When the US sent Tomahawk missiles streaking towards a Syrian airbase, the impact on the American media was startling. “OMG, President Trump had reversed himself, maybe he was not an isolationist after all”. Like one rose does not make a summer, the same can be said of the Trump presidency.
There appears to be several seismic forces at work (behind the scenes) in the White House. Unlike the irresponsible (eg Bannon, Miller, and Flynn) early influencers, a much more seasoned and predictable group has been gaining control and access to President Trump’s ear. Appointments such as Secretary of State Tillerson, Defense Secretary Mattis, and Director of National Security McMaster along with Vice President Pense have brought a certain amount of deliberateness to policy.
Of course, one bombing raid does not make a sustainable foreign policy either.
It would be easy to ascribe the early White House disarray to what is euphemistically called a “populist” perspective and the feeding of those views to the President. It is just as likely, however, to consider President Trump as a person without any specific world strategy and flying by the seat of his pants, so to speak. In other words, President Trump can be swayed in any direction if the public reaction is favorable. With the President’s current advisors, the White House is on an asymptotic path toward George W Bush’s world view. Hmmm.
Many might think this change is a huge slap down for President Trump. Unlikely.
President Trump wants to be a two term President and in doing so validate his narrow 2018 election. Mrs Trump may have had some dumb children but Donald J was not one of them. He sees the more conventional foreign policy as conducive to enacting more of his domestic priorities. Hmmm, President Trump has a domestic agenda?
As with foreign policy, there is a perennial conservative strategy for domestic policy too. Lower tax (for the wealthy), smaller government/less regulations (for wealthy businesses), and all sorts of perks for the evangelicals (to gain the votes needed to reward the wealthy with less government and lower taxes). Gutting the EPA, FDA, and the Justice Department are distractions. Why the lack of clarity on a plan for the perennial favorites in favor of the slash and burn items?
President Trump will be 100% in favor of any domestic policy unless the public opinion runs strongly against him (like with Obamacare). Remember President Trump wants two terms and if the votes aren’t there, neither will be Trump.
IMO, the change the media has highlighted with the Syrian raids is not a metamorphous at all. Rather it is a group of competent statesman shouldering out populous agitators. In time, the infamous rules specifically designed to block Muslims from America will go silently into the night. These rules are impractical and represent a lot of effort and unfavorable blow back with no measurable gains to be seen. A similar fate most likely awaits the Mexican border fence too.
Sooner or later, the Trump Administration will get to domestic policies. The enormity of the task of tax cuts coupled with large infrastructure spending can not be overstated. Tax cuts (or as it will be pitched) are about the greedy taking more and the average American paying the bill. Infrastructure spending could be very positive for employment and overall productivity but it will be expensive. Republicans will almost assuredly be unable to agree upon how to finance the tax cut and infrastructure policies. Hmmm.
So, one last question. Does the apparent resoluteness exhibited in the Syrian strike capture the Trump we should expect next week, or next month, or next year? Unlikely, because Donald Trump is a on-off, transactional person who won the election on an unachievable platform. President Trump will not take predictable set backs lightly and will try with other domestic policy subordinates.
But at least with the foreign policy team, he should make far fewer bozo policy moves.