Liddick: Trump’s foreign policy successes go unsung (column)
July 30, 2018
It was a pretty good week to be Donald Trump. On Wednesday, EU President Jean Claude Junker cried "uncle," saying in a joint press conference that he had come to the US to "make a deal" and he had done so, putting the US and the EU on a road to eliminate tariffs entirely on industrial goods. He also committed the EU to buying more US agricultural products and to diversify its sources of energy to include more liquified natural gas from the US.
"Thank you, Donald."
That was his line, not mine. It should have been echoed by the US media and political classes, because Trump has done what the smart economic wizards, from Paul Krugman to Phil Levy, said was wrong-headed and impossible: bring the EU to the table to seriously negotiate a trade regime with reciprocity, thus more favorable to the US. Look for Canada to seek a trade chat next. After them, others. This president has told the world that the US is tired of being disadvantaged in trade agreements, so the old days of rolling over because we're so rich and undeserving and stupid are over. It appears the realization is dawning in the wisest of our trading partners that this president is fundamentally different from his immediate predecessors: he will do what he says.
Then there was the news from North Korea: disassembly of a rocket test facility and return of the remains of 52 US soldiers missing since the Korean armistice. Again, what most knowledgeable people said was impossible. Yet note that both these were accomplished without dropping pallets of cash from an airplane in the middle of the night, somewhere away from prying eyes and without offering concessions. They happened because the leader of the hermit kingdom, who bears more than a passing resemblance to a Lucky Cat figurine, has decided with the Europeans that Donald Trump is a man to be taken seriously
How can they take seriously a man who tweets like that? I can only suggest that if European leaders, successful politicians in a part of the world where relations among difference groups of people has been a blood sport for millennia, see steel in their American counterpart, perhaps we Americans should take a closer look. Both they and mister Kim seem to notice something we're not.
Xi Jinping, Vladimir Putin and Paul Ryan appear to share similar misconceptions, perhaps spawned by the constant refrain in US media that the president is a blithering psychopath who puts the world at risk while brushing his teeth in the morning. The former two might be forgiven since they are working at considerable distance, though coverage in The New York Times and CNN might lead one to think that President Putin knows more about US politics than they do. Misapprehension might lead either man to do something foolish, calculating that the president is either too beset or incompetent to respond. Neither will enjoy the response and the step after that will be perilous for us all.
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Speaker Ryan has less excuse and a higher probability of precipitating a crisis. He is currently flirting with shutting down the government in October, less than a month before the 2018 Congressional election, by refusing to force his colleagues to pull a real budget together. Instead, he seeks to fund the government through continuing resolutions and omnibus spending bills, which only exacerbate the deficit because they increase spending on everything rather than hashing out ugly — and potentially politically damaging — questions about what is prioritized. If, as British politician Nigel Lawson said, "To govern is to choose," this approach indicates an unwillingness to govern. Ryan's a lame duck, so that might be understandable, but there's a problem with his lackadaisical, coasting approach.
Apparently most DC-dwellers have forgotten that, after he was prevailed upon to sign the last "omnibus" bill last March, President Trump said "I will never sign another bill like this again," a statement both clear and categorical. Ryan and his ilk in Congress believe they can disregard his statement as irrelevant or untrue. He might want to check with EU President Junker about what happens when Trump is serious. Like President for Life Xi and Vlad the Terrible, he may be in for an ugly surprise; one that will have repercussions for us all.
It will remind us all why it's good that Trump is president: he understands that "to govern is to choose," and he's not afraid to do so.
Morgan Liddick writes a weekly column for the Summit Daily News. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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