New world tweeting
Donald Trump ran a campaign focused on America. The weeks since he won the election have been all about how he will change American foreign policy.
Trump's campaign of harsh protectionism and a domestic focus with little interest in foreign affairs has given way to a tweeter-in-chief who can't stop talking about the United States' relationship with the world. The day after Trump added an anti-Chinese professor to his administration, the president-elect signaled that he will increase America's nuclear arsenal and maintain a policy of vetoing all United Nations Security Council resolutions critical of Israel — something the Obama administration was waffling on. Reports also surfaced that Trump is considering a 10% tax on goods imported into the U.S. that could roil trade relations with the world.
These are significant shifts in how the White House views the world. For years, the U.S. has led international efforts to cut back on the development of nuclear weapons. Barack Obama and George W. Bush looked for ways to broker peace between the Israelis and Palestinians — something Trump, given his pick for ambassador to the Jewish state, seems unlikely to do. And presidential administrations of both parties have pushed free trade for decades.
Impacts of these policy shifts on the lives of Americans are difficult to predict. For example, it has been decades since the U.S. was actively aiming to increase its nuclear weapons stock. (Note that Trump's call to "strengthen and expand" America's nuclear weapons came after Russian President Vladimir Putin's similar statement about his country.) But we do know that since Trump's election, his diplomatic overtures and foreign policy statements have consistently attracted the most attention. On Friday, Putin said Trump's comment was "nothing new" — suggesting the Russian president wants to normalize a push for increased nuclear weaponry. (Mic) While Congress, especially Democrats, may delay or kill major parts of Trump's agenda, foreign policy is one of the few areas where the president can act largely unilaterally.
Further, the consequences of rhetoric in the U.S. and globally are different. When Trump, as president, makes a comment he does not follow through on, the consequences reverberate through politics and the media before whimpering out. A statement about nuclear weapons, even if empty, can send world leaders scrambling to respond to the president-elect — potentially doubling down on nuclear development.
Trump's Thursday moves guarantee a devout following of his Twitter account for the next four years. But more importantly, this forebodes major shifts in how the leader of the free world views his friends and allies — and how to respond to both.
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Conflict of hypocrisy
Trump also took to Twitter this morning to push back against more conflicts of interest — this time involving his family. Trump's son Eric announced in an email yesterday that he'd be suspending charitable activities because of possible conflicts with his father's presidency, and Trump was not pleased.
"My wonderful son, Eric, will no longer be allowed to raise money for children with cancer," Trump wrote in a pair of tweets, "because of a possible conflict of interest with my presidency. Isn't this a ridiculous shame? He loves these kids, has raised millions of dollars for them, and now must stop. Wrong answer!"
But Trump's objections miss a couple points. Eric Trump was accused of doing the same things his father falsely accused Hillary Clinton of doing — namely, using her charity as a front for paid access to power. (Mic) And is it just us, or is this seeming denial that anything should be done about conflicts of interest a bad sign for Trump's willingness to do anything about his own conflicts — something he had promised to explain but kicked down the road?
More evidence Trump will be a game-changer
Trump has already nominated a spate of potential cabinet members with ideological opposition to the departments they will lead. The president-elect has also released a video announcing what he will change on day one, including a renewed focus on slashing government regulations. But a new report shows Trump's team is extremely eager to gather the right information necessary to quickly roll back change wrought by Obama.
A Washington Post story found Trump transition officials seeking information from the State department about all "gender-related staffing, programming and funding." The Post wrote this request set "off alarm bells among those who fear [Trump] is going to purge programs that promote women's equality along with the people who work on them." This came a week after Trump's team distanced itself from an effort to seek information about staffers at the Department of Energy who worked on climate change research.
Together, these moves show Trump and his team are eager to move quickly. Contrary to early transition coverage that portrayed a fledgling administration in disarray, Trump's team seems bent on gathering unusual and personally specific data to move the government in a new direction on Jan. 20. A key question: How will that direction affect civil servants who did jobs under Obama that Trump disagrees with?
News and insight you cannot miss:
— Will "drain the swamp" be Trump's first broken promise? That's the Politico headline to a story that makes the case Trump has failed to keep his word by appointing an extremely wealthy and politically connected cabinet. (Politico)
— The contenders for chair of the Democratic National Committee share a common theme in their campaigns to run the party: Quietly arguing that Obama was part of the reason Democrats have been so decimated. (Wall Street Journal)
— Another notable Trump tweet: The president-elect pitted two major aerospace companies against each other on Thursday, saying on Twitter that he has asked Boeing to propose an alternative fighter jet to the one being created by Lockheed Martin. The tweet is the latest example of Trump using his vast public platform to pressure a federal government contractor, a highly uncommon move for a top American politician. (New York Times)
— In an attempt to preempt the president-elect, Obama will dismantle a program instituted by the Bush administration that tracks Muslim and Arab immigrants to the U.S. The program was suspended in 2011. But before Trump takes office, the government will scrap it entirely — making it more difficult for Trump to institute his so-called "Muslim registry." (Mic)
— Many supporters of federal funding for Planned Parenthood voted for Trump, showing social issues played less of a role in 2016 for many voters. (Slate)
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