The things the President has done during the first week of his Administration are mainstream Conservative or largely symbolic and so do not yet set forth changes of policy that are as radical as the Trump posturing would have the citizenry believe, though it is also the case that really bad things may well arrive in our future, and so justify Liberal forebodings. Trump is, for the moment, instituting the policies he campaigned on, which is something for which new incumbents of the Presidency usually receive compliments because they have remained true to their promises, but Trump’s campaign issues were largely jokes, not of serious moment, and so it is largely of no consequence that he is carrying them out.
This is nowhere more clear than in his starting his Border Wall right off the bat, which is to say, without waiting for Mexican funding, expecting to get reimbursed by fees and taxes that will later be extracted from Mexico and so less onerous for Mexico than an outright charge, as if that had ever been in the cards. The Wall was simply a campaign slogan that was a joke to anyone not a Trump supporter because it was offered as a solution to a problem that didn’t exist. There are more people leaving the United States for Mexico than coming in from it illegally. So Trump may get some pleasure from fighting with the Mexican President who cancelled his visit here after Trump’s announcement, but this has little to do with changing lives. Even Trump’s announcement that he is going to deport criminal illegal aliens has less to it than meets the eye. As Mayor De Blasio pointed out, New York City is not against deporting felons but draws the line at deporting traffic offenders or people caught with small amounts of marijuana, and will challenge whether Trump has the authority to prohibit federal funds to sanctuary cities other than those funds supplied by the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security-- which go to, among other things, protecting Trump Tower. So Trump talks tough, but it may mean very little. On the other hand, Trump’s proposal for a large scale import tax on Mexican goods can have serious economic consequences but it is to be remembered that starting a trade war with China and other trading partners so as to deal with outstanding grievances was something that Trump also campaigned on. It may be the key thing that drives the nation into a recession, but those who voted for him cannot claim they were not forewarned.
Trump is also this week prohibiting through executive order aid to overseas agencies that provide abortion information. The devil here is in the details. Will this mean much more than what it meant when previous Republican Presidents also put in place what are called the Mexico City standards. Nor will I make much, as of yet, which is until the details come in, of his nixing the Trans Pacific Partnership or reviving two pipelines. Hillary was for the TPP before she was against it and, if I remember correctly, the same is true of her views on pipelines from Canada, which she moved ahead when she was Secretary of State but turned against when she became a candidate, thereby demonstrating a lack of concern about the substance of the issues. They weren’t important enough to run on, one way or another, and so I will declare they are not now worth getting all excited about.
Trump spends his time dealing with nonsense. He says he thinks torture works, though it is difficult to locate the sources he claims for this information, but he also says he will defer to his Defense Secretary and CIA Director on this issue, which means that there will be no change in policy on torture because those two people are against it. He pursues his interest in voter fraud, looking under the bed for a scandal about actual voting behavior, one that he will not be able to document even if he can show that voting rolls do contain the names of dead people. And so it goes on, the real dangers to the Republic being just how right wing are the Congressional Republicans and the Cabinet Secretaries now in power who, as I have suggested in an earlier blog post, are likely to make this a “normal” Presidency in that they will pursue the usual Conservative agenda of more tax cuts for the rich, more cuts in benefits for the poor, and a less belligerent foreign policy than occurred under the last Bush, a policy that was indeed far out of the mainstream in that it turned lies operational. That would be a high standard of malfeasance for Trump to match, but he and his people might try to go there, especially if the Ultra-Conservatives in his Cabinet, like Price and Mulvaney, along with Pence, take over the reins and do away with the safety net by gutting transfer programs and rights for women, as is their wont. That might be the second week, but it wasn’t the first, and we shall see how what may be a Conservative but not Ultra-Conservative Congress deals with that when the time comes.