is whom Hitler considered “his own people”?) This was on Passover, no less.
Trump flip-flopped on whether China is a currency manipulator. During the campaign, they were. Now, it seems they are not. It’s most likely Trump just has no idea what he means and has determined that we need China’s help against North Korea and possibly Russia, so China is our friend now.
No one seems to know for sure who authorized the use of the Mother of All Bombs in Afghanistan, but it’s hard to say its use was justified or effective. Symbolically, as our largest non-nuclear weapon, it is rather terrifying to see it used by this President, especially–again–when it doesn’t seem to be part of some overall strategy.
The Trump phenomenon is like Groundhog Day in a lot of ways. Every day (or every week, if you prefer), people who talk and write about American politics for a living speculate that Trump might be turning a corner and becoming the President we really need. And every time, we end up disappointed. Perhaps we should pay a bit more attention to the advice George W. Bush gave all those years ago: “Fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can’t get fooled again.”