The biggest casualty of Donald Trump’s many missteps will not be Donald Trump. As the national media hyperventilates about impeachment, obstruction of justice and an otherwise bungling White House, nothing stands to lose more than the chance for progress.
I believe it is unlikely that Trump or his colleagues will ultimately be found guilty of collusion with the Russians to affect the outcome of the presidential election. If that does happen, it will likely not touch the president. Yes, there is a lot of circumstantial evidence regarding his attempts to influence Comey regarding the investigation of Russia. But, again, obstruction of justice requires intent and that will be difficult to prove. It is odd, that President Trump seems so aggravated about the investigation on one hand, while constantly professing complete innocence, on the other. He is a man that does not take well to the scrutiny of American-style free press.
The bigger problem is that the more these issues stay front and center, the less Trump and the Republican Congress will be able to accomplish. Other than the appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, Trump does not have much to show for his fledgling presidency other than constant pandemonium. His immigration policy, whatever your viewpoint, has essentially been sidelined by the courts.
While the Republican led House finally forced through ‘repeal and replace’ legislation, it is in a form that is not passable in the U.S. Senate where the attempt to overhaul Obamacare will be even more complicated. Major announcements on infrastructure and tax reform have run into the un-neat legislative process and will slog along if they move through the process at all.
As of this writing, Trump is on the first leg of his first foreign trip to Saudi Arabia and Israel. His trip to Israel included a stop at the Western Wall where he left a note—the first ever such visit by a sitting U.S. President. The visit to Saudi Arabia seemed mostly about pageantry and conjured a difficult set of images for small “l” liberal Americans who still don’t much care for the country that produced the vast majority of the 9-11 attackers.
In addition, the Saudi’s record on human rights, women rights and religious freedom are obnoxious and backwards. Progress in Saudi Arabia has only to do with money, not much with people. Thus, one of the highlights of the Saudi stop was the fact that Melania Trump did not disembark Air Force One in a head scarf. Ironically, in Israel, where the opposite is true in terms of liberal values and human rights, the First Lady was relegated to the side of the Western Wall like all women who are not allowed to pray in the main center of this historic symbol.
Both stops, seemed to me, all about stagecraft and pageantry. It felt like a whole lot of groveling and very little substance. Trump did make a speech in Saudi Arabia that amounted to a complete reversal of his campaign rhetoric on Muslims and the Muslim world.
What does all this amount to? A lot of noise that makes for interesting news cycles but not much else. It seems we have a rudderless administration that is literally flying by the seat of its pants on a daily basis. Unless there is a major reversal of tone, strategy, messaging and progress, it is hard to see how this story doesn’t end with the loss of the Republican majority in Congress. In turn, that will end any meaningful chances for tax, regulatory, infrastructure and healthcare reform. On foreign policy, the words are not matching the actions.
In less than a year, midterm elections will be in full swing. If some things don’t get done in the interim, they likely won’t get done at all. Then what? The guy who was elected to make America first again will be presiding over more stalemate, more inaction and more government gridlock.