Trump and the Politics of the Present

Dear Editor:

Those who write political commentary must see Donald Trump as a journalistic “mother lode”. If I wrote for a living I wouldn’t know where to begin.

Perhaps Maya Angelou’s, “When I show you who I am, believe me the first time” would be a good place to start. Though it went over many heads, when he called a Hispanic maid “Miss Housekeeping”, it inadvertently suggested to me that he judges people in part by how they make a living.

Mr. Trump has repeatedly shown he believes –as some wealthy people do—that he is above the law.

But how many wealthy people are arrogant enough to brag that they are so rich and famous that they can get away with groping women randomly? How many would say they could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and not lose a single vote? Of course, he was only joking. Has his refusal to reveal his tax returns while running for the Presidency been a joke as well? On whom?

Does the $25,000,000 Trump University settlement suggest Mitt Romney’s characterization of him may be on the mark?

After following him casually for over twenty years, one might have a difficult time taking him seriously. My son knows contractors he stiffed in Atlantic City in the 1990’s. He was for the Iraq War before he was against it. Obama pulled out of Iraq too soon. At the time, it was, “We should declare victory and leave”. George W. Bush was responsible for ISIS during the primaries. Obama and Clinton were responsible for ISIS during the campaign. Ted Cruz’s father was connected to the Kennedy assassination. Hillary is unfaithful to Bill, etc, etc, etc.

Guess what? We have to take him seriously now! I have very educated republican and democratic friends who voted for him. The top Senate republican on the Intelligence Committee, Richard Burr, said this week, “I have never said this publicly, but I voted for him”.

Each of us will judge for ourselves, but much of what I see him doing is about making himself short term political “hay” for which the entire country will eventually pay.

Foreign policy is an example. Giving right wing ideologue, Benjamin Netanyahu (whom Leah Rabin blamed for her husband’s 1995 assassination by Yigal Amir), encouragement to stonewall against what the King of Jordan said this week is the only answer to Middle East peace—a Palestinian State—may be as troublesome in the long term for Americans generally as Ronald Reagan’s “Strategic Partnership “ with Israel. Expanding Jewish settlements on the West Bank is to Hamas, Hezbollah, al Qaeda, the Islamic Brotherhood and ISIS types what aviation fuel would be to a brush fire.

Bans against immigration from predominantly Muslim nations until we can “figure out what the hell is going on” are an affront to the many millions of Muslims who have long seen the United States as an inspiration. Among other things, what it will succeed in doing is aid in extremist recruiting by helping radicalize naïve Muslim youth. But it sounds good in the present and is consistent with campaign rhetoric.

Then there is belaboring the notion that our allies aren’t paying their fair share. One has to wonder what someone as good with numbers as Mr. Trump would suggest are the values of allowing major U.S. weapons systems and military bases across the periphery of Russia. What are our air bases in Ramstein and Incirlik, and so many others, worth? What price might the nations allowing us to station Pershing II’s, our most modern fighter bombers, and air defense systems on their soil eventually pay? What political price have their leaders already paid for allowing them since the Cold War?

A long time ago, I did an NDEA Institute through the U. of R. My “research” involved determining and itemizing forward-based American military installations in Asia. At that time, we had 40,000 troops in South Korea and 115 military installations in Japan. How does one calculate their value? What might the eventual consequence of such facts be to the South Koreans and the Japanese? Who are we there to protect? How might a paranoid North Korean dictator react to them? Continually disparaging the contributions our allies make to their defense—and ours—might not sit well with populations that would necessarily be the first to go in the event of war. But putting America First seems long overdue.

Being “America First” sounds good to many of us. It plays well (remember how Romney described Mr. Trump?). The problem is that most of international politics is not as simple as the President would have us believe. Insulting allies, encouraging disrespect for Palestinians—and possibly even Kurds–and stereo- typing entire religions are a few of the things that will have consequences. Don’t think for a second that the Kremlin doesn’t love it.

But there are many more and they may be far more problematic. This is one history lesson we may not want to sleep through.

Sincerely yours,
Gary Kent
Albion, NY