Alan Zendell, March 22, 2019
It’s Spring! With the coming of the vernal equinox, my thoughts turn to renewal. One thing I’m renewing is my Amazon page. I’m lowering the price of updated copies of four of my books to $0.00 for the weekend, beginning today. You can find them at https://www.amazon.com/s?k=alan+zendell&ref=nb_sb_noss_1.
But there are more important things that need renewal, specifically our battered ideals and institutions that have been under attack during twenty-six months of Donald Trump’s presidency. His supporters point to “everything he has accomplished,” and even those among them who are nauseated by his behavior hold their noses and say his flaws are worth putting up with. But are they?
Let’s summarize those “accomplishments.” Chief on his supporters’ lists is the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Every president who passes a major tax law takes credit for it, but this one belongs to the Republican-dominated Congress that had been trying to pass it for decades. It’s no coincidence that Trump and his family realized millions in windfall benefits from it.
By now, most Americans know if their personal taxes were cut and whether their job and income prospects improved. They also know that the tax cuts blew the lid off our deficit to the tune of trillions of dollars, and the same Republicans who desperately wanted the cuts are about to drop the other shoe on what they call entitlements, (what most of us call health care and social security) to pay for them.
The administration said the deficit wasn’t a problem because corporate tax cuts would stimulate the economy, increase our GNP and generate additional tax revenue. But today, the stock and bond markets dropped precipitously because of a near certain indication of an impending recession. That means the GNP will contract rather than expand, which will result in higher deficits and require either serious reductions in government spending or a repeal of all or part of the tax cuts. So much for Trump’s singular accomplishment.
Remember the boasts about how Trump was going to change the way we do business with other countries? With much ballyhoo, his administration negotiated a new trade deal with Mexico and Canada which looks very much like NAFTA, which it replaced. Then he started a trade and tariff war which shows no sign of ending. The most noticeable effect, recently, was the announcement by General Motors that they planned to move five manufacturing facilities offshore because tariffs made raw materials too expensive, though personal attacks by Trump resulted in some retrenchment.
On the diplomatic side, Trump said his personal magnetism would achieve what professional diplomats couldn’t. He made flashy overtures to North Korea which resulted two failed summit meetings with Kim Jong Un. Kim profited from the elevated stature they gave him but the meetings netted us absolutely nothing in terms of the real objective, which was the denuclearization of the Koreas. Events in the last two days show Trump’s Korea initiative for the sham it is. On Thursday, the administration imposed new sanctions against North Korea trumpeted by National Security Advisor John Bolton, which included punishing Chinese companies that were enabling North Korea to bypass shipping sanctions already in place. But when North Korea retaliated by walking away from the North-South liaison office, Trump immediately reversed the new sanctions. Who won that confrontation?
Trump’s two most dramatic diplomatic decisions, tearing up the Iran Nuclear Agreement and withdrawing from the Paris Environmental Accords have significantly weakened our relationships with our allies, and they’ve been made worse by Trump’s personal style. He insults and attacks the leaders of traditional allies like the UK, France, Germany, Canada, and Mexico. At the same time he clearly reveres autocrats and dictators, North Korea’s Kim, Vladimir Putin, Chinese president Xi, Philippine president Duterte, and the newest member of that club, Brazilian president Bolsonaro.
Weighed against Trump’s so-called accomplishments are his refusal to condemn racism and white supremacy, his attacks on the courts and the Justice Department, and his attempts to shut down immigration from Muslim and Hispanic (non-white) nations. His complete lack of empathy for the children uprooted from their families by his policies, his crass and vulgar personal style, and his lack of any definable morality all must be balanced against anything positive that might come from his policies.
Trump has chosen to celebrate Spring by relentlessly attacking John McCain and continuing to make outrageous and absurd claims designed to undermine the Mueller Report before it ever sees the light of day. The former is simply sick, a typical response from a mentally ill president driven by a Narcissistic Personality Disorder. The latter reflects Trump’s version of the Constitution, in which he has absolute power to do anything he pleases, and no individual or government entity can stand in his way.
Happy Spring, everyone.