In his third year, President Donald Trump is quickly becoming absurd and irrelevant. He lives strictly on good economic numbers and yet his popularity rarely exceeds 45 percent. The so-called change agent of 2016 has become exceedingly predictable, spouting opinions unworthy of a barroom.
Take the economy. He has put in place a policy that so favor the wealthy that 60 companies paid no taxes at all and some received gigantic rebates. Moreover, he tries to destroy whatever health care some possess in favor of pledges to do better. When he tires of claiming success, of course his insecurity would not allow anything but, he lashes out at immigrants. Instead of building, he tears down eager to destroy the Affordable Care Act only because his predecessor proposed the program.
His foreign policy is so Bushian that it represents hardly anything new. Despite Trump’s dislike of Hillary Clinton, he embraces most of her policy priorities. Anti-Russian, anti-Cuban and so pro-Israelis, he is joined at the hip with Benjamin Netanyahu. Trump misleads and teases and tempts, but he has no real beliefs other than his vanity and all-precious ego.
Trump pursues a foreign policy of whimsy. He will dismiss a James Mattis and a H.R. McMaster and then replace them with like-minded advisors such as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and John Bolton. Not much difference between any of these officials except a tactical wrinkle or two. Trump now fully supports the Saudia Arabian war in Yemen, vetoing a bipartisan resolution to end assistance to the Crown Prince. His decisions regarding advisors is whether they can manage him better. Leaders that know their own mind do not react in such a fashion.
Which gets down to the core of Trump’s presidency. He tries out a number of appeals during his rallies, and the one that garners the most applause wins. This certainly explains his preference for anti-immigration rhetoric, for the harsher his remarks, the louder the applause. It reminds one of the agitator during the French Revolution who as he harried down the street chasing a crowd blurted out, “I must catch up for I am their leader.” Nothing definitive, only pure reaction.
Now Trump still tries to chase down Kim Jong Un for summits to nowhere, policy-wise. When he tries something different, he always has Pompeo and Bolton to restrain him. He tries to make friends with Recep Erdogan and Vladimir Putin yet is required to grant an exception to allow an arms deal between Turkey and Russia. Until he rids himself of Bolton and Pompeo, he will not truly control his administration.
Trump depends entirely on the economy. The very hint of a slump would be enough to do him in during the upcoming elections. He cannot be too hardline in his foreign policy, for military action will foster bad comparisons between him and George W. Bush. It is the policy of the St. Vitus’ dance, gyrating here and there.
Time is running out for Trump to rediscover his flexible self. If he tries to go strictly through a base approach, he will lose. Trump needs to pursue a foreign policy based in interests, not emotions.