The Incredible, Shrinking Trump Presidency

12/06/2017 05:38 pm ET

Donald Trump’s influence is shrinking at a breakneck pace. It is shocking. It is unlike anything I have seen or read about in my many years as a student of history. Today’s announcement about moving the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem is the latest benchmark in Trump’s rapid decline.

In his announcement, the President noted that “In 1995, Congress adopted the Jerusalem Embassy Act, urging the federal government to relocate the American embassy to Jerusalem and to recognize that that city -- and so importantly -- is Israel’s capital. This act passed Congress by an overwhelming bipartisan majority and was reaffirmed by a unanimous vote of the Senate only six months ago.” The President went on to say that, “Yet, for over 20 years, every previous American president has exercised the law’s waiver, refusing to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem or to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital city.”

Trump chose to throw red meat at his shrinking base, rather than exercising some form of consensus leadership that could grow his numbers.

He noted that previous Presidents’ exercised their waiver in order to help procure peace in the region, but there is no evidence of that working. I do not think anyone can argue that he is probably right about that. If anything, the situation has gotten worse, for several reasons including Trump’s wild policies of marginalizing moderates in the region and an approach of “black and white” thinking that simply does not work in the real world. It is that black and white thinking that has led to this decision of taking a neutral location that both the Islamic and Jewish populations have huge connections to, and making it into a political football. Since the situation has not gotten better, Trump argues, “who cares?” and goes ahead with a policy that gets huge support from a very small base, but alienates much of the rest of the population both domestically and abroad. It seems that Trump was willing to ask the question of what difference has the use of waivers made for peace, but failed to ask the question of whether implementing this policy will lead to conflict. My guess is that the answer is it will and in a very large scale. Trump is in such desperate need for support, he is willing to take such an action with little regard for consequences. However, there are many:

  • Outside of Israel, the rest of the Middle East is in an uproar over this decision. It empowers those who are enemies of the United States (by creating a rallying point) and marginalizes the shrinking number of moderate governments for being even vaguely sympathetic to this country.
  • Much of Europe begged the President to reconsider. Those countries that are actually on the front lines of terrorism know that such a decision will only stoke the fires of those who would attack Western governments.
  • Even the President’s own foreign policy apparatus asked him to not do it — including his Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense.
  • And certainly United States will likely become a more attractive target to terrorists.

This policy will cost tens of millions of dollars in construction costs alone. Maybe more, since the embassy in Moscow cost over $100 million. With a national debt of $20 trillion, you would think we would have other priorities. Trump gets the credit for taking the action to pursue this, knowing he will be long gone once it is completed and it will likely be a nightmare for future administrations. Trump chose to throw red meat at his shrinking base, rather than exercising some form of consensus leadership that could grow his numbers.

Trump has proven that he cannot get the “big deals” done. Being one of those rare Presidents that enjoys a majority in both Houses of Congress has not helped him at all. Ronald Reagan never had a majority in the House and took his message to the American people to get his legislative agenda passed. Trump acts as though this is beneath him. He ignores the American people and chooses not to get any buy in on their part, and mocks members of Congress, whom he desperately needs in order to get legislation passed.

Trump is in trouble. He is now resorting to a bizarre game of declarations, regulations, and orders to get any of his agenda passed. These are the exact type of things for which he was critical of Barack Obama.

Trump will continue to do what he can without the help of Congress. This is something he repeatedly criticized President Barack Obama for when he was running to become President. Recently, the GOP led Senate added a measure to the tax cuts that would end Obamacare mandates and now Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX), Chair of the House Ways and Means Committee believes the final law will do just that. In an interview I had with Bethany Schenk of Web Benefits Design, we discussed how the Trump Administration seems to be giving up on conventional methods to get things passed and is now using policies, regulations, and executive orders, to get his agenda accomplished. Schenk is a health insurance industry expert.

Trump is in trouble. He is now resorting to a bizarre game of declarations, regulations, and orders to get any of his agenda passed. These are the exact type of things for which he was critical of Barack Obama.

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