Michael Eriksson's Blog

A Swede in Germany

Trump’s presidency so far

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We are now well past the 300th day of Trump’s presidency, and have correspondingly seen more than three times the customary 100-day grace period*. At the same time, Trump just made one of his more controversial decisions in acknowledging Jerusalem as the Israeli capital (discussed in an excursion below), which moves me to a short evaluation of the presidency so far. Currently, I have my thumb cautiously angled slightly upwards, where e.g. Obama saw it angled slightly downwards; and I note that there has yet to be any major disaster caused by him, any catastrophic misjudgment made, any war started, …—contrary to what some protesters seemed to predict, the world has not ended.

*Which, sadly, was not even remotely respected by many of his opponents, with significant protests taking place even before he began his presidency…

To look at some* more specific points on the upside (downside follows further down):

*To cover all possible issues would explode the size of this post and force me to do far more research than I have time for. In addition, some issues, e.g. economic and fiscal development, could only be judgable years from now. Of course, the point of this post is not to give a scholarly analysis—just to give a rough indication of why my thumb points the way it does.

  1. He provides a much needed shaking-up of the political establishment—and possibly in a way that few or no others could: His financial means, his weak support within his own party from day one, and his lack of “debt” to other politicians, allows him to follow his own mind without fear of repercussions; and his background gives him an “outsider view”. This was something that could be hoped for during his candidacy, but he is actually coming through in this regard.
  2. He actually tries to do the right* thing—not the popular thing. (As with Jerusalem.) This is something other politicians should use an example. Similarly, he has the audacity to speak the truth on matters where politicians are expected to lie (unless they are poorly informed). Notable cases include condemnation of the current press** and his statements around Charlottesville.

    *According to his own understanding and opinion. These are not necessarily shared by me.

    **However, Trump goes farther than I do and tends to be a little too driven by reactions to criticism, rather than the severe flaws displayed by much of the press (e.g. poor research, absent critical thinking, ideologically colored reporting).

  3. He has made significant attempts to cut-down on regulation, turning the long negative trend.
  4. He is committed to, if as yet not entirely successful in, removing or limiting the ObamaCare* regulations.

    *While ObamaCare might look good on paper, actual experiences, in my impression, has shown it to do more harm than good. To boot, massive government intervention and mandatory programs are rarely a good idea—and often very hard to get rid of once there. Certainly, ObamaCare, from the outset, failed to address the real problem in the U.S. health care system: Costs that are ridiculously high compared to what they should be and are in other countries. If anything, programs of the ObamaCare type serve to increase the cost further…

  5. He has a no nonsense attitude towards the PC crowd, its rhetoric, absurd ideas and demands, …—a welcome and much needed change.

On the down-side:

  1. His current lack of popularity could set the Republicans back in other elections, possibly severely. This could lead to a Democrat dominance in other areas, including the House; and it does not promise well for the next presidential election. Not only is it a bad thing in general when one party gains dominance, but with the current set of policies to be expected from the Democrat direction, and the strong tendencies of political correctness, feminism, equality of outcome, etc., a specifically Democrat dominance could turn out to be a very bad thing. (However, I note that I am not a Republican or Trump supporter—I just see them as the decidedly lesser evil compared to, respectively, the Democrats and Hillary Clinton.)
  2. He has, not entirely unexpectedly, proved to be too ego centric, even border-line dictatorial, in his leadership style. If he continues in this manner, especially in the unlikely event of his re-election, this can at some point have negative consequences—if nothing else, in the form of dissenting advisers being removed or ignored, with a resulting one-sidedness in the decision-making process.
  3. Restrictions on free-trade could do non-trivial harm to both the U.S. and rest of the world, even if the U.S. is likely a country with good potential* for doing well without free-trade. Then again, not very much has actually happened in this direction, leaving us mostly with the attitude against free trade that was already known from his campaign.

    *The U.S. combines vast natural resources, a great variation in climate and geography, a large population, a low population density, high R & D, a decent infrastructure, and a reasonably strong level of skill and education (a dropping standard notwithstanding). I doubt that even the U.S. would have a net-gain from restricting free trade (although individual industries might), but the damage to be expected is smaller than for e.g. Sweden, Germany, Japan, Canada, …, should they impose similar restrictions.

  4. There are several other areas, including “net neutrality” and privacy, where his influence might have strong negative effects.

One area that can be very hard to judge is appointments/nomination of officials, particularly for a non-specialist. Lacking the expertise and overview to make any reasonable judgment, I have left this area out above. However, I note that his possibly most criticized choice, Neil Gorsuch (on whom I did a bit of reading), appears to be very well qualified*, having not just a J.D., a pseudo-doctorate that all too often is the terminal degree of jurists, but additionally a real doctorate.* His opinions appear to be sensible and moderated, and he moved by reason. Indeed, I strongly suspect that the criticism was more due to him not being the “social justice warrior” so often craved by the dumb masses, or possibly through “guilt by association” (with Trump). In contrast, some of the darlings of the masses are much more problematic: Sonia Sotomayor, e.g., ended her academic career with a J.D. and appears to be a party-line Democrat; there is great reason to believe that Obama was motivated by her sex and ethnicity more than her competence.**

*While there is nothing wrong for e.g. a practicing lawyer or a lower-level judge to end with a J.D., I would set my standards higher for the Supreme Court. That a lack of a real doctorate is not a rare exception borders on a disgrace (as does the, likely connected, strong political/ideological aspect of the nominations).

**Apart from the relative rarity of strong candidates that are both women and non-White, I can e.g. quote Obama’s campaign promise of a candidate with “the heart, the empathy, to recognize what it’s like to be a teenage mom. The empathy to understand what it’s like to be poor, or African-American, or gay, or disabled, or old.” (Quoted second hand from Sotomayor’s Wikipedia page.) In a twist, Gorsuch had his children as an adult male, and is very well-off, White, straight, without (as far as I know) disabilities—and quite young for a Supreme Court judge…

Another tricky area is environment: On the one hand, he appears to prioritize profit and competitiveness over the environment; on the other, other politicians can be too driven by panic or a wish to gain from panicking masses. His often criticized withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement need not be a big deal: I have seen several sources, including [1], arguing that this was even a positive move. (I have not dwelled deeply enough into the issue to have a strong own opinion, but I note that such agreements sometimes lead to positive changes, sometimes are nothing but empty words.)

Excursion on Jerusalem as capital of Israel: This has long been Israels own position, and considering that Jerusalem is a part of Israel (some de jure; all de facto), it borders on the idiotic for other states to not recognize the fact. (On the outside, it can be disputed whether Jerusalem as a whole should be considered the capital, as Israel claims, or just the internationally recognized Israeli parts. Using this to refuse recognition borders on sophistry, however.) By analogy, if West-Germany had chosen to keep its capital (West-)Berlin, who could have any reasonable legal or ideological objections?* One might argue that the choice by Israel is a provocation to the Arabs, but considering that Jerusalem is the largest city in Israel, that it is the historical capital, and that it has immense symbolic value to the Jews, deliberate provocation is certainly not needed to give Israel a strong motivation for the choice; an accidental provocation, on the other hand, would mostly reflect the unduly hostile and anti-Israel attitude of the provoked groups. Trump’s action, in turn, can only** legitimately be criticized for reducing the U.S. chances to contribute to diplomatic resolutions.

*Pragmatical and strategical objections abound, however: Having ones capital as an enclave in a hostile country is not a brilliant idea…

**Some criticism raised dealt with the claimed need for a two-state solution. I do not agree with this claimed need (and do not necessarily see it as threatened by the status of Jerusalem): Israel is a democracy where Jews and Muslims/Arabs/Palestinians/whatnots have equal rights—and the standards of living for non-Jews is higher than in neighboring countries. It is not Nazi-Germany, nor even the old South-Africa. Want to remove Israel as a Jewish state, Arabs? Recognize it, embrace it, and migrate there, until you have the majority of the citizens. Israel is, barring the violence, a good country to live in—and compared to Syria, Iraq, and a few other Arab/Muslim countries, there is less violence… A two-state solution is only needed to satisfy anti-Israel bigotry.


Written by michaeleriksson

December 8, 2017 at 8:17 am

One Response

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  1. […] such aspects when his presidency is eventually summarized; however, as for now I still remain with my thumb angled slightly upwards when looking at actual policy until now*. More importantly, when judging whether someone is a good […]

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