Two years have passed
since Donald Trump took office as President of United States of America after
registering a surprise victory over Hillary Clinton, the highly fancied
candidate of Democratic Party. Trump was the archetypal outsider to US
politics; he was a billionaire businessman with interest in real estate who had
never held any political office in the past. He was better known to the public
as the host in a television reality show that he himself produced.
He led a colourful life,
courted controversy with glee and made headlines for his opinions and
statements, which were completely off the beaten track. Despite his position on
many topics being contrary to the stand of Republican Party, he won the
nomination by defeating 16 candidates in the primaries. Though he lagged behind
Hillary in the run up to the polls, a strong rally in the crucial states saw
him win the mandate in style to become the 45th Chief Executive of the most
powerful nation in the world.
Trump had come to power
promising a revamp of domestic and foreign policies hitherto followed by USA.
The hallmark of his outlook on various issues was ‘America first’, which
prompted observers to christen him as ‘Nationalist’, ‘Protectionist’, ‘Populist’,
etc. He was aggressive in his demand that immigration laws needed to be
tightened and enforced strictly to put an end to the issue of illegal
immigrants, particularly from Mexico, who he felt were stealing the jobs of
ordinary Americans. He blamed the big corporates for taking away jobs that
rightly belonged to the workers in USA, through outsourcing the process of
manufacturing to cheap sources of labour in China and other parts of the world.
Axe on alliances
He believed that the
post-World War II military alliances that USA had entered into were of little
benefit and caused a huge drain on the national exchequer. He was thoroughly
convinced about the impotence of the trade policy followed by Washington, which
he felt was responsible for the huge trade deficit faced by the US economy.
Trump’s opinions touched a chord with the ordinary white American voter, who
felt that the government was following policies which were focused more towards
meeting the aspirations of the immigrants and minorities, rather than the
Those who had hoped that
Trump would mellow down after taking over the responsibilities of office soon
realised that they were mistaken. Immediately after assuming office, he signed
a controversial proclamation banning admission into USA of refugees for 120
days and citizens from certain countries for 90 days. Though implementation of
this order was blocked by decisions given by various Federal Courts, Trump
finally won the protracted legal battle when Supreme Court upheld the travel
ban. He also announced a policy of zero tolerance towards illegal immigrants
which involved taking adults into custody for purpose of criminal prosecution
and separating children from their parents and keeping them in special
shelters. The universal unpopularity of these actions and their all-round
criticism, including from his own Republican Party, have not deterred Trump
from continuing with them.
Recall of treaties
The greatest impact of
Trump has been in the area of international relations. Trump had shown scant
regard for the agreements entered into by his predecessors by withdrawing USA
from three important ones and threatening to move out of many more. The most
important amongst the treaties that USA moved out after Trump became President
is the Paris accord on Climate change. This pact was approved after protracted
negotiations and signed by 195 countries promising to cut down greenhouse
emissions. Similarly, Trump withdrew USA from Trans Pacific Partnership
agreement, which effectively led to this pact becoming redundant. He also took USA out of the Joint
Comprehensive Plan of Action that had been signed by USA, Iran, five other
nations and European nations for limiting Iran's nuclear capabilities.
USA has been involving
actively in the affairs of the world since the 1940’s, besides performing the
role of policing the troubled spots in the globe after the end of World War
II. They had focused their energies on
combating regimes that they felt were inimical to their interests, for which
purpose they formed a series of military alliances with like-minded nations.
USA had also extended substantial financial aid and other benefits relating to
trade for members of these alliances. One example that readily comes to mind is
the support extended to Pakistan in terms of monetary aid and supply of
military hardware on account of being a member of alliances formed to fight
forces of Communism initially and Islamic fundamentalism subsequently.
Right from the beginning
of his Presidency, Trump had voiced his skepticism about the military alliances
which he felt brought on huge financial burden on USA without yielding any
benefit in return. He accused other members of these alliances of paying less than
what he felt was their fair share for maintenance of the alliance. Though
exchanges in this regard with other Heads of States, especially Angela Merkel
of Germany, created embarrassing situations. Trump refused to back off or
change the tone and tenor of his language.
Exit of officials
The past two years of the
Trump administration has seen the exit of several officials from the White
House as well as senior members of his Cabinet. Amongst the more prominent
persons who left the team during this period on account of differences with
Trump are Rex Tillerson, former head of Exxon Mobile who was brought in as
Secretary of State, Jeff Sessions who resigned as Attorney General and White
House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, besides many other close aides who worked
with him during the campaign for Presidency.
The tendency of the
President to send tweets on policy matters, which are often contradictory to
the stand taken by the concerned departments, has been a matter of concern for
the administration. An ongoing investigation by a Special Counsel who is
probing into the links between Russian government and Trump presidency campaign
is a constant source of worry for the President.
Fears to the fore
The working of Trump
administration has been the subject of much curiosity to the outer world. Bob
Woodward, the legendary journalist, who broke the Watergate scandal that led to
the resignation of President Richard Nixon, has penned a superb book titled Fear: Trump in the White House, wherein
he lays bare the style of functioning of the President. The revelations in this
book that the most powerful person in the world has a poor memory, short
attention span, hardly reads anything more than one page long and spends long
hours watching political discussions and debates on television, during which
time he indulges in his favourite pastime of sending tweets, would worry any
serious observer of international politics.
The book begins with a
prologue wherein White House staff barely manage to remove the official communication
addressed to President of South Korea that was placed on Trump’s desk, giving
notice for cancelling the US- Korea Free Trade Agreement, popularly known as
KORUS. Trump believed earnestly that
this pact was loaded heavily against USA and created a huge trade deficit,
besides resulting in posting large number of troops in South Korea to guarantee
the security of that nation against their aggressive neighbour in the north.
and Pentagon were of the opinion that KORUS had substantial security
implications for USA as the intelligence capabilities installed by USA in South
Korea provide the former with the ability to detect a missile launched from
North Korea within seven seconds off its take off. Since the missile would take
38 minutes to cover the distance from North Korea to USA, this early detection
would give US forces ample time to shoot it down before it reaches the
territory of USA. The book details various instances where Trump threatened to
cancel the pact but ultimately better sense appeared to have prevailed as USA
and South Korea renegotiated the pact and signed a fresh one with minimal
changes from the old in September 2018.
Management gurus wax
eloquent about the benefits that disruptive policies can bring to an organisation
by shaking it off the beaten path and aligning it to fresh objectives. Trump
presidency may succeed in finding out the answer to the question as to how much
disruption the institution of government can handle without collapse of the
system of governance.