Yesterday was the first anniversary of the inauguration of Donald J. Trump as President of the
United States. His performance has been mixed, with some
significant accomplishments and mostly minor ones, together with several harmful,
non-conservative policies, as well as misbehavior with words and deeds that far
outweigh the benefits of his administration and cause major damage to America, the
Republican Party and the conservative movement.
Trump’s major accomplishments have been the appointment of conservative judges and tax reform, the only major legislation he has signed into law, but even it was modest in its scope and of mixed benefit and harm. He has continued the War on Terrorism policies of his predecessors, which have contributed to the prevention of any September 11-scale attack, among other standard foreign policies. Overall, Trump’s beneficial policies are the sort any other Republican president might have accomplished, without all of his harmful policies and actions. Some of his actions have been uniquely negative, both for a GOP president or any American president. They include abuses of the office, some of which are transforming the presidency into something constitutionally unrecognizable or are policies that are causing possibly irreparable harm both in terms of US standing in the world and its role as the leader of the free world. Scandal, profiting from the presidency, white nationalism, authoritarianism and hostile foreign influence have been the hallmarks of the Trump Administration.
On the positive side of Trump’s defense and foreign policy, in addition to continuing the War on Terrorism, Trump launched a missile strike on
Syria’s Bashar Assad regime for its
use of chemical weapons. The Trump
Administration has continued the defense of freedom of the seas in South China Sea and prohibited federal use of a certain
Russian anti-virus software that was a portal for espionage. Economic sanctions or travel restrictions have
been imposed on the rogue regimes of Iran,
Venezuela, Cuba, Russia
and North Korea and military
aid cut off to Burma.
On the positive side of Trump’s domestic policies, in addition to the judicial appointments, are some minor pro-life regulations, deregulation, the extension of a program for private health care for veterans and the management reform of the Veterans Administration. The tax reform legislation eliminated the individual mandate for health insurance of the federalization of health insurance known as “Obamacare,” cut business taxes and lowered many individual taxes by increasing the standard deduction in place of itemized deductions, thus simplifying the tax code, although some individuals’ taxes will be increased. But it did not simplify the tax code in terms of reducing the number of brackets, nor did it achieve fairness in regard to the disparity between the lack of taxation of income in the form of employer-provided health insurance versus the purchase of health insurance with after-tax dollars for those whose employers do not provide health insurance. The tax reform came at a price of a large increase in the federal debt.
On the negative side of the Trump Administration, in terms of defense and foreign policy, there has been a pattern of poor security, in terms of the lack of proper clearances for staff and even the hiring of a foreign agent as National Security Advisor, as well as the poor security at Trump’s Florida resort where he conducts official business, as well as intelligence leaks, including by Trump himself, including to the Russians. Trump’s pro-Russian policies are evident in his withdrawal of support for non-Islamist Syrian rebels fighting Russia’s ally, his refusal to criticize or punish the Russian Federation for election interference and his failure to defend against further Russian election interference, his lack of criticism of other Russian transgressions around the world, his repetition of Russian propaganda and disinformation and his delay of congressional passage of the aforementioned additional sanctions on Russia, which he signed only in the face of near-unanimous support in Congress, and of their implementation. Trump had attempted to lift other Russian sanctions. His support of Russia’s authoritarian leader Vladimir Putin, the ex-Soviet intelligence officer, occurs in the context of Russian overt and covert support on behalf of Trump’s election, and is part of a pattern of anti-American rhetoric, such as making a false moral equivalence between the US and despotic regimes that commit atrocities, and support for foreign authoritarians generally, as well as un-American authoritarian rhetoric and domestic policies, such as his undermining of judicial independence, the rule of law and the freedom of the press. Disturbing examples of Trump’s support for foreign authoritarians were his congratulation of the Turkish president for his victory in a constitutional referendum, not conducted in the context of freedom, which granted the “Sultan” even more authoritarian powers, and supposedly “pro-life” Trump’s praise of the Filipino President’s open policy of encouraging murder. Between the pro-Russian and authoritarian rhetoric and policies, Trump has ceded American leadership of the free world by undermining the confidence of US allies, while dispiriting freedom-lovers around the world who look to America as a beacon of liberty.
On the negative side on trade, Trump withdrew from the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations, thereby missing the opportunity to lower tariffs (taxes), and thereby increase freedom, which ceded economic leadership in the region to Communist China. He has also launched a trade war by increasing tariffs on imports from friendly foreign states. These policies make foreign states less likely to engage in trade negotiations with the
US, which they now regard as an
On the negative side on travel and immigration, the Trump Administration’s expansive travel bans, abuses of the rights of refugees, asylum seekers, and even valid visa-holders, permanent residents and US citizens have led to a decrease in travel by foreigners to the
US. His mass deportations, which include
non-criminals, are causing the breakup of families. These policies are constitutionally suspect
and are reflective of the influence of white nationalism on the Trump
Administration, as they are directed particularly at non-Europeans. Examples include Trump’s referral of white
nationalists as “very fine people,” his praise of French presidential candidate
Marine Le Pen’s nationalist policies, his promotion of a violent British white
nationalist organization, pardon of white nationalist supporter Joseph Arpaio
for contempt of court and funding cuts to an anti-nationalist hate program.
On the lack of constitutional fealty, in addition to Trump’s undermining of the rule of law, with his criticism that violates the independence of the judiciary and of law enforcement, and of the freedom of the press, with his threats of litigation and other rhetoric and practices, he has violated the foreign and domestic Emoluments Clauses of the Constitution because of his conflicts of interest, which he refused to reveal, as part of a pattern of a lack of transparency, which have allowed him to profit off the presidency and to receive patronage of his businesses foreign states in exchange for favorable policies. These violations, which also are a practice of unfair competition with private enterprises, are violations also of the constitutional requirement to take care the laws be faithfully executed. Trump’s businesses also profit from his charging of rent to his security detail. He uses the presidency to advertise his businesses with his frequent and costly visits to his facilities and his staff has also engaged in this unethical practice. On a related note, Trump unethically praises and denigrates other private enterprises, which is interference in the market.
On the negative side of other domestic matters, Trump lies or misleads to an unprecedented degree, has made numerous unbecoming statements that coarsen public discourse and degrade culture, and promulgates conspiracy theories. He has continued federal funding of Planned Parenthood, the largest provider of abortions in the world, while increasing the debt. Trump has also continued Obamacare. He delayed the waiver of the Jones Act, a costly mercantilist regulation, for Hurricane Maria relief to
Rico and then allowed the waiver to expire after one week.
Trump’s deception, nepotism, profiting off his office, lack of transparency, praise and denigration of private enterprises, and undermining of the independence of the judiciary, the rule of law and the freedom of the press are typical of authoritarian regimes and kleptocracies and are unprecedented to this degree in American presidential history. Although some checks and balances and popular political pressure have prevented even worse abuses and harmful policies, these safeguards have not yet been adequately used.
Trump’s presidency, whatever its positive accomplishments, is a threat to the Republic and to liberty in America and around the world because of his manifest unfitness, corruption, and lack of patriotism or respect for the Constitution, regardless of the question of the illegitimacy of his election through deception, intimidation and foreign influence. His Administration is not conservative, but populist, protectionist, nativist, white nationalist, in favor of big government and authoritarian. It is thus a mortal danger to the Republican Party and a cancer on the conservative movement, lest it be conflated with Trumpism, especially if most leading conservatives continue to acquiesce to Trumpism to the extent they already have. It is time that Republicans and conservatives come to the aid of the
States of America and protect the Republic,
their party and ideological movement by using constitutional safeguards and by beginning the process of legally ending the Trump presidency.