With less than two years remaining before the 2020 presidential election, President Trump needs to put some solid victories on the scoreboard – the kind that Democrats cannot spin to the negative like they did the Republican economy-fueling tax cut.
He already has a number that will need to be packaged and effectively communicated as part of Trump’s likely campaign for reelection. These include his appointments to the courts – especially the Supreme Court – the drastic cut in regulations, the reform of the Veterans health benefits (allowing them to seek private care rather than die in line at a VA hospital), as well as the best economy of most Americans lifetimes.
But there are problems.
Trump was not able to get congressional Republicans to pass an Obamacare repeal and replacement bill. Thanks to the late Senator John McCain, the Democrats were gifted with an advantage that they rode into an impressive midterm victory – taking control of the House. Though Trump and the GOP were able to end the offensive Obamacare mandate, they have not fully addressed the need for a private sector plan.
With Democrats holding the House, healthcare reform may be sacrificed on the altar of political gridlock. The entire issue of healthcare is likely to be a battle over opposing aspirational proposals with no real plan to be implemented.
As of this writing, hundreds of thousands of migrants from half dozen Latin countries – and thousands more from other nations (including some with terrorist histories) – are flooding over America’s southern border. It is an “invasion” by any common meaning of the word.
Even when Republicans held both the House and the Senate, the need for a super majority in the Senate enabled the Democrats to thwart all efforts at border security and maintain what is essentially their open borders policy. Attempts to end the incredibly bad policies of birthright citizenship, chain migration, catch and release and sanctuary cities were all successfully blocked by the supermajority requirement in the Upper Chamber. Minority Leader Chuck Schumer was the blocker-in-chief.
It is this one man’s opinion that Trump made a mistake when he caved after the longest – and most unsuccessful government shutdown in American history. The President’s claims of some sort of victory rang hollow to even many of his more ardent followers.
Outside of a bit of re-fortifying sections of the existing international barrier, Trump’s wall, fence, barrier or whatever you call it, has not progressed in more than two years. Migrant caravans have neither been blocked nor deterred.
For a brief moment in time, it appeared that the Hugo Chavez/Nicolás Maduro dictatorship in Venezuela was on the ropes. A new leader for the nation devastated by the realities of socialism had been chosen. More than 50 nations – including the United States – had recognized Juan Guaidó as the new leader of Venezuela. The people were in the streets clamoring and dying for free-market democracy.
While the United States eschewed military intervention, the Cubans and Russians moved in – making a tense situation much more complicated. Trumps cheering on the people’s uprising from the sidelines took on the appearance of President Obama’s lead-from-behind policy in Syria.
The attempt to have the military desert Maduro fizzled. The despot who was on the verge of falling was propped up and remains the man-in-charge – with no obvious end in sight.
While Trump continues to maintain the importance of his close personal relationship with Chairman Kim Jong-Un in North Korea, the situation on the ground looks a lot like the failed policies of the past forty years. The regime makes a promise, is given some level of acceptance and … wham! … back to the old stand-off. The potential of a nuclear-free North Korea appears no closer to reality than it did when Trump and Kim were trading insults and threats.
The almost instantaneously collapse of the Trump/Jong-Un meeting in Vietnam, the firing of a few small rockets into the sea and meetings with China’s Xi Jinping and Russia’s Vladimir Putin have been signals to Washington that the diminutive despot of the Korean peninsula is not ready to roll over – or even respond to the sanctions that are devastating the North Korean economy and fomenting unrest among its people – at least as much unrest as people can demonstrate in a dangerously brutal totalitarian state.
Trump deserves credit for creating the confrontation, for imposing meaningful sanctions on North Korea and for bringing Kim to the negotiating table. While his critics claim that Trump gave Kim international prestige, I do not agree. And it is noteworthy that it is those very same critics who promulgated the failed policies of the past half century. While they offer criticism, they present no suggestions other than the business-as-usual policy of acquiescence.
All things considered, at the moment it appears as any progress with North Korea is still only potential – a situation that has allowed the Kim family to flaunt world opinion and pressure as they successfully moved forward to become a nuclear nation.
As of today, the Trump policy has not changed the perception that we are continuing an endless war of attrition in Afghanistan. Are we getting out? And if so, then what? Will the Afghan government be able to defeat the Taliban – or make common cause? Or, are we staying until victory is ours – and is that even possible without an enhanced military commitment?
In many ways, Saudi Arabia has been the lynchpin to our strategy of creating our counterforce to the Russian/Iran alliance. In a bold move, Trump forged the Saudi/Israeli cooperation, with a number of other Arab nations in support. That suffered a significant blow with the state-sponsored murder of freelance journalist and anti-Saud activist Jamal Khashoggi.
When Trump said in a press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he was okay with a one or two-state solution – or anything else upon which the two sides could agree – he set the proper parameters for resolution of the longstanding Palestinian situation.
The primary sticking point is Hamas – the Arab terrorist organization that currently controls the Palestinian region. It is virtually impossible for the two sides to even discuss an agreement as long as Hamas’ preferred form of diplomacy is launching deadly rockets into Israel.
The American people – and most of the world – are awaiting the promised Jared Kushner peace plan. It may be the proverbial rabbit to be plucked from the hat, but so far we have not even seen the hat.
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It is not as if Trump is actually losing – but he is not currently winning on some critical issues. These are just a smattering of the issues upon which Trump needs to show progress if not total triumph. He has approximately one year to do so. A second term – and the future of Republicans in Congress – are hanging in the balance.
So, there ‘tis.