Trump is impotent
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Trump is impotent

More than three years into his presidency, Mr. Trump can hold up nothing as either a domestic or foreign policy coup. His promise to build a wall on the border with Mexico, and to have Mexico pay for it, has not been fulfilled. And it is unclear how long his policy of deploying troops to stop migrants at the US’s southern border can be sustained. President Trump’s diplomacy with North Korea has snagged. His first summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un ended with only a broadly-worded statement. The American president’s second summit with Chairman Kim ended even more fruitlessly, with President Trump claiming that he had “walked away” from the talks over a demand the North Koreans soon said they had not made. That ostensibly tough but really flimsy negotiating style must have convinced Pyongyang that it does not have a serious interlocutor. And the American president’s “deal of the century,” his self-touted solution supposedly meant to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, has been rejected by Palestinians even before becoming public. The Trump administration is known to be dysfunctional and impulsive. Still, one wonders how the White House really plans to go about competing with strong opponents in the 2020 presidential race with no domestic or foreign policy achievement to flaunt in potentially four years. Even when Mr. Trump has attacked Mr. Obama’s legacy, he has not displayed the kind of political leadership that rallies meaningful bipartisan or international support. (The fiercely anti-Obama John McCain famously voted a critical no to a Republican bill backed by Mr. Trump and meant to repeal one of President Obama’s signature domestic policy achievements, the Affordable Care Act.) On the few issues that he has acted, Mr. Trump has acted by fiat. His only promise from the campaigning days that has been held is the withdrawal from the Iran deal, long craved and promoted by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (Even there, things have come at a cost for America: unprecedented oblivion on the international stage.) That nearly blank record helps explain Mr. Trump’s laser-sharp focus on Iran and Israel. Walking the walk on Iran and Israel inside of America — i.e. being tough on Iran and/or easy on Israel — has no political cost. Nobody would reprimand you within the US government if you kept introducing sanctions on Iran or brandished Israel as America’s putative most important ally in the Middle East. That kind of behavior also requires zero talent. If you are determined to bring real change, you may have to be willing to behave differently, of course. But if you are a president who has achieved no tangible success and is too lazy to try as time goes by, you may go for what is. Mr. Trump’s designation of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) as a “Foreign Terrorist Organization” can be understood within that same context. Past administrations had flirted with the idea of blacklisting the IRGC but had decided not to go ahead with it. They had deliberated. The easiest option for Mr. Trump, though, seemed to be to just go for it. Similarly, the president must have expected applause from the Israelis and at least some American Jews when he said his administration would recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and the occupied Golan Heights as subject to Israeli sovereignty. Those, too, were the things he could comfortably grab if he merely reached out his hand. All of that fits a pattern of taking the first thing on the menu without studying — let alone exhausting — other options. That style of presidency is unprecedented, and one well-known conservative commentator in the United States has argued that it will leave American foreign policy eternally crippled. While that account may be exaggerated, as far as America’s global stance is concerned, a lot of damage has been done. The US’s policy decision-making mechanism is being treated so roughly by Mr. Trump that the power elements undergirding it are eroding. When he won the electoral votes, Mr. Trump, the political neophyte, neither rose to the occasion, nor attempted to learn on the job, nor even observed the presidential optics. Rather, he chose to adopt a basically divisive approach that he must have hoped would merely sustain his core popular base. After all, when he ran for president, he reportedly ran only in the hopes of promoting his personal brand — a future “Trump network” — and not for the actual office itself. What are the chances of a president like that to bring America global respect and enhance — not downgrade — its status? President Obama once quoted US Army SFC (Ret.) Cory Remsburg as saying, “Nothing in life that’s worth anything is easy.” Every American who voted for Mr. Trump in 2016 should remember that heading up to 2020.

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