The Trump Train Enters Rocky Terrain

The Trump Train charged out of the station in January with vigor and determination — and for about three weeks, it was barreling down the tracks at an impressive pace. Between a flurry of executive orders and a Supreme Court nomination applauded by all factions of the Republican Party, Trump delighted both his supporters and those who had been very skeptical of him during the campaign.

And then the train began to slow down.

The first victory Trump’s opponents scored was halting his temporary travel ban. It was a setback in terms of implementing his agenda but, politically speaking, Trump came out in a very strong position. He delivered on his promise to halt immigration from countries that are havens for Islamists, his opponents were shown to put the interests of foreign nationals above the security concerns of Americans, and if — God forbid — another terrorist attack were to take place, Trump could credibly claim that he tried to protect Americans but the Democrats and their simpatico judges stopped him.

Things began to unravel at a faster pace when General Michael Flynn was fired for an infraction that could have been satisfactorily handled with a public apology. There is no question that Flynn, whether intentionally or unintentionally, put the Vice President in a very embarrassing situation. It is also understandable that the president wants people around him that he fully trusts. Perhaps there is more to this story — but sometimes the cure is worse than the disease. After Trump’s stunning victory in November, his opponents were in shock and disarray. By being able to get a coveted scalp so early in the administration, it rallied and emboldened them, and they have been on the attack ever since. The better course would have been to let the storm blow over and, after putting a few points on the board, let Flynn go at a later date.

Speaking of putting points on the board, repealing Obamacare should have been an easy victory for the Trump administration. All Trump had to do is ask the Republican Congress to put on his desk the repeal bill that Obama vetoed last year. Instead, the president chose to back an unrealistic three-stage approach predicated on the Democrats suddenly embracing a free market in healthcare in the final stage — an approach that managed to draw opposition from every faction of the Republican Party. A seemingly easy victory turned into a debacle. Not only did the administration’s first major legislative effort end in embarrassing failure, but Trump compounded the damage by attacking the Freedom Caucus, leaving many of his supporters wondering why Mr. Outsider was suddenly acting like the GOP establishment’s pitbull.

Despite promising to move on to tax reform, Trump decided that being leader of the world is easier than trying to get anything through Congress. In 2013, when Obama was contemplating whether to enforce the red line he drew in Syria, private citizen Trump issued a blizzard of tweets urging him to stay out of the Syrian civil war because America had nothing to gain from getting involved in another war in the Middle East. As a candidate, Trump railed against the interventionist foreign policy of his Republican opponents and Hillary Clinton, called NATO obsolete, and declared that he was running to be president of the United States and not the world. Apparently, candidate Trump did not to take into account that images of children dying a horrific death might surface at some point of during his presidency. Within a couple of days of the chemical attack in Syria, Trump reversed his non-interventionist position and launched 59 Tomahawk missiles into Syria to send a clear message that America will not stand by as innocent babies are killed with chemical weapons. He didn’t even wait for a full investigation – apparently because he is “bold and decisive,” unlike his predecessor. Once again, his supporters were left to wonder what happened to Campaign Trump.

With each passing hour, Trump’s foreign policy more and more resembles that of a traditional Republican president. NATO has gone from being obsolete to worthy of being expanded. Russia is once again the top geopolitical opponent, while China preserves her special treatment despite its human rights record.  During a press conference with NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg, Trump mentioned terrorism — but never Radical Islam. Looking at the trend line, it won’t be much longer before Trump declares that Islam is the religion of peace.  Strap yourselves in, Trump supporters, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.