Foreign Policy Experts in the White House?

Normally, you find foreign policy experts in the executive branch. That makes sense because the president is the main actor directing foreign policy, especially as commander in chief of the armed forces.

But things are not so simple right now for the Trump Administratoin

  • from even before the inauguration,Trump verbalized foreign policy positions that are not consistent with what experts think would be in the best interests of the US
  • Trump has failed to attract a strong foreign policy advisory team to help him with foreign policy issues. This has further damaged his credibility.
  • Trump has demonstrated a bias towards certain authoritarian regimes – mainly Russia – that is not consistent with current US foreign policy
  • Trump has shown no interest in upgrading his foreign policy thinking
  • Trump has damaged US relations with key allies through unfortunate and uncalled for comments and in how he has managed meetings with foreign policy leaders
  • Trump has for no reason diminished the credibility of  NATO (especially by equivocating on Article 5 comliance) which fundamentally disturbs the institution that has preserved peace in Europe for over half a century
  • Trump may have upset the current balance of power in the Gulf Region during his first excursion there
  • Trump showed disdain for the leaders of the G7, reducing US influence in thta orgnaization
  • Trump took the US out of the Paris Agreement,  crippling US leadership with respect to climate change and aligning us with the only other two countries outside of that accord – Syria and Nicaragua. BTW, Nicaragua boycotted because the goals are too weak. And Syria? Well, we know what is happening there.
  • Trump is now under criminal investigation for possible obstruction of justice related to other investigations of potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials

Whether you are a Republican, Democrat or Independent, the above is very bad news for the country. It demonstrates incompetence in the president and the White House to handle foreign policy. And that is scary.

For some time now, I have been hammering Republican leaders in the Congress to recognize the problem of presidential incompetence and do something about it instead of pretending that everything is ok. This starts to look like complicity.

Now they have taken a small step in that direction . The Senate has voted to restrict Trump’s ability to amend the sanctions regime against Russia without Congressional review. BTW, the vote was 97 – 2.

If this passes the House, and Trump signs it, he will be boxed in. If he vetoes it? Given the bi-partisan support for the measure so far, that veto may be overturned. And Trump would have to face an increasingly hostile Congress – led by his own party.

Is this a first step towards Congressoinal Republicans distancing themselves from Trump?  That is likely. After all, the 2018 elections are getting closer. Heading into those elections with an erratic Trump leading the party is a nightmare for Republicans who already have enough trouble even without him. Don’t be surprised if they take further steps to hold onto at least a measure of credibility. and dampen enthusiasm for progressive democrats  They do not want to lose control of the House.

And btw, the timing of the news that the special counsel has included Trump himself as a target of criminal investigation is interesting. You might recall that it was just a day or so ago that the White House floated a test ballooon whether they might fire special prosecutor Mueller. Is Mueller sending this kind of message back, “Make my day!” I think that this is likely as well.

So what will Trump do? To answer that, we might start with the premise that Trump decision making has two dimensions – (1) self-aggrandizement, and (2) self-protection. He is very much in self-protection mode. The dude is a bully, but he is also a coward. Not an unusual combination. He probably is starting to realize that he cannot get rid of Mueller so easily. And depending on how many skeletons there are in his closet, he may also realize that Mueller will get him in the end. If so, Trump may start trying to do a deal to avoid prosecution and resign, a la Nixon. We may be seeing the birth of the Pence presidency.

You heard it first here!

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