In the first 100 days of the Trump administration, we have learned some important lessons about what it takes to be considered “presidential” by the establishment news media (both liberal and conservative), Hillary Clinton, the leadership of both the GOP and the Democratic Party, and NeverTrump conservatives. While possibly alienating much of his base, Trump has managed to bring together a divided Congress, winning plaudits from Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, and Mitch McConnell. Pelosi has gone so far as to urge Congress to cancel their April recess so that they can authorize what, to her mind, this very important and carefully planned war for regime change.
Here’s what we know:
Immigration ban from 7 countries? Unreasonable. Unconstitutional. Evil.
Border wall? Too expensive. Stupid. Won’t work.
Forgive the snark, but the past weekend merits it. We’re all left with one burning question: what happened to Trumpism?
Over the course of the election, Trump accomplished an incredible feat: he destroyed the legacy of Bush-era conservatism, and humiliated the neoconservative wing of the Republican party. The final nail in their coffin (so we thought) was his conquest in November, but the entire campaign can be viewed as a kind of march to the sea, burning one neocon stronghold after another until total victory was achieved.
Not only did he take out his major opponents during the primary, each of them mouthing the same invade-the-world-invite-the-world policy platform. He blew them away, one by one. At the South Carolina debate in February, 2016, Trump not only denounced our failed foreign policy of the past 15 years, shared by neocon and neoliberal alike, but he accused George W. Bush of lying about WMDs in Iraq. With GWB’s brother onstage and his mother in the audience, the SC establishment audience booed. But a few days later, in the reliable, evangelical, and red state, Trump won the primary handily. In that moment, the Bush legacy was defeated, and the dynasty wiped out.
A few months later in April, when his position as GOP nominee was all-but secure, Trump gave his first policy speech. It was on foreign policy. It was also the most radical position taken by Trump in the campaign. While his immigration policy decidedly went against the globalist establishment, and received far more attention from the media, it didn’t pose an existential threat to the Davoisie the way his foreign policy platform did. Building a border wall and enforcing existing immigration law is radical, to be sure. But there is no issue that the mainstream left and right junta agree on more than foreign policy, as shown by the sinister bipartisanship we have seen in the wake of this military attack on Syria.
Immigration and foreign policy are obviously tied together in the invade-the-world-invite-the-world strategy, but immigration is only about one country. Davoisie foreign policy involves a vision for the whole world. Donald Trump’s stated positions flew in the face of that oligarchic alliance. That’s why he explicitly defended the existence of the nation state. He wanted to finally put an end to what Decius once called, “endless, pointless, winless war.”
As Trump stated in that landmark foreign policy speech:
In fact, as time went on, our foreign policy began to make less and less sense. Logic was replaced with foolishness and arrogance, which led to one foreign policy disaster after another.
They just kept coming and coming. We went from mistakes in Iraq to Egypt to Libya, to President Obama’s line in the sand in Syria. Each of these actions have helped to throw the region into chaos and gave ISIS the space it needs to grow and prosper. Very bad. It all began with a dangerous idea that we could make western democracies out of countries that had no experience or interests in becoming a western democracy.
We tore up what institutions they had and then were surprised at what we unleashed…
I will not hesitate to deploy military force when there is no alternative. But if America fights, it must only fight to win.
I will never send our finest into battle unless necessary, and I mean absolutely necessary, and will only do so if we have a plan for victory with a capital V.
Our goal is peace and prosperity, not war and destruction. The best way to achieve those goals is through a disciplined, deliberate and consistent foreign policy. With President Obama and Secretary Clinton we’ve had the exact opposite — a reckless, rudderless and aimless foreign policy, one that has blazed the path of destruction in its wake.
After losing thousands of lives and spending trillions of dollars, we are in far worse shape in the Middle East than ever, ever before. I challenge anyone to explain the strategic foreign policy vision of Obama/Clinton. It has been a complete and total disaster…
However, unlike other candidates for the presidency, war and aggression will not be my first instinct. You cannot have a foreign policy without diplomacy. A superpower understands that caution and restraint are really truly signs of strength. Although not in government service, I was totally against the war in Iraq, very proudly, saying for many years that it would destabilize the Middle East. Sadly, I was correct, and the biggest beneficiary has been has been Iran, who is systematically taking over Iraq and gaining access to their very rich oil reserves, something it has wanted to do for decades.
While many pundits questioned Trump’s sincerity on immigration, most people took him at his word on foreign policy. They had reason to do so: In his long public career, It is one of the issues on which Trump has been most consistent, particularly during the Obama years. His tweets on Syria since 2013, in particular, served as evidence that he wouldn’t back down on this issue: and why should he? What motivation could he have to betray his base of support on one of the issues that most divided those people from the NeverTrump camp?
In that same foreign policy speech, Trump said this of the Bush-era neocon pundits, or as Decius called them, the Washington Generals: “We have to look to new people because many of the old people frankly don’t know what they’re doing, even though they may look awfully good writing in The New York Times or being watched on television.” Here we are, a year later. Did he mean it?
The core of Trumpism was defined by opposition to globalism, to open borders, to unfair trade, and to endless war without any clear American interest. As I stated shortly after the election, the key to Trump’s success in the first 100 days would depend on how far he kept the neocons from access to power, and how much he relied on men like Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller, the men who defined that Trumpian vision during the campaign. It seemed clear that they knew what they were up against, and how hard they would have to fight to accomplish…well, anything.
But now it seems that Trump isn’t listening as carefully as he once did to the people who got him elected. Instead, somewhat understandably, he seems to have turned to family members, bringing them closer into his inner circle; family members who may be well intentioned, but who do not seem to understand or ascribe to the Trumpian vision espoused by Donald Trump consistently during the campaign.
Having a variety of viewpoints in the White House isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but the more pro-globalist Kushner cadre appears to be making a concerted effort to isolate and undermine the populist-nationalist thinkers who helped Trump define his campaign promises and policies. By demoting Bannon and promoting Kushner, Ivanka, and Dina Powell, Trump seems to have embraced the very ideas that we thought he had destroyed.
The meaning of Trump’s candidacy was clear. The meaning of his presidency is at stake.
At the 2016 Republican National Convention, Peter Thiel exclaimed, “Instead of going to Mars, we went to the Middle East.” If Trump further involves America in the Syrian civil war, this is precisely what will happen to his own agenda for greatness. The Trumpian dream will vanish after one brief shining moment. Flight 93 will have become a reality.
No revolution is pure. Those who cry “Revolution betrayed!” are often unrealistic purists. Once you actually ascend to power, certain realities set in. But let’s have total clarity on this point: personnel is policy, and Trump wasn’t elected by people who wanted regime strikes in Syria and brinksmanship with Russia. Americanism, not globalism, was our credo.
If he continues to freeze out Bannon et al, he’ll receive accolades from the press, like Bush in 2004, but only for a while. The ecstasy over a new humanitarian war will fade, just as it does with any other fad. Eventually, he’ll have to win another election. And he’ll have to run on, and answer, a few simple questions: did he keep his promises? Did he put America first? Did he close the borders? Did he keep us out of senseless wars?
Or was he just another Bush?