Event ReportsPublished on Feb 22, 2018
Despite Trump, bureaucracy ensures US continuity

The US President, Mr Donald Trump, may look wobbly but he sticks with his own strategy, said Dr Sridhar Krishnaswami, a former US-UN correspondent of The Hindu, while initiating an interaction on “One Year of Trump Presidency” at the Chennai Chapter of Observer Research Foundation on 20 January 2018.

He reasoned that the Trump’s policies -- domestic politics as well as his foreign policy positions -- were aimed at a second term.

President Trump who has been perceived as the most volatile and unpredictable leader of our times is ‘structured and conventional’ in his own way, Dr. Krishnaswami, now Dean, Department of Journalism and Mass Communications, S R M University, said.

The mainstream American media became obsessed with him, rather against him, that the average American voter became sympathetic to him, akin to the ‘Stockholm Syndrome’, handing him down electoral victory. Not going by his word alone but judging by his actions, President Trump has not deviated from the script of his 2016 election manifesto. And has done it in a way what he had said in the way he will be doing, he pointed out.

Higher pay for soldiers

Dr Krishnaswami said that President Trump is strong in his case on illegal migration into the US. Though he has never admitted that the US cannot do without most of the 13 million migrants, he may have actually done better for Indian IT sector migrants by insisting that American employers paid them the standard minimum annual pay of $ 90,000 per year as against the earlier $ 60,000.

However, the speaker pointed out that in declaring that he would build a border wall with Mexico to stop illegal migration, and also make Mexico pay for it, too, President Trump was over-extending his argument.  If he were to be serious about the wall, then he would still have to depend only on the American tax-payer’s money, for which he would have to go to Congress, where his administration has only a razor-thin support in the Senate. The roaring tax he introduced in the name of border-tax may indirectly bring the money from Mexico through trade, but that is another matter altogether.

The Trump administration has improved the US economy and military-spending, the latter in terms of soldiers’ salaries, and also reduced unemployment.  Though much of the current betterment in the US economy owed to the initiatives of his predecessor, Democratic President Barack Obama, President Trump is now there to claim credit.  Going beyond all this, President Trump’s personal habit of being an early-raiser has its own advantage for him in that his twitter comments and responses are already there when most of America and the western hemisphere would have woken up.

Dazzling diplomacy

Touching upon President Trump’s foreign policy, Dr Krishnaswami pointed out that despite changing thrust from time to time, the permanent bureaucracy has held it steady on major issues, and has ensured continuity. Despite world leaders calling him aggressive, offensive and abrupt, President Trump has dealt the same with long-term allies of the US as with adversaries. His ‘hot punch’ talk on North Korea may look like an opening for a nuclear war but China will not let it happen, because North Korea acts as a buffer for China, according to Dr Sridhar.

Likewise, President Trump's national security strategy is very dynamic and changeable, the speaker said. The cancellation of Iran nuclear deal, the declaration of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, may have consequences. His stance and vocabulary puts American diplomats in a hostile position and avoidable dilemma, he added.

Trump again!?

Dr Krishnaswami said that President Trump’s second year in office will see more of the same as in the first year, with no major or material change.  Considering the Senate elections in November this year, he will continue to lay greater stress on domestic issue, as foreign policy issues do not matter in most American elections other than the presidential polls.

On other hand, impeachment of President Trump is a theoretical possibility on the ‘Russia scam’, but a lot depends on the proceedings by and before special counsel Muller, who however can be sacked by the President, if it came to that – not that the incumbent would attempt any such thing as rashly as is being seen to be.  Even if the special counsel found the President guilty, the impeachment proceedings are long, and Americans, especially Senators and House members would be careful not to hurt public mood and sentiments, the speaker added.

This report is prepared  by S Sivanesan, Associate, Observer Research Foundation, Chennai

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