It would not be unreasonable to observe that the American Presidential election might be encapsulated in this single word. The notion of “President Trump” or Hillary Clinton’s description of herself that, “I am very committed and careful with classified information” are tough to hear without cracking a sardonic smile. Or that the press, which I was raised believing was objective by definition, had become committed to the success of one candidate and the defeat of another.
I have been actively involved in politics since my mother enlisted me to work on behalf of Gene McCarthy in 1968. He challenged incumbent President Lyndon Johnson on an unapologetic anti-Vietnam War platform, and his strong performances in New Hampshire and Wisconsin forced Johnson from the race. Despite Gene’s bravery, he lacked charisma and Robert Kennedy stepped into the void.
As dramatic as that race and successive others have been, nothing has come close to the one just concluded. The country has become deeply divided over the course of the two Obama administrations as the power of the Federal government has become deeply centralized in the Executive branch, and despite having had majorities in the Senate and the Congress, the Republicans have displayed an alarming timidity in face of the President’s ever-increasing Executive Actions. The Democrats, though in the minority, resorted to legislative chicanery to achieve their policy objectives which only served to reinforce Obama’s rhetorical notion stated in 2008 that he wanted to fundamentally transform the United States of America.
Two initiatives, in particular, were handled in a fashion that flew in the face of precedent: Obamacare (or the Affordable Care Act) and the deal with Iran (or the JCPOA, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action). Obamacare, which compelled citizens to purchase health insurance comprised of very specific elements regardless of age or face a penalty/tax imposed by the government, was unprecedented and historically would not be proposed (let alone voted upon) without bipartisan support was passed on a budget technicality without a single Republican vote.
Since the passage of Obamacare and the promises of being able to “keep your doctor, keep your plan”, premiums have risen dramatically, deductibles have increased and private insurance companies have dropped out of the “exchanges” established to manage the program in an awkward public-private partnership. While Obamacare cracked some important precedents, its burdens have far outweighed the false promises upon which it was sold.
Similarly, the JCPOA, which by any measure met the definition of a “treaty” and therefore required 2/3 of the Senate to affirm the terms of the agreement to ensure its terms were binding on the United States, was described by the Administration as an international agreement since Iran was to be a signatory with the P5+1 and was not required to meet the provisions of a treaty as required by the Constitution.
We all know what has occurred in the aftermath of that agreement. Secret codicils were signed with the IAEA, Iran continues to test its ballistic missiles, supports the use of WMD’s against civilians in Syria while the IRGC and Hizballah fight on Assad’s behalf and continues to funnel weapons into southern Lebanon (which it no longer controls covertly) and the region which borders the Golan.
Clinton Blew It
Hillary Clinton would be preparing for her Inauguration were it not for the hubris which caused her to conduct official business as Secretary of State on an unsecured server. Had she functioned with a “state.gov” email address, she would have been swept into office by the margins predicted by every major poll and the sycophants in the press that – thanks to Julian Assange – were being feted for dinner at John Podesta’s house, that fed questions to the candidate in advance of town hall meetings and who sought out the approval of the campaign for stories they were planning to file. It seemed light years from Woodward and Bernstein.
Unfortunately, those polling services and the reporters sipping wine from Mr. Podesta’s fine cellar failed to understand what had been brewing between the coasts over the last eight years. As much as any of us would love to grab a brew with Barack, no one believed the statistics emanating from his Labor Department; no one believed that the Constitution bestowed the authority upon the President or the EPA to close coal mines or prohibit power generating plants from using coal to fire their plants; no one understood how cities could declare themselves not subject to standing Federal law by declaring themselves “sanctuaries” and not deporting illegal immigrants who had committed felonies; no one believed that American hostages were released by Iran after a payment of $1.7 billion in untraceable cash was made and it was not a “ransom”; no one believed that the IRS was not used to target political opponents of the President when he running for re-election and no one was held accountable. I could go on.
Mr. Trump, despite his over-bearing ego, his lack of disclosure of his tax returns, his repugnant charges gleaned from the National Enquirer that Ted Cruz’s father had something to do with Lee Harvey Oswald or the Kennedy assassination, his insistence that Barack Obama’s birth certificate was really in Kenya and not in Hawai’i, is now the President Elect. And there’s nothing Jill Stein can do about it.
With the notable exceptions of the East and West Coasts, Trump successfully gave voice to the sense of abandonment that was felt by most of the country. Middle-class wages were stagnant, American influence in foreign affairs had become an embarrassment and the families that send their sons and daughters to populate our volunteer armed forces – from our famous “flyover” country – became increasingly reluctant to serve a military infrastructure far more concerned with advancing the cause of sexual equality in elite fighting units than better defining the rules of engagement. The Syrians crossed a red line and we did nothing. Our ambassador was killed in Benghazi and we blamed it on a video.
Despite the skepticism of the Republican establishment and the “neverTrump” movement, his initial Cabinet appointments are being met with general approval from the conservative mainstream, particularly the designation of General James Mattis at Defense who retired from active duty under Obama because he felt they failed to understand the existential nature of the Iranian threat. Rex Tillerson at State is certainly more controversial, but if Amb. John Bolton is appointed as his Deputy, it will be met with enthusiasm.
Trump and Israel
There can be little doubt – as bizarre as it sounds – that casino mogul, golf course impresario, luxury hotel magnate, “Celebrity Apprentice” executive producer, President of the United States of America – that Donald J. Trump will renew and restore a productive relationship with Israel and its friends. I believe Israel, after wandering through the desert for the last eight years, will emerge with a pre-eminence denied it for some time. The country will receive vigorous support in the UN and other international bodies and Abu Mazen will be under enormous financial and political pressure to come to the table without conditions.
There is strong sentiment in Congress to reduce funding to the Palestinian Authority. Republicans do not want American taxpayer funds to compensate the families of martyrs. Republicans do not want to enrich the sons of Abu Mazen with preferred concessions funded by taxpayers.
President Trump has an odd ring to it, no doubt, but his deal-making acumen and his willingness to delegate to subject-matter experts with clearly defined points of view might create an atmosphere in which matters of substance actually get done.