Barack Obama’s historic presidency is in the rear-view mirror. Now the Trump Administration is firmly entrenched and though only nine months in office, it seems much longer given the many high-profile departures; stinging setbacks; and scandals plaguing the reality television-star turned politician.
Yet, despite Donald Trump’s crowning achievement—scaling the political mountain-top—strangely, he has not turned the page on his immediate predecessor. Since becoming commander-in-chief, President Trump has moved at a rapid pace undoing many of the Obama Administration’s regulations; including the controversial decision to exit the Paris Climate Accords. A decision that was roundly criticized by leaders at home and abroad.
Just recently, President Trump reversed course on Obama-era regulations implemented to safeguard against treacherous and deadly storms. This as the death toll has reached 70 in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey and millions more are grappling with the destruction left in the wake of Hurricane Irma.
Amid all the coverage of back-to-back storms, largely unnoticed was the Justice Department’s recent confirmation in a court filing that no evidence existed that Trump Tower was the target of surveillance efforts by the Obama Administration. The denouement to months-long speculation into President Trump’s startling accusation that President Obama illegally wiretapped his New York office during the 2016 presidential campaign. This shocking and unexpected claim caught many federal U.S. law enforcement officials and even members of the Trump team by surprise. To date, President Trump has yet to offer any evidence supporting such a bold indictment of the first African-American president.
Even after capturing the highest office in the land and dogged efforts dismantling Obama-era regulations, 44’s shadow continues to loom large over the current White House occupant. The Congressional Review Act (CRA), a little-known law created to fast track wiping out rules implemented late in a presidential administration, had been used only once prior to President Trump entering the White House. Already this year, the president and the Republican-controlled Congress have deployed the law 14 times to strike down Obama policies. In fact, prior to the deal President Trump made with Democrats on the debt-ceiling and Hurricane relief, those CRA resolutions enacted were the only substantive bills signed by the president during his brief tenure.
Solar eclipses, Russian collusion and even presidential pardons have all invoked Obama connections where none overtly existed. Sure, governing as the anti-Obama stokes the excitement of a minute cadre of voters but does very little to address the perennially abysmal approval ratings of this nascent presidency. Trump’s continuous harkening back to eight relatively scandal-free years in no way bolster’s his standing with a broad swath of voters. Being the Yin to Obama’s Yang proved to be a worthy tool on the campaign trail but so far, it has had a deleterious effect on Trump’s ability to govern.
Presidential candidates traditionally aim heavy fire at White House occupants from the opposing political party. Yet, after the dust settles and political fighting ceases, members of this unique and elite fraternity lean heavily on their predecessors for advice, guidance and counsel. Bill Clinton deployed Jimmy Carter to Haiti to stave off a military coup confronting the island nation. Barack Obama tapped George W. Bush and Bill Clinton to assist in the Haitian earthquake recovery.
There is a long and honored tradition of reaching back on White House leadership in this country. President Trump has clearly broken the mold. His continued attacks on President Obama are unprecedented. This blitzkrieg-style offensive may curry favor with his base of voters but diminishes the aura and distinction of the great office he now holds. Moreover, as the president comes face-to-face with his own perfect storm (raging natural disasters, North Korean truculence, expanding Mueller probe) Mr. Obama could be a vital resource to help Mr. Trump steer clear of these and other potential pitfalls.
Like most presidents, Trump no doubt, has tremendous belief in himself and is confident he can navigate these foreboding torrential rains as best or better than any predecessor—especially Barack Obama. While Obama might be a convenient foil, perhaps Richard Nixon is a more appropriate guidepost. President Nixon’s historic and spectacular fall from grace is the cautionary tale that always looms large in the annals of American presidential history. Instead of juxtaposing his presidency with that of Obama, it might be wise to begin operating as the anathema to Nixon. Continuation on the current path will likely find President Trump living out his worst nightmare, stranded and stuck; between Barack and a hard place.
FIRE AN FURY AS TRUMP CALLED "UNFIT" IN NEW BOOK
As the biggest hurricane to hit Texas in a decade made landfall, President Trump, in an effort to reclaim the attention or cloak his actions under the guise of chaos in the wake of a tropical storm, issued the first pardon of his presidency. And it was a doozy!
His pardoning Joe Arpaio, the controversial sheriff voters ousted from office in Maricopa County, Ariz., (and a federal court convicted of illegal racial profiling) undoubtedly has legal scholars, presidential historians, and lawmakers collectively scratching their heads. Trump’s actions, particularly in the wake of his handling of the Charlottesville, Va., imbroglio; the North Korea threat; and the Russia investigation are taking a toll on the nation.
Like all things Trump, the president's action (even non-actions) have tremendous repercussions. Issuing the first pardon of his nascent presidency are no different. Here are five key takeaways from the pardoning of “Sheriff Joe:”
U.S. On the Brink
From Trump’s early and startling accusations that former President Obama illegally wire tapped Trump Tower to the ongoing investigations into Russian attempts to influence the 2016 presidential election, America has been flirting with a constitutional crisis since Trump entered the presidential race in 2015. The president’s pardon not only usurps the authority of the courts but in doing so, lends greater credence to the idea that America, once a nation of laws, is ceding its reliance on these bedrock principles that has guided the nation through civil war, civil unrest, and global attacks. This latest and highly controversial move by President Trump only moves the country closer to chaos.
35% is the New Majority
Traditionally presidential candidates move to the center after securing the nomination to gain a majority of votes and govern with a mandate. However, Donald Trump is anything but traditional. He lost the popular vote by nearly 3 million votes and has the worse approval ratings of any president at this juncture in the presidency. Unlike most seasoned pols, Trump continues to double down and ignore most of the population and govern from his base of ardent supporters. Therefore, all decisions made are enacted with a careful eye on ensuring the 35 percent that stands with Trump are satiated. This could backfire in the midterm elections next year even though the political terrain is favorable to Republicans. Also, it could hinder President Trump's ability to deliver on his ambitious agenda should weary Republican lawmakers move away from him in an effort to save themselves. In the short term though, 35 percent is the magic number.
Ghosts of Charlottesville
In the wake of the devastation wrought by white supremacists and neo-Nazis in Charlottesville, Va., Trump’s pardon raises the temperature on racial strife and division rather than cooling matters. Sheriff Arpaio's long and damaging history of racial profiling of Latino immigrants is well documented. Moreover, he served as a loyal lieutenant of Trump's during the birther movement. Given Trump's moral equivocation in the aftermath of Charlottesville, the fact that he chose to use his first pardon on an individual that's demonstrated such utter contempt for the law in order to pursue a racist and illegal agenda leaves no doubt where the president of the United States stands on race and racial issues in America.
Arpaio Pardon a Precursor
Weeks ago, there were numerous reports that revealed the Trump team was reviewing the power of the pardon in relation to the investigation of the Special Counsel, Robert Mueller. Now that Trump has shown he is willing to issue a pardon even before the legal process fully plays out, it is highly likely the Trump team will use the power of the pardon for those closest to the president should the Mueller investigation ensnare Trump associates in the ongoing Russia investigation.
Trump Winning the GOP CIVIL WAR
President Trump is at war with members of his own party and his enemies are firing back. Republican senators denied him a much-needed win on healthcare; passed a veto-proof Russia sanctions bill; and deployed a little-know senate rule which prohibits the president from making recess appointments. However, recent polling shows the majority of Republicans favor President Trump over congressional lawmakers. In fact, a Pew Research poll showed House Speaker Paul Ryan's approval rating at an anemic 29 percent. Also, the latest Gallup Poll shows that Republicans and GOP-leaning independents are twice as likely to favor President Trump (80 percent) over Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (40 percent). The former reality-TV star is vastly outpacing other top GOP leaders suggesting the party is firmly in the hands of Trump. By pardoning Arpaio, Trump only cements his power within the GOP, placing more pressure on those who try to defy him.
1) Clearly, the Framers of the U.S. Constitution and the Founding Fathers did not perceive of someone running NOT to win but to burnish their respective brand post-election.
2) Will the checks and balances hold given an Administration is in place with no fundamental understanding, framework or even basic respect for the laws, norms, and limits on their respective power?
3) Despite the Comey investigation and Russian collusion, Donald Trump’s improbable victory (or was it a con job?) speaks more to the very weakness within those very governing institutions but more importantly, the U.S. electorate.
FIRE AND FURY: The Eric Endnote (CliffsNotes) Version
Steve Bannon Dismantles Civilian-Military Rule
Keeping with his anarchist ideology, Steve Bannon saw President-elect Trump's affinity for generals as a welcome tool to be used to dismantle the long-held norms of civilian rule that has governed U.S. defense posture for decades. By naming General Mattis secretary of defense President Trump shattered the long-held tradition of civilian leadership over defense policy. This was welcome news by Bannon as it was another very significant effort at dismantling the traditional norms and rules governing American institutions.
The New (Bannon) World Order
One of the central reasons Steve Bannon figures so prominently throughout the book is because the reader is given an inside view to his geo-political philosophy. To that end, Bannon offers his thoughts on how a Trump Administration will re-shape the world order. For Bannon this begins with China. He sees China as the biggest threat to both the world and the U.S. specifically. In fact, in the book he equates China to Germany circa 1930.
A (Not-So) Hostile Takeover
The wealthy Mercer family essentially took over the Trump campaign with a multi-million cash infusion and with that, Steve Bannon and Kellyanne Conway came as part of the deal. This explains the wide-berth Bannon felt he had which is on display in his jarring comments throughout the book. NOTE: The Bannon mea culpa in the wake of the book's release speaks to the influence of the Mercer's threat to part ways from Bannon.
Bannon v. Kushner
This heated rivalry was long in the making. Bannon and Kushner clashed over political power and access for the president's attention and for the very presidency. While Bannon was wary of Kushner during the campaign, the rivalry only intensified as Kushner's portfolio grew in the White House. Also, Kushner was close to Rupert Murdoch while Bannon had sided with Roger Ailes. In fact, in the book Wolff writes about a dinner featuring both Rogers Ailes (the deceased fired Fox News president) and Bannon explicitly states: "I may need your help there..." regarding working with Jared Kushner.
Jerusalem is Job #1
There were many things the Trump Administration wanted to do immediately upon taking the oath of office, such as repealing Obamacare; issuing a travel ban; and building a (Southern) border wall. However, what the book highlighted was that a big priority of the Trump Administration (for many) was recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. A striking development given the announcement didn't come until later in the year.
The Devil Gets an Invite to the White House
Author Michael Wolff makes clear from the onset of the book that not only was he granted access to the White House but he set up shop on a bench in a hallway in the West Wing. He describes himself as the proverbial fly on the wall. This smacks directly at the White House assertions that he didn't have access to the president and the staff.
Mr. President, do you want to be President?
A shocking statement that hasn't gotten any attention is where Sam Nunberg, an assistant to Donald Trump pointedly asked "do you want to be president?" And he never got an answer
"They were ready to lose with fire and fury. They were not ready to win."
This quote sums up the book, in that the Trump campaign did not get in the race to be president but for other reasons. What's so insightful about this quote is we see an Administration in real time that simply wasn't prepared to govern.
The Emperor HAD no Clothes
"Twinkle in his eye, larceny in his soul." This quote depicts a candidate (Trump) with an agenda that didn't line up with the expectations of the electorate and the actual institutions he was attempting to lead. More importantly, the author underscores the low regard many of Trumps wealthy peers (Carl Icahn, Rupert Murdoch) held him in but this stunning victory suggested they had no choice to see Trump differently. The presidency—not money, not Manhattan real estate—was finally Trumps pathway to universal and grudging respectability.
"Sucks up and shits down..."This direct quote from the late Roger Ailes speaks to Trump's intense fascination for Rupert Murdoch and Vladimir Putin. Which was an unrequited admiration from both Murdoch and Putin.
President Donald Trump and Republican loyalists are bashing the new book as "fiction" and the author, after granting him unusual access to the White House like no other journalist.
President Trump has been in office less than 30 days but with the implementation of a controversial travel ban; the nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court; and construction of a wall along the U.S-Mexico border it certainly seems much longer.
The former real estate mogul is forging ahead on many of his campaign promises, despite myriad of protests and demonstrations against his policies both at home and abroad. Even facing historically low approval ratings, the GOP-controlled Congress is largely unified behind the Trump Administration’s blitzkrieg-style machinations.
In fact, in their recent weekly address, GOP Leader Cathy McMorris-Rogers said "President Trump is a man of action and we are ready…" Yet, despite these vociferous boasts of support, the long-running GOP Civil War that wracked the entire national Republican Party for years is now squarely centered at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Trump has yet to reach 100 days in office and already the inordinate amount of leaks coming from within the White House is both unprecedented and alarming. Adding to the drama are reports that senior Republican staff from the House Judiciary Committee assisted with drafting the travel ban unbeknownst to the committee chair and House Republican leaders. This move is not only unprecedented but exacerbates tensions between the White House and Congress and more importantly within the GOP. By leaving Congressional Republicans in the dark on such a controversial initiative, the White House is undermining its efforts to garner invaluable political support that it will undoubtedly need down the road.
Luckily, the announcement of Gorsuch's nomination to the Supreme Court may ameliorate fuming GOP leaders, but it does very little to alleviate the intense battle underway inside Trump’s White House. Incessant in-fighting, multiple power centers, wayward staffers, and a dizzying flurry of activity is enough to stretch any organization to the brink. Yet, when that institution is the political epicenter of the nation and world, red flags abound. The lightning speed on display with the flurry of Executive Orders is in stark contrast with the glacial pace at staffing 4000 appointees. Already there are reports some key staffers are on shaky ground. President Trump’s apprentice-style management is clearly fomenting war among the White House inner-circle and it's only a matter of time before that war infects the entire GOP.
For those keeping score, Steve Bannon’s ascension to the National Security Council is evidence of his quick work at consolidating power (all the while reducing the influence and reach of both Defense Secretary Gen. James Mattis and White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus). Stephen Miller, once a mainstay of the white nationalist movement, is quickly attaining prominence as author of the controversial Muslim ban. Meanwhile, Priebus, is feverishly attempting to maintain a sphere of influence as evidenced by attempts to block top fundraiser and campaign surrogate Anthony Scaramucci from a senior White House post.
In-fighting is a rite of passage in any new presidential administration. However, the knives are out particularly early in Trump’s White House. The internal squabbles are wreaking havoc on policy implementation and the Administration’s ability to recruit quality staff for a bevy of key positions.
President Trump is still moving at a blistering pace implementing his agenda but ongoing fights with sovereign nations—including some of America’s closest allies, such as Mexico and Australia—the press; a recalcitrant democratic base; corporate America; all coupled with internal fights could leave the Administration blind to dangers lurking in the shadows. Moreover, while winning cures all ails, the years-long GOP CIVIL WAR that raged throughout the Republican Party has not ended but is merely on hiatus during this period of unprecedented power.
Surely upcoming fights over the debt ceiling and budget will expose the ideological fault lines. The customary turf wars that have prematurely broken out at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue will soon give way to gaping cracks in the now shiny GOP facade.
Trump’s reality-style approach to governing and Bannon’s drive for power could lead to their demise. History is littered with cautionary tales of presidential administrations’ insatiable appetite for power. Perennial fighting and obstructionism have delivered short-term gains to the GOP but could cost the party long-term. A cadre of ethically challenged nominees; high-profile firings; bellicose rhetoric fired at critical agencies, such as the CIA and State Department, all underscore an Administration at war, not only on all fronts, but on the inside especially.The problem with civil wars in particular, is the body count is acutely high internally, making it increasingly difficult to effectively wage prolong and protracted fights externally. President Trump’s penchant for fighting has brought him unbridled political success but the nation and world is wary that he—with help from his inner-circle—could punch himself out.
After months of speculation, today, the Trump Administration trotted out Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, to officially end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The Executive Order, issued by President Barack Obama in 2012, defers deportations for people who came to the U.S. as undocumented children—the so called “Dreamers.” Nearly 800,000 people with be directly impacted because of the president's decision. The ramifications are wide-ranging and will play out socially, politically, economically, and of course, globally. Here are five takeaways from Donald Trump’s latest decision to reverse course on the popular Obama-era initiative:
The Sleeping Giant Awakens
For years, Republicans and Democrats have salivated at the chance to secure the rapidly growing Latino electorate. The ever-increasing political demographic would be a boon to whichever party can harness its many millions of eligible voters; now more than 12 percent of the entire U.S. electorate. However, though Latinos have favored Democrats in every presidential election since 1980, their paltry showing on Election Day hasn't made the largest minority bloc in the country an electoral powerhouse. Yet, President Trump's latest actions to deport more than 800,000 “Dreamers” could be the ladle that stirs the pot. In the days leading up to his decision on DACA, Latino groups and lawmakers began mobilizing and bracing for a dramatic change in policy. Perhaps for the first time ever, the nation could see Latino voters exercise their political might at the ballot box in 2018, which could spell doom for Trump’s GOP.
Obama: Gone but not Forgotten
Since his inauguration in January, President Trump has feuded with the media, his own party, his cabinet, and world leaders, however it's Barack Obama that still looms large for Trump. The president has moved at a lightning pace dismantling many of the Obama-era initiatives and regulations. Efforts to kill Obamacare ended in a stinging defeat for Trump. His decision to withdraw from the Obama-negotiated Paris Climate Accords was roundly criticized both domestically and globally. Now, his latest action to end the DACA program, while another nod to his base, only further isolates Trump making it harder to identify allies to bolster his agenda at home or abroad. Make no mistake, for Trump to go to such great lengths to eradicate Obama's legacy, he puts his own peril. This underscores the strange preoccupation President Trump has with his immediate predecessor.
Democrats Flex Muscle
Now that Donald Trump has thrown DACA to Congress to act upon, (and in effect eliminating DACA), Democrats, sensing an opportunity, will intensify their opposition to the Trump agenda. Democrats will be facing challenging headwinds going into next year's midterm elections. They will be defending 25 senate seats to only 8 for Republicans. Many of these races will be in states won by Donald Trump in 2016. But Trump has given Charles Schumer and company, a gift by handing them potentially millions of voters by ending the DACA. Democrats will not waste anytime wooing Latino voters by using what leverage they have in drafting legislation to save the DACA program. Also, expect Dems to seek major concessions during the bitter fight that is to come on the debt ceiling and budget.
The fall legislative agenda is already packed and will take a Herculean effort by House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to avoid a government shutdown; avert a U.S. credit downgrade; as well as secure funding for the recovery efforts post-Hurricane Harvey. President Trump has only made the climb harder for his party as the GOP-led Congress must now find a permanent solution to stave off the elimination of DACA or see the lives of millions upended. Even Ethan Hunt might shy away from this mission!
From the travel ban to the border wall and now the elimination of DACA, Donald Trump is slowly re-defining the ethos of a nation. Once a melting pot; at other times, a shining beacon on the hill. Freedom and truth once its north star. Alas no more. Today, a decaying edifice is all that remains. Where beauty and hope stood tall, now hatred and division dot the once vibrant landscape. “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free...” If only those words still rang true, instead Lady Liberty just might be shedding a tear.
Media outlets are reporting that special prosecutor, Bob Mueller, has now subpoenaed Deutsche Bank for financial records relating to Donald Trump and his family. At the onset of this investigation President Trump stated unequivocally that an examination into his finances would cross a red line. Clearly, this latest move by the special counsel raises the ante pitting these two goliaths in a showdown with political and legal consequences for the president, his party, and his agenda.
Here are three initial takeaways from this latest revelation:
Prelude to a Crime
The Mueller investigation has now racked up two guilty pleas and charged two others with crimes. Not a bad haul for an investigation that's supposed to be a "witch hunt" and "fake news." However, none of these charges or plea deals get to the heart of actual collusion. But now we see Mueller has been systematically and strategically breaking through this conspiracy one guilty plea at a time and is now zeroing in on the actual reason for the investigation; Russian collusion.
Show me the $$$
Throughout the campaign President Trump refused to release his taxes or any other information that might offer a window into his true net worth; financial liabilities; and/or outstanding creditors. Bob Mueller's attempts to go behind the veil of the Trump finances could provide the answers to break this case wide open but more importantly, leave President Trump exposed politically should these bank records show something unsettling to his base.
Now that Mueller has crossed Trump's red line, Washington is bracing for the White House response. Does the president attempt to fire Mueller and if so, what will be the response of Congress to such a sweeping act by President Trump? This is Bob Mueller's most aggressive move to date and it directly targets Trump pitting these two in a stand-off that could tear Washington apart.
1) U.S. receding from the forefront.
By withdrawing from the Paris Accords the United States continues its slow decline (under Trump)from the global stage.
2) Geopolitical re-alignment continues.
President Trump's comments today on Paris Accords cements America's move away from traditional allies and alliances to new global players (i.e. Russia, China, etc.)
3) Bannon is Back
For those who thought Senior Advisor, Steve Bannon, was on the outs, today's announcement suggests the Bannon wing still holds sway in the Trump Administration.
4) All politics is local
While the entire world waited with baited breath for President Trump to make his decision on U.S. standing in the Paris Climate Agreement, the presidents primary audience was his base of voters in key states of Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Ohio.
During the Obama presidency, the Republicans were in the midst of an all-out GOP Civil War, despite eight years of enormous statewide gains. Republicans extended their legislative and gubernatorial grip across the nation winning state legislatures and governorships. However, at the national level, Tea Party activism emerged waging an ideological purge targeting moderate and centrist Republicans to move the party further right. The historic statewide victories were largely overshadowed by the incessant infighting at the national level that saw the House of Representatives lose its majority leader, Eric Cantor of Virginia, in epic fashion to a Tea Party upstart along with the abrupt resignation of House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio.
Yet, the party finally seemed to level its axis with the stunning victory of reality-TV star turned politician, Donald Trump. The year 2016 saw the Republican Party make gains across the electoral spectrum ushering in unprecedented political power nationally and locally. Yet, not even 50 days into the Trump presidency, the ideological fault lines are being exposed and the GOP is (yet again) showing deep division and fracturing—meaning the GOP Civil War is far from over.
“Lines in the sand” are being drawn and the next battles in this Civil War are on the horizon. Ironically, though no longer in office and largely in the background, shadows of former president Barack Obama, once again serve as the catalyst. This time it is the repeal of Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, that has Tea Party activists dusting off their weaponry in preparation for an all-out fight that will only intensify during the budget season and looming debt ceiling showdown.
Frankly, many of the challenges that forced a years-long internal fight were never addressed; the problems never solved. Of course, winning heals all wounds but the large glaring ideological gaps that engulfed the GOP have yet to heal—and from this vantage point, are unlikely to heal.
Reckless spending, feckless foreign policy, and party purity never had their day in GOP court—until now. The GOP controls all three units of the lawmaking apparatus of the government: The White House, the Senate and the House of Representatives. In other words, Republicans are in charge and they’re running the show. Remember, it was that dying rudderless shopworn party that hitched itself to a mercurial brazen political neophyte and lived to fight another day. Now that day has arrived and massive hurdles are closing in and the “Party of No” must now actually govern. The party of war must lay down its weapons and lead a nation. The party of Trump must tear down walls and build trust. No small feat if you look at the first 50 days of his administration and his approval numbers.
And Trump must do this all the while there are massive cracks in the foundation of the GOP Caucus and Party. It was the founder of their party who said “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” Of course, then Republican Illinois Sen. Lincoln was referencing the American Civil War, but the analogy hold true for the GOP today. Further, Republicans must do this without the help of Democrats; without the steady counsel of former presidents guiding a nascent administration adrift in a sea of legal confusion; policy morass; legislative inertia.
During the G.W. Bush era, seasoned executives such as Andrew Card, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld combined with a powerful congressional Republican leadership led by House Majority Leader Tom Delay (aka The Hammer) and cajoled, pushed, and forced support for Bush’s legislative and policy initiatives. The Obama Administration was buoyed by high approval ratings along with a mystique and regal touch that never faded. Unfortunately, Trump lacks the executive presence, approval ratings and influential congressional team to move items cross the finish line.
President Trump has already had to fire his first national security advisor Gen. Michael Flynn, for cozying up to Russia (and now there are new revelations that he was on the Turkish payroll while advising Trump on national security matters). His attorney general, Jeff Sessions, recused himself from an investigation into Russia’s interference with the 2016 presidential campaign because of his and other Trump associates involvement with Russian officials during the time of Russia’s cyber-attacks. His pick for labor secretary withdrew over past domestic-abuse allegations.
On policy, President Trump’s signature travel ban was abruptly rescinded after it was deemed unconstitutional by the courts. A second go-around in the past few days has also hit a snag in federal court. His authorization of a raid in Yemen left a Navy Seal dead along with scores of civilians with no verifiable intelligence. Lastly, he has claimed that President Obama “tapped” his phones at Trump Tower last fall, with no evidence at all, leading to a new feud with his FBI director who asked the Justice Dept. to disavow the president’s claim.
It is safe to say, what little political capital this administration had has been squandered. Though a small minority of congressional Republicans are still willing to carry the water for Team Trump, that number continues to dwindle day-by-day and could be non-existent before President Trump reaches his 100th day in office.
Of course, Trump is not the only bullseye on the board; House Speaker Paul Ryan, of Wisconsin, is also on the hot seat as vocal critics of the Obamacare replacement bill take center stage. To date, the 218 votes needed to pass the house are in doubt and do not expect Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to step in and save the bill by offering up her caucus of resistant Democrats to assuage a bickering House GOP. President Trump has already predicted a “bloodbath” if the GOP does not pass a replacement bill and with the brimstone fired up and the bright lights shining, there is no cover for Republican leaders. Moreover, the stakes from here on out only get higher and the fall is decidedly steeper. No doubt, congressional Republicans are feeling the pressure after the massive town-hall protests they have had to endure during trips back in their home districts.
There are no easy answers and no quick fixes, and it appears the brief unity that was the glue that held the GOP together during the campaign was a “House of Cards.” The cracks are real and the problems run deep. Strong leadership, effective management, and savvy deal-making is required to climb the hurdles confronting GOP policymakers. The Trump White House—in its current state—will not be much help securing victories on Capitol Hill. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., and Mr. Ryan will be stranded on an island of their own, left to corral their fractured caucuses while the president stays bunkered at the White House or Mar-a-Largo firing off tweets.
Alas, no architect is on the horizon to help draw up legislative victory plans; no Mr. Fix-It just around the corner to patch and heal the enormous divide among the GOP; and no political savant to save the current GOP from itself. The president, speaker, and majority leader can only hope the cracks in the foundation do not force a collapse upon themselves.
Another major hot spot of international crisis confronting the new U.S. presidency of Donald J. Trump is the growing conflict between Turkey and Iraqi Kurds near the Iraq-Turkey border. On Feb. 20, I joined (from Washington) a panel discussion on this very topic on SkyNews Arabia, a premiere international cable news network that beams into more than 200 million homes across the Middle East and Europe.
A central focus of the segment was the Kurdish crackdown by Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan. The 30-minute discussion included experts from the region encompassing a wide-range of issues that will confront the Trump Administration. President Erdogan's strongman tactics come at a very delicate time for the U.S. as President Trump has made the eradication of ISIS a top priority. However, given the strong U.S.-Kurdish alliance fighting terrorism, ongoing fights between Kurds and Turkey, two pivotal and key U.S. allies, places Trump in a vice-grip with no easy way out.
Much of the conversation centered on critical questions that included: The role of Russia fomenting discord between Turkey and the U.S.; which side will the U.S. take in the ongoing feud between the Erdogan regime and the Kurds? Does President Trump want a deeper U.S. imprint in Syria? And finally, how will the Trump doctrine differ from the Obama doctrine vis-a-vis the region and relations with Erdogan specifically?
The entire panel was in agreement on the importance of Turkey in the long-term fight to eradicate terrorists networks. Moreover, the continued dictatorial currents emanating from the Erdogan regime itself are deeply troubling and could become increasingly problematic for the Trump Administration seeking a willing partner in the fight against ISIS and a failing Syria. Clearly, there were no easy answers offered, only more questions to rapidly growing challenges in the region.
The segment highlighted myriad of issues confronting the Trump team and his newly selected national security adviser, Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster. It also remains to be seen how invested President Trump will be in the region given his nationalist approach toward governing. President Obama was cool to President Erdogan and after just 30 days in office, Donald Trump’s leanings remain a mystery with one of America’s most significant allies in the Middle East.
President Donald Trump and Republican loyalists are bashing the new book as "fiction" and the author, after granting him unusual access to the White House like no other journalist.