Thursday, February 23, 2017

One Month In

...would-be Emperor Donald is every bit as clothesless as would-be Empress Hillary...

Trump has used eminent domain to seize other people's property without paying them for it, and then has turned around and used that property to make money for himself.

He is pro-tariff and anti-free trade. He practices crony capitalism, which has more in common with socialism than it does with the free market vision...

Trump has virtually no knowledge of the Constitution and there is plenty of evidence that if he did know what it says, he would be against it...

He is vastly ignorant about matters that are of central importance to the presidency.

He has little regard for free speech and individual rights (other than his own).

...he is actually adept at squandering wealth, not creating it... on two occasions (so far) he has been bailed out by Saudi Prince Walin bin Talal... Is this the kind of man who is able to use (or even have) leverage in a tough negotiation with, oh, let's say, the Saudis?

...voters (in the Republican primary) opted for a man who is the least conservative, least impressive, least qualified, and most unfit-for-office choice in the party's 160-year history.

If Trump wins, it will be a disaster... but not only that, it will also mean the party of Reagan has abandoned its commitment to individual rights over government power; abandoned its commitment to protect small nations from hegemonic ones; and abandoned its commitment to protect alive but unborn children, who are the most vulnerable and persecuted demographic in our country.

All those words were written not by E.J. Dionne or Maureen Dowd or any of the other liberals who staff America's media. They were written by my right wing self and published on this very blog at various points between July 2015 and August 2016. I reprint them now to demonstrate that I am not one who drinks Trump Kool-Aid, because we are now a month into Trump's actual presidency and I am about to share my thoughts on how it has gone so far.

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Let me begin by saying that Trump has exceeded my expectations.

Granted, those expectations were low enough to be called subterranean, so exceeding them is not automatically a big deal. However, he has exceeded them by a wide margin and I would be saying "exceeds expectations" even if my expectations had been average; I'd also be saying it if they were a little above average.

Trump's cabinet picks mark a distinct departure from the ineffective, unaccountable, controlling mindset which has long afflicted our federal bureaucracies and put American progress in chains. Those bureaucracies have, by imposing massive amounts of punitive regulations that would never get approved by Congress, usurped Congress's authority to make laws. They have effectively created a regime of criminalization without representation which, due to the fact it is unelected, feels no need to answer to the citizenry that employs its bureaucrats and pays their too-high salaries and funds their lavish benefits. It is way past time to throw monkey wrenches into the system and subject it to invasive surgery. Trump's cabinet promises to do just that, and to do so in ways that will be good for the agencies' stated purposes (and fyi, I am a hiker and camper who loves the outdoors and I absolutely include EPA chief Scott Pruitt in that assessment).

One of the main reasons -- probably the main reason -- that an election-swinging number of conservative skeptics decided to vote for Trump was his pledge to nominate originalist judges to the Supreme Court and elsewhere on the federal bench. From what we can tell of Neil Gorsuch's judicial philosophy, Trump nominating him to replace Antonin Scalia keeps that promise and counts as a home run into the third deck. This issue is so important that the Gorsuch nomination could, all by itself, make electing Trump a good thing (notice I said could).

On the foreign policy front, the new president has already strengthened ties with our two most important allies, the UK and Israel, after his predecessor spent eight years alienating both and meddling in the elections of the latter... He has served notice that Iran no longer has a US-sanctioned green light to build nuclear weapons, thus signaling that America will no longer go wobbly in the twilight struggle against Islamist terror... He has signaled strengthened ties with Japan along with explicit support of Taiwan, thus letting China know it must now think thrice before running roughshod over its neighbors and disrupting international trade routes... And contrary to media reporting of his call with Australian PM Malcolm Turnbull, Trump did not do bad by our country when he said he intends to stop taking suspected Islamist terrorists out of Australia and releasing them on our shores (a "deal" Obama made with the Aussies that Obama and the Democrat Media Complex didn't want you to know about).

Where the military is concerned, Trump has called for a long overdue rebuild of our depleted naval fleet, and for moving away from the boondoggle that is Lockheed Martin's F-35 multi-purpose fighter jet (a boondoggle that should be scrapped altogether, in my opinion).

His testy battle against large segments of the media is both satisfying and justified.

These things are very good and they make me happy to feel egg on my face.

On the other hand...

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His handling of the Flynn affair raises serious questions. There is no evidence that Flynn did anything illegal or unethical, and Trump has continued to defend him, yet he was asked to resign and the administration chalks that up to a breach of trust -- a combo which has a "take the fall" feel to it. Which means there is no evidence of crime but plenty indication of cover-up, so what is being covered up? And why? Basically, the president needs to release the damn tape.

The seven-nation travel and immigration restriction was ineptly rolled out. By failing to give advance notice even to those charged with enforcing his order, Trump caused confusion that resulted in it being enforced against people who weren't subject to it (green card holders) and needlessly compromised many travelers who did nothing wrong. Though this was quickly fixed, it didn't show competence and didn't put our nation in a good light.

It was amateurish to talk in public about possibly imposing tariffs against Mexico before talking in depth to Mexico about it -- not to mention that tariffs are almost always bad economic policy.

By flirting with a "border tax" to pay for the border wall, Trump seems oblivious or indifferent to the fact that American consumers would be harmed far more by such a tax than they would be if we simply paid for the wall ourselves.

On one day he announced a temporary, non-military, federal government hiring freeze, which is a laudable idea, especially if VA physicians and psychiatrists don't count as non-military... But the very next day he called for a "tripling" of border patrol agents, which is inconsistent with the idea of a non-military federal government hiring freeze, seeing as how the Border Patrol Agency has no affiliation with the military... And this week he announced the hiring of ten thousand immigration officers by the DHS, which also has no affiliation with the military... So what's the truth about federal hiring when the Trump administration is in charge? (And with all the political commentators in our country who receive handsome paychecks for their commentary, why am I, who blogs for free, the only person who seems to have noticed the glaring contradictions I mentioned in this paragraph?)

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In other words, there have been some good and some bad things in Trump's presidency -- just as there are with everything in life, and everybody in life.

But this is only the 35th day of his presidency, and presidencies are designed to last a minimum of four years, so it's ludicrous for anyone, including me, to pass judgment right now. It's sad that our hyper-politicized and hyper-opinionated times demand it from those of us who pay attention to current events.

So far, Donald Trump has performed better than purely thinking conservatives (as opposed to purely feeling conservatices) had any basis to believe prior to 2017. But again, this is only the 35th day.

He has done things that irritate and even enrage hypersensitive liberals, but the key component of the word "hypersensitive" is hyper, and so long as the president is a Republican, that segment of the Left (a segment that ain't small) would be irritated and enraged and hyperventilating no matter who he/she is and no matter what he/she does. Let's not forget that milquetoast Mitt Romney was described by the sober Washington Post as "insult(ing) to women" and "insult(ing) to us all," and by the august New York Times as an "out-of-touch plutocrat" deluded by "dangerous fantasy" who hides "his true nature...where we can't see it."

Not to be outdone, the Right has its own retinue of lackeys and yes-men who are psychologically incapable of detecting any flaws whatsoever in their man who would be king. I'm talking about people like Sean Hannity and Mike Gallagher, who have denigrated themselves by turning their radio shows into fellatio-like paeans sung while genuflecting before the Trumpian court.

The Left and Right both have issues, and the Left and Right both need to tame their Ids and channel their impulses.

Basically: There is no reason to panic, no reason to get ecstatic, and most importantly, the center must hold. But the million dollar question is whether there still is a center in the America of 2017.