Scorecard: Policy Reversals, Puzzlers, Polls

 

Policy Reversals Abroad:  China:  Donald Trump held his unprecedented telephone call with the president of Taiwan in early November, followed by his assertion that the United States might not continue to abide by the “One China” policy, in place for decades.  President XI has not spoken to Trump since November 14, after the election.   During his confirmation hearing, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson pledged in writing that he would uphold the “On China” policy.  He also rejected the idea that Taiwan should be considered a bargaining chip on trade and other issues with China.  However, Trump spoke on Fox News in December, saying, “We’re being hurt very badly by China with devaluation; with taxing us heavily at the borders when we don’t tax them; with building a massive fortress in the middle of the  South China Seas;  and with not helping us at all with  North Korea.”

Reversal: The White House announced in early February that President Trump had sent President Xi a letter wishing him a happy New Year.   He wished “the Chinese people a happy Lantern Festival and prosperous Year of The Rooster.”  The letter also said,  “he looks forward to working with President Xi to develop a constructive relationship that benefits both the United States and China.”  The next day, Secretary Tillerson was at the White House to discuss whether Trump should publically reaffirm his commitment to One China to break the ice and encourage phone calls between the two leaders.   Administration officials were very aware that status-conscious Chinese would be watching the visit of Japanese Prime Minister Abe to Mar-a-Lago, traveling with Trump on Air Force One for three days of dinners and golf.

Iran.  Israel. Russia.  During the campaign, Trump had declared he would cancel The Iran Nuclear Deal which Secretaries Clinton and Kerry had accomplished with five other major nations to completely stop Iran from building their nuclear arsenal.  Trump also strongly supported Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s policy of building new Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.  He praised Russian President Putin many times as a “great popular leader” and expressed skepticism of NATO. He ignored Russia taking over Crimea and pushing into East Ukraine.  All of these positions were the direct opposite of Barack Obama’s foreign policy positions, developed carefully during his eight years in office, and those Secretary Clinton had worked on and supported during her campaign.

Reversals:  Israel.  In the first days of February, the White House issued an unexpected statement appealing to the Israeli government not to expand settlements in the West Bank or East Jerusalem.  Sean Spicer, Press Secretary explained, “While we don’t believe the existence of settlements is an impediment to peace, the construction of new settlements or the expansion of existing settlements beyond their current borders, may not be helpful in achieving that goal.” The White House noted that the president “has not taken an official position on settlements.” It did say the he would discuss the issue when they met on February 15 in Washington.  Trump had met with the King of Jordan some days earlier at the National Prayer Breakfast.  Jordan, with a large Palestinian population has been adamantly opposed to the settlements.

IRAN. The new White House has given no sign of reversing the Iran Nuclear Deal.  After Iran launched a ballistic missile, Trump seemed eager to challenge any Iranian expansion into Iraq or Yemen.   He posted an early morning tweet: “Iran has been formally PUT ON NOTICE for firing a ballistic missile.” Later, he added, “Should have been thankful for the terrible deal the U.S. made with them.” Michael Flynn, the National Security Adviser, had sent the warning that Iran was “on notice” for the missile test and arming Houthi rebels in Yemen.  The administration is preparing a set of economic sanctions, while an adviser to Iran’s supreme leader replied, “This is not the first time that an inexperienced person has threatened Iran. The American government will learn that threatening Iran is useless.”

Russia.  At the United Nations, a surprising statement came from the U.S. Ambassador, Nikki Haley. She declared that the United States would not lift sanctions against Russia until it stopped destabilizing Ukraine and pulled out of Crimea.  It was clear that she had the support of the president and Secretary of State on her strong policy statement. In her first remarks at an open session of the Security Council, she said, “We do want to better our relations with Russia. However, the dire situation in eastern Ukraine is one that demands clear condemnation of Russia’s intentions.”  Many observers said Haley sounded exactly like her predecessor, Samantha Power.

Additional Policy Reversals:

 Visa Ban amended to allow Iraqi interpreters and their families to enter the United States. Thousands of interpreters rode with American forces on combat missions.  For years, they and their families have been seen as traitors and lived in danger in Iraq.  Soldiers who served there have tried to help them obtain visas without success. The change was recommended by the Pentagon, effective immediately.

Reopening overseas “black site” prisons.  The C.I.A. once tortured prisoners during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars in distant secret prisons overseas.  A draft of an executive order leaked on January 25 and brought bi-partisan attacks in Congress.  Both defense secretary James Mattis and C.I.A. director Mike Pompeo had no prior knowledge of the order.  The order was pulled and a second order written referring to Guantanamo Bay prison that Obama had tried to close. At a press conference, Trump said that he supported water boarding and thought torture worked, but Mr. Mattis, who opposes torture “will override because I’m giving him that power.”

Rollback of L.G.B.T. Protections.  In early February, a proposed executive order that would have killed Obama’s orders protecting Gay Rights was circulated in White House circles.  Ivanka Trump, her husband, Jared Kushner and Gary Cohn, the chairman of the president’s Economic Council joined to express their strong opposition to Trump’s chief advisers.  They then went directly to the president, who had said at rallies that he was “against discrimination.”  Within days, the White House issued a statement that Mr. Trump “is determined to protect the rights of all Americans , including the  L.G.B.T.Q. community. The president continues to be respectful and supportive of L.G.B.T.Q. rights , just as he was throughout the election.”

Puzzlers:

Holocaust Remembrance Day. January 27, 2017.  There was a Proclamation by the President on International Holocaust Remembrance Day.  “ It is with a heavy heart and somber mind that we remember the victims, survivors and heroes of the Holocaust. It is impossible to fully fathom the depravity and horror inflicted on innocent people by Nazi terror.”  Two similar paragraphs followed.

What was omitted was who most of the victims were!  There was no mention that six million Jewish men, women and children were singled out in Hitler’s “Final Solution” because of their religion. They were transported across Europe in death trains to concentration camps where they were murdered.

One wonders who could have written that statement without naming the  millions of people as Jews.  Could it have been Stephen Bannon, the champion of white male Europeans?  Was it deliberate to obscure the truth? Or was it a form of indifference that minimized the identity of six million human beings?

Black History Month. Frederick Douglass.  A second puzzle occurred when President Trump spoke on February 1, 2017 about the importance of honoring black Americans and their contributions to the nation.  At a “listening session”  in the White House,  he made a puzzling statement:  “I am very proud now that we have a museum on the National Mall where people can learn about Reverend King, so many other things. Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job, that is being recognized more and more, I notice.”

When Sean Spicer was asked at the press briefing later what Trump meant, he said, “ I think he wants to highlight the contributions that he has made.  And I think that through a lot of the actions and statements he’s going to make, I think the contributions of Frederick Douglass will become more and more.”

Is it possible that Donald Trump and Sean Spicer think that Frederick Douglass is alive at this time?  Are they both unaware that Frederick Douglass is a towering figure in American History.  Douglass who was born into slavery, escaped to the North and became a renowned thinker, writer , orator, newspaper publisher of “The North Star” and  social activist. He supported Women’s Suffrage from the early l837 Seneca Falls Conference. He was initially a severe critic of President Abraham Lincoln, although they later became friends.  Frederick Douglass died in 1895.  His famous “Autobiography” would make valuable reading for Donald Trump and Sean Spicer.

Polls.  Public Policy Polls (PPP) are one of the most respected of all polling systems. The  latest from February 10, 2017 reflect the enormous impact that Donald Trump has had on the American people since his inauguration as president on January 20, just three weeks ago. People are watching, listening and  protesting actions of his administration in the streets every weekend.   Here are some of the important numbers: Impeachment: 46% support this action, up from 35% two weeks ago. Clinton voters are 83% to 6%. Muslim Ban. 65 % are opposed to the ban while 22% support.  Safety. 66% believe America is a safe country while 23% consider it unsafe. Judiciary fight.  54% of Americans trust judges more to make the right decisions for the United states; 38% trust Trump more.  25%  think Trump should be able to overturn decisions by Judges that he disagrees with; 64% do not think he should be able to do this.  Transparency concerns. 62% favor Trump fully divesting himself from his business intersests ; 27 %  say he doesn’t have to do that.  Tax returns. 58 % want him to release his tax returns. 32% say he doesn’t have to do that. Trump Choice of  cabinet picks.  49 % hold negative opinion of Education Secretary DeVos, approved for first time in history by V.P. Pence breaking 50/50 tie in the Senate when two Republicans joined all Democrats.

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… Joyce S. Anderson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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