It is hard to find comparison’s in American history for the first 147-days of the Trump Presidency. It is, however, decidedly Wilsonian. Woodrow Wilson, the former Princeton University President and great internationalist, you ask? No – George Wilson, the grumpy neighbor from Dennis the Menace.
Trump’s signature policies to date have largely been knee-jerk, poorly thought out responses that have the depth of (if not their genesis from) a talk show sound-byte or bumper sticker.
For example, Trump campaigned on a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States” and, once elected hastily implemented a travel ban that had not been fully vetted. Eventually, the administration nomenclature morphed into the plan being a “vetting system,” until Trump went Wilsonian.
Similarly, candidate Trump lashed out at North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) as the ““single worst trade deal” ever approved by the United States, falsely claiming that it led to “terrible losses” of manufacturing jobs. He also rejected the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) claiming it benefited China, when in reality it sought to strengthen the U.S.’ trade position in Asia and isolate China.
President Trump immediately withdrew from the TPP (thereby creating an opportunity for China) and declared that we need to renegotiate NAFTA which ignores the fact that President Obama had done just that as part of the TPP.
Again on withdrawal from the Paris Accords. Trump wanted to lash out against the voluntary standard set by the treaty to give red meat to his base, but the reality is that there was no need to do so now because he cannot withdraw from the treaty until 2020. Trump did it nonetheless, incurring the wrath of the global community and further undermining our global standing.
Now today, President Trump is throwing another bone to his right-wing talk show base by partially reinstating restrictions on travel to Cuba. While proclaiming a desire to limit the regime’s profiting from U.S. travel, the reality is that it will badly hurt the fledgling Cuban private sector and force travel to be conducted through tour operators which are required to have government guides and use state-owned tour buses.
This is another hasty announcement by the President since they will not go into effect until Treasury promulgates regulations on this which is not likely to be anytime soon.
Anger is a bad adviser the proverbs tell us, but that is precisely what is driving policy in the White House. That President Trump is so much more like the comic book Wilson than the scholarly President tells you everything you need to know about the first six months of the worst Presidency in American history.