Reflections on recent events, plus the occasional fact
free rant unfiltered by rational argument.
Well, we are still here. Nuclear war has not broken out. Not yet. On Saturday 30th April, Donald will hit 100 days as President of the Unites States of America. It's pretty much business as usual on most matters, although he’s flipped on some issues. China is not a manipulator of its currency despite the election rhetoric. Meanwhile, in a sudden switch, NATO is a great partner, whilst the influence of his right-wing compatriots appears to have receded.
The wall is still on the agenda, unlike health care reform. That one crashed, with Trump walking away from the car wreck blaming the Democrats. Given that they weren't driving nor passengers, apportioning blame to them is bizarre.
Most notable is that Trump has got China's attention over North Korea. President Xi has made several calls to Trump, which suggests he has them unsettled. His madman routine (copied from Nixon) was made believable by the attack on Syria. That episode also put to bed the suggestion he is Moscow's man. In one swift move, he re-positioned himself, asserted US military authority and put Putin on the back- foot. You can’t fault his timing, plus ability to exploit an opportunity.
Trump and President Xi of China have morphed into playing a ‘good cop, bad cop’ on KIM Jong-un. Trump is ratcheting up the rhetoric, making threatening moves, whilst throwing his weight around. Xi is the good cop, cautioning restraint but asking KIM to be reasonable. Whether this approach will work is anyone's guess.
Let us be honest, Obama fumbled the North Korean issue. Not Trump. He's charged in head-down. It's a high-risk strategy that could go wrong with terrible consequences. Yet, it’s already prompted China to take a more proactive stance. North Korea is getting the message. Coal exports to China are being curtailed. For now, the only ATMs in North Korea, operated by Chinese banks, are switched off. In that sense, Trump has achieved more in 100 days than Obama did in two terms.
In any accounting of the first 100 days, it is important to register the notable failures. There have been many. Trump's disastrous attempts to impose controls on migrants tops the list. Essentially an anti-Muslims move the Courts were never going to accept it. Further, the drafting of the executive order affirmed the view that Trump's team is inept. Following this, the ham-fisted execution with chaos at airports reinforced that view. Amateur night, clumsy with a dash of hubris, this deadly cocktail caught fire to singe Trump. He's now stepping away from the fire as lawsuits are pending.
As mentioned, Obamacare is still there. Nothing happening on that one. His cabinet remains unfilled. The much-trumpeted wall is nowhere to be seen. The likelihood of getting funding approval is extremely remote, never mind the Mexican's paying for it.
A stupid idea from the outset is now hanging like a millstone around Trump's neck. Even conservative Republicans from border states acknowledge the wall is a bad idea. It makes no economic sense, as a combination of a fence, increased patrols and effective intelligence is more cost effective. No doubt he’ll blame democrats for that too.
So where do we go from here? The good news … it is evident that Trump can change direction and is capable of compromise. That's encouraging given his failures, reversals plus the confusion in his team. It is also fair to say his National Security Council is now in safe hands. The same cannot be said for all his cabinet posts. Also, his buffoon Press Secretary, Sean Spicer, continues to flounder. The man has done more than Trump to reinvigorate satire. He’s God's gift to comedians.
Looking to the future, Trump will continue to stumble around. He will have a bash at certain issues, then abandon them when he fails to get traction. He's already finding out that the US needs friends to get things done. China is the best example. He will eventually need to make friends with Mexico, if he wants progress on NAFTA. Could he grow into the job? It’s possible.
An alternative future is a sullen Trump, isolated in the White House. At war with everyone, including the Republicans. Government at the highest level could slump into inertia. Trump sits in stasis except for the occasional lashing out through Twitter. Think Hitler in the bunker …final days.
And yet, this makes little difference. The consequence of no government leadership is something that should not cause too much concern. Nation states can function, sustain themselves, and even thrive without the strong hand of government. Bureaucracies have their own momentum. Things trundle along.
It has been an entertaining 100 days. And yet, the future is looking stranger. As I finish writing this piece, Trump is announcing he won't pull out of NAFTA. Another compromise, twist and pivot. No wonder his hair is all over the place.
Walter De Havilland was one of the last of the colonial coppers. He served 35 years in the Royal Hong Kong Police and Hong Kong Police Force. He's long retired.