• Saturday 24th August 2019

Trump sticks to his guns; abroad, influence, prestige wanes

  • Published on: February 20, 2019

  • By MR Josse
    TAMPA, FL: Expectedly, President Donald Trump steered clear of precipitating another partial shutdown of government. However, he stuck to his guns on his threat to declare a national emergency to fund a barrier on the U.S.-Mexico border, sans Congressional approval.
    Trump stratagem is to use already-approved, unutilized funds – including those earmarked for the Pentagon and the Homeland Security Agency – for his signature and highly divisive national project.
    In doing so, he has invited the possibility of a joint House-Senate resolution disapproving of the declaration, which House democrats have called unlawful. Presently, he is planning, via this declaration, to secure up to $ 8 billion in funding, or more than four times the $ 1.3 billion that Congress approved!
    According to all apolitical reports, there is no “national emergency” vis-à-vis the southern border; if anything, there has been a steady and significant drop in illegal crossings in the past few years.
    But, as the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) editorialized: “His border order will divide Republicans and may be stopped in court. The emergency declaration will please his most ardent supporters but Mr. Trump is setting an unfortunate precedent – and judges could tie up his wall in court for years.”
    WSJ continues: “We’ve argued that Mr. Trump might win his emergency gambit if the case goes to the Supreme Court, but it is a close call and he is taking a big political risk. Property owners affected by the wall will sue and the House of Representatives will surely sue as well on grounds that Mr. Trump is usurping its constitutional power of the purse…If he ultimately loses in court, Mr. Trump will have hurt his own standing and the power of his successors.”
    Though Congress, could theoretically vote against Trump’s proposal, senior White House aides have clarified that the president is unlikely to back down, if that happens. In other words, Congress would then need a two-thirds majority in both houses of Congress to override a presidential veto – most unlikely given its present configuration.
    Though American presidents have invoked emergency powers for decades, this is the first time, as the New York Times reminds, that one has used emergency to secure funding for a project that Congress has explicitly declined to underwrite.
    It seems – to me – that Trump, now totally obsessed with winning re-election in the 2020 general election, is betting on carrying his faithful base of supporters and others on the premise that he has made good – despite fearsome opposition – on all his campaign promises, including the key ones on the southern border wall and illegal immigration!
    On a separate note, I was struck by a mea culpa of sorts in Tampa Bay Times by executive editor Mark Katches who explained why his newspaper was dropping a nationally syndicated cartoon strip, ‘Non Sequitur’, by Wiley Miller.
    As explained, it was because in a corner of one drawing in the strip a week earlier were the words: “Go F…yourself Trump” – an obscenity that his paper had failed to redact in time. His paper was only one among at least 110 others dropping the comic strip that Miller had been drawing for 27 years. Apparently, more than 700 newspapers have been featuring it.
    It is but the latest, lamentable example I’ve encountered of how abysmally low political discourse has plummeted in America – no doubt with a generous assist from Trump!
    Meanwhile, the just-concluded Munich Security Conference – a jamboree of world leaders, defense czars and security experts convened annually since the Cold War – offered copious evidence that the U.S-led liberal world order is fast crumbling.
    As much is reflected in the official conference report’s assessment that the Trump administration displays an “irritating enthusiasm for strongmen across the globe” and “disdain for international institutions and agreements.”
    Notably, as reported by National Public Radio (NPR), German chancellor Angela Merkel launched several critiques of U.S. foreign policy and received sustained standing ovation. She resisted American Vice President Mike Pence’s calls to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal, arguing that the deal can help countries pressure Iran over issues that concern the U.S. such as Iran’s ballistic missile development and its role in wars in Syria and Yemen.
    Merkel also criticized the U.S. decision to withdraw its troops from Syria, asking rhetorically: “Is it a good thing to immediately withdraw American troops from Syria; or will it not strengthen Russia and Iran’s hand?”
    Not surprisingly, Trump’s daughter Ivanka, who was in the audience, did not join in the applause that followed. Revealingly, a new Pew Center poll, published in the report, suggests that Germans believe that Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping handle world affairs better than Trump does.
    If further evidence of a growing alienation of Trump among America’s traditional allies is necessary, one can do no better than take note of the recent Warsaw conference which was organized by the United States with a view to marshal global outrage over Iran.
    There, as NPR reports, American Vice President Pence urged France, Germany and the United Kingdom to abandon the Iran nuclear deal, accusing them of organizing a “scheme” to continue to conduct business with Iran. Significantly, America’s key European allies, attempting to keep the nuclear deal alive, declined to send top-level diplomats to the conference.
    The disarray in American foreign policy was epileptically showcased by the ignominious withdrawal of State Department spokesperson and former Fox & Friends host, Heather Nauert, from nomination as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, for “personal reasons.” She had long been regarded as too light-weight.
    In any case, I wonder how far Nepal’s movers and shakers have thought through the manifold foreign policy implications of America’s waning influence and interest in global affairs – not to mention the global consensus that has developed indicating that it is China and Russia that are shaping today’s international agenda.


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