Donald Trump said during his campaign that his presidency “will be like nothing you have ever seen before.”
Truer words were never spoken.
There have been massive protests, marches here and abroad, scads of executive orders, new phrases coined, nationwide detentions at airports, and the firing of the acting United States Attorney General.
Pres. Trump’s most recent act reminds presidential historians of Richard Nixon’s Saturday Night Massacre back in 1973 when he fired his attorney general.
“The bells of impeachment are ringing,” said one historian. But there is a huge difference between Pres. Nixon’s firing of his United States Attorney General and Pres. Trump’s: Pres. Nixon was well into his second term as president; Pres. Trump hasn’t even completed his second week.
Here are a few thoughts on his recent executive orders.
The Ban on Muslims
When protesters and the media criticize Pres. Trump’s ban on Muslims, a disjointed refrain can be heard from Republicans that Syria was President Obama’s fault.
Curiously, the list of countries where the ban takes effect does not include Indonesia, the most populous Muslim country in the world, and chock full of terrorists. Of course there are those two luxury resorts being built that will be part of the Trump Hotel collection.
But back to Syria.
Pres. Obama said in his final press conference that he feels “responsible” for the bloodshed in Syria, and that his administration “went through every option” to try to limit the violence there.
But is Syria really Pres. Obama’s fault? Let’s look at some facts.
Syria has been ruled by ruthless dictators for nearly 50 years: Bashar al-Assad since July 2000 and his father, Hafez al-Assad, from 1970-2000.
The civil war has been traced back to an extreme drought in Syria between 2006 and 2009 and has been linked to climate change. The violent uprising in Syria was also part of the Arab Spring movement that swept through Oman, Yemen, Egypt, Morocco, and Libya, many of whose dictators were overthrown.
ISIS did not exist and there was no Al Quada in Iraq before the Iraq War. It is almost a guaranteed that if Saddam Hussein were in power ISIS would not have a presence in Iraq.
In terms of Syria’s civil war, there are four violent factions that don’t consult Americans before making their next move: the Kurdish forces, ISIS, the six loosely affiliated opposition groups to Assad, and the Assad regime.
Except for the Iraq War, against which Pres. Obama voted, none of Syria’s problems are the United States’ fault. Republicans, though, are quick to point out that Pres. Obama’s response to Syria’s civil war was insufficient.
But the Arab Spring can be traced back to European Colonialism. Syria is in Europe’s back yard and the war a product of Europe’s past hubris. Why aren’t the Republicans criticizing Europe’s response to the civil war?
Picking on Muslims is low hanging fruit to rally Pres. Trump’s base, and I doubt they predicted the backlash. Now Mr. Trump’s defenders are left grasping at straws to deflect the criticism.
As Goes California, Goes The Country
I often find myself reflecting on Republican Governor Pete Wilson’s ill-fated Proposition 187 passed in 1994. The proposition banned undocumented residents, mostly Hispanics, from sending their children to public schools or receiving state subsidized healthcare.
The California Supreme Court eventually ruled the proposition unconstitutional, but the damage was done. Hispanics never forgave the callousness of the Republican-sponsored proposition and the state went from being a healthy mix of moderate Democrats and Republicans to almost completely controlled by the Democratic Party.
Governor Jerry Brown made an astute observation last week that the same backlash may happen to the country as a whole.
Pres. Trump’s executive orders include the construction of a physical wall with Mexico and the stripping of federal grant money to sanctuary cities. He ordered the hiring of 5,000 more Border Patrol agents and reinstated local and state immigration enforcement partnerships. He then banned refugees and residents from seven Muslim nations.
Gov. Brown pointed out that what happened in California in the aftermath of proposition 187 should be used as an historical warning for Washington Republicans.
According to the Sacramento Bee, Gov. Brown said, “And I would say the extremism of the Republican majority and other interests groups that have temporarily taken hold of Washington are reducing to an absurd level the conservative cause, and there will be a backlash. And that backlash will be similar to the backlash that came in California that essentially swept out the extreme GOP position.”
Border Adjustment Tax vs. Border Tax
One of Pres. Trump’s executive orders has affected a major bill that Congressman Devin Nunes has been working on for years. Pres. Trump’s order to build a wall with Mexico had a lot of predictable consequences, but one very unpredictable negative effect – the corporate tax reform.
Rep. Nunes is one of the authors of Congressman Paul Ryan’s tax blueprint called “A Better Way.” The bill supports a revolutionary tax reform, including a “border adjustment tax.” As a member of Pres. Trump’s executive transitional team, Rep. Nunes has been a main player in explaining the bill to the president and his financial team.
Pres. Trump’s executive order to build a physical wall with Mexico, and have Mexico pay for it, elicited an immediate response from that country’s president, Enrique Pena Nieto. He said under no circumstances will they pay for the wall. In response, Pres. Trump suggested forcing Mexico to pay for it through a 20% border tax.
This sent a shudder through Congress, which knows that a border tax will cause a tariff war. On the other hand, the Adjusted Border Tax is meant to boost American exports and is similar to the one used by America’s major trading partners.
It’s going to be hard enough getting a complicated tax bill passed now that it’s been muddled by the wall of all things. Fortunately, talk of the border tax has been walked back by the administration and hopefully the confusion won’t stick.
The proposed tax code containing the adjusted Border Tax would lower the corporate tax rate from 35% to 20%. That’s the easy part to understand. Then terms like “territorial system” and “destination based tax” are thrown around and the tax bill gets too difficult to understand. One of the biggest criticisms of the proposal is the complicated nature of the bill.
Still, if the border adjustment tax becomes law, it will be the most radical change to corporate taxes in a 100 years and will raise a lot of money–more than $1 trillion over 10 years. That’s a number hard to envision but easy to understand.
Rumors are swirling that Hilary Clinton is contemplating another presidential run in 2020, which would be her third try at the highest office in the land. I remember when Ronald Reagan ran for president for the third time. He lost the Republican primary in 1968 against Richard Nixon and then again in 1976 against Gerald Ford.
When he ran again in 1980 I thought “when is this guy going to give it up?” Then he ended up being the oldest person ever elected president and also beating an incumbent, President Jimmy Carter. That was impressive.
According to Newsmax, “Hilary Clinton is convinced that, sooner than later, the voters will come to their senses and realize they made a horrible mistake by putting [Donald] Trump in the White House …. In her view, Trump is a rank amateur in the art of politics, and he’s going to screw up badly and find himself in deep trouble.”
Many people already realize that voting for Pres. Trump was a huge mistake. It also may be true that FBI Director James Comey’s reopening his investigation of Sec. Clinton’s emails during the peak early voting times, and the fact that Russia meddled in our election, lead to her defeat.
But the shenanigans of the 2016 election is not going to get her elected in 2020.
Nevertheless, it seems that Sec. Clinton intends to keep her campaign organization together and possibly run again for president in four years.
A more logical step up to the 2020 election would be a run for New York City Mayor.
Newsmax in fact reported that Democrats were courting Sec. Clinton to run against fellow Democrat and current New York Mayor, Bill de Blasio. In the presidential election, 79% voted for her over Pres. Trump, making a mayoral victory likely.
Given its dislike for Pres. Trump, The New York Times reported several up-sides to Sec. Clinton leading their fiefdom. Health inspectors could show up unexpectedly at Pres. Trump’s restaurants and find the refrigeration not cold enough and the heating plates not sufficiently hot. Building inspectors could show up at his many highrises and find faulty wiring and missing smoke detectors. Pot holes could linger in front of his buildings and the streets could somehow be the last to be plowed.
Even better, there could be mysterious power outages at the Russian Consulate.
Then there are all the international heads of state that would be attending the United Nations and dropping by City Hall. Sec. Clinton would possibly be hosting more dignitaries than the president.
Some people would see her running for Mayor of New York as a come down but there is strong precedence. After Gov. Brown finished his first two terms as governor of California in 1980, he was the Mayor of Oakland, a post he seemed to thoroughly enjoy. He then was elected attorney general in 2010, a step down from governor, and reveled in that position also.
After Pres. Nixon lost to President John F. Kennedy in 1960, he ran for governor of California in 1962. He lost that race also, ironically, to Gov. Brown’s father, Governor Pat Brown. Pres. Nixon’s relationship with the media was as about as cozy as Pres. Trump’s, and as he appeared before 100 reporters at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, Pres. Nixon lashed out, proclaiming, “you don’t have Nixon to kick around anymore, because, gentlemen, this is my last press conference.”
Then, in one of the biggest political comebacks in American history, Pres. Nixon won the presidency in 1968.
Will we have Sec. Clinton to kick around anymore? Let’s hope so.