Friday, November 18, 2016

The Perils of a Trump Presidency (Part II)

Sure, Trump could stock the Supreme Court with radical jurists who will hold a majority for the next 15-20 years and Congress could swiftly undo the social safety net that lifted millions of elderly people out of poverty and ensures good medical treatment for senior citizens, but really, could it get worse? Yes it can and it probably will. 

While there may be some faint glimmer of hope that Congress, staring into the abyss of privatizing Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid (not to mention repealing Obamacare) may step back and rethink things, but in the realm of foreign policy, they will have little say or control over what an inexperienced, but arrogant and narcissistic President might do.

The world is a complicated place and foreign policy is not the same as negotiating with regulators in Atlantic City over your casinos. Kim Jong Un might randomly detonate a nuclear bomb or fire off a missile just to get everyone’s attention, an entire democratic movement might sweep the Middle East, or as we have seen, Vladimir Putin might straight up invade other countries or have his allies shoot down commercial airliners. This of course does not take into account your run of the mill concerns, OPEC cutting production to goose oil prices, terrorists plotting attacks on the U.S. or our allies, the festering wound that is the Israel/Palestine conflict, or the drug trade that funnels heroin, cocaine and marijuana from South and Central America into the arms, mouths, and noses of American consumers.

Into this thicket walks a man with little understanding of these issues. Worse, he is surrounding himself with trigger-happy Islamophobes whose world view is blinkered and not shy about using the world’s largest, most sophisticated, and deadly military – commonly thought of as something to be used judiciously and more as a deterrent –  may be the option of first resort to someone who has never served but has a fragile ego and is easily goaded into fights.

A shooting war is certainly a possibility, but there are other concerns too. The unspoken bargain we have held with much of the free world for decades has been a trade off between our military might and their willingness to indulge our oversized influence in the world. But we do not know who Trump will appoint as his ambassadors, or into high level positions at the State and Defense Departments. Under George W. Bush, relations with many of our oldest and closest allies were harmed because of his chesty approach to American dominance, one can only imagine the attitude of a guy who makes W look like a shrinking violet. A thumb on the scale for the Israelis might trigger an intifadah in the West Bank. Threats of tariffs might throttle imports from China. Squeezing NATO members for more defense spending may erode cooperation on tracking terrorism suspects. To borrow an Orwellian phrase from Donald Rumsfeld, it is the unknown unknowns that we should fear.

On the ABC drama Designated Survivor the HUD Secretary is elevated to the Presidency when the entire Cabinet is wiped out in a terrorist attack during the President’s State of the Union address. Shortly after, the new President is hood winked by the Russians into a prisoner swap so we can recover an American track and field coach they detained. As it turns out, the American is a double agent, but the President does not figure it out until it is too late. Such a scenario is easy to envision with Trump who, unlike the fictitious President Tom Kirkman, is not a cerebral, decent guy, but an arrogant jerk who, instead of calling the Russian Ambassador to the Oval Office for a lecture after being duped, might just send a few missiles skyward to express his displeasure. What could possibly go wrong?

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