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The Trump Administration: It’s as Bad as it Looks

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It will take about six minutes to watch Colin Kahl, former Deputy Assistant to the President and National Security Advisor to the Vice President, explain why:

  • Sean Spicer lied in his attempt to shift culpability onto the Obama Administration for the US raid in Yemen that killed an American serviceman and multiple civilians, as well as destroyed an MV-22 Osprey; and
  • The conditions under which Trump authorized that raid—a dinner conversation with his son-in-law, the Defense Secretary, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and a few others—was, shall we say, unusual for a major escalation in American military operations.

Those six minutes are worth your while. Having a President who is temperamentally, intellectually, and otherwise completely unqualified for his position entails real costs. Those costs are only magnified when his core advisors are total amateurs mainly interested in power, profit, or pushing extreme ideological agendas.

So far, everything this administration touches turns into a disaster of epic proportions. Its half-baked, selective “Muslim Ban” fails on its own terms—it has no relationship to the goal of reducing the risk of terrorist violence from people entering the country. Independent of that mismatch, the overwhelming scholarly evidence suggests that Trump’s approach to violent jihadism will make us less safe—including by undermining counter-terrorism cooperation with key partners.

Moreover, so little thought was placed into implementing this rushed, crayon-scrawled order that the Pentagon has had to scramble to continue to train Iraqi pilots. The examples of barely controlled chaos are simply too long to chronicle here, but all of this came to a depressing punchline yesterday when the former Norwegian Prime Minister—traveling on a Diplomatic Passport—found himself detained for an hour because of his past travel to Iran.

To make matters worse, in slow-walking compliance with judicial injunctions, the administration appears to be laying solid grounds for future impeachment. It’s also starting to channel Andrew Jackson much faster than I expected.

Moreover, Trump is shredding American leadership and prestige.

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Trump’s petulance and narcissism—along with his lack of intellectual and physical stamina—have created completely unnecessary diplomatic kerfuffles. Such unforced errors are par for the course in new administrations. Skilled officials can easily repair them. But, at some point, Trump is going to get the United States into trouble.

The second thing to note is that the import of the call isn’t just limited to Australia. Generally, presidents follow through on promises made by their predecessors. Without this principle, countries have no way of knowing whether they can make durable bargains with the United States.

Trump is blithely calling this into question. Even if he ends up following through on his end of the bargain, publicly questioning it undermines other countries’ faith in the deals they made with past administrations. Countries that thought they could depend on the United States on issues ranging from security to trade might start thinking about the need to look to other partners — like, say, China.

The Trump Administration is running out of time to get its act together, bring in some professionals, and right its own ship.  Trump and his family remains a walking conflict-of-interest nightmare. It’s taken him two weeks to build up a record that a GOP congress would happily impeach a Democratic President for. Given all this, we’re staring down an abyss of damage to American institutions and international order that will be very difficult to recover from.

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