5 Recommendations for President Trump
Harsh Tiwari, Fiscal Policy Contributor
This last few weeks were not very good for President Trump. Trumpcare has been the biggest blow to Trump’s Presidency yet. It has shown that Trump is not the brazen God Emperor who can get things done. It has illustrated bad politics and exposed deep divisions within the Republican party. On Twitter, President Trump encouraged his followers to watch Judge Jeanine’s show, where she went on an extended tirade calling for Speaker Paul Ryan to step down due to the failure of the AHCA. Paul Ryan countered by telling CBS News that Trump was "apologetic" about the tweet and did not know Pirro was going to attack the speaker.”
Clearly, Paul Ryan and Trump do not see eye to eye and the sentiments that promote such division indicate that this shall be the biggest restraint to this presidency. Ryan and many others in the Republican party are not Trumpeteers and disagree greatly with Trump on many of his other policies. Rep.(R-KY) Hal Rodgers speaking to The Washington Post on the budget said: “While we have a responsibility to reduce our federal deficit, I am disappointed that many of the reductions and eliminations proposed in the president’s skinny budget are draconian, careless and counterproductive.”
These disagreements are not based on specific matters but on ideological differences. Trump wishes to spend on infrastructure with cuts in other areas, Republicans want a budget that reduces deficit but has a more balanced approach with lesser infrastructure spending. It seems that if Trump does not learn from this defeat and seek to find ideological middle ground with Congress then many of his proposals shall face blockades. In short, Trump needs to build a working relationship with Congress. Here are five recommendations on how that can be accomplished.
1. Concessions in Key Areas. The fate of Trumpcare shows that Congress, as of now, is in a mood to protest against Trump. It is obvious why Democrats wish to do so and testimony to that is the delay in Judge Gorsuch’s nomination. However, with Republicans, as I have explained, the reasons are complex. Trump and the Republicans on Capitol Hill are very ideologically disparate and sometimes are just plain enemies (read-McCain). The Republicans on Capitol Hill are either conservative or centre-right. Their plans do not extend to building walls, cutting expenditure across the board or banning persons from certain nations. They are more pragmatic and faced with an assertive President they wish to assert their own authority. Trump needs to concede to them on many key areas to ensure that his proposals see the light of day. For instance, the cuts to the State department and the unreasonable increase in defence spending are areas where Trump can and should concede. Republican conservative thought which is based on the ideas of America being the leader in world politics and the harbinger of international security is fundamentally at odds with Trump’s idea of an extremely strong but reticent America. Even Sen. Graham(who advocates for a strong American military) states when speaking to the Business Insider that “these increases in defense come at the expense of national security and soft power.” Whatever be the merits of Trump’s massive increase in military spending,( there are not many), if Trump tries to force the GOP to abandon their traditional lines and support such a radical measure, he shall see many of his major fiscal plains fail dismally in Congress.
2. Formulate better policy, involve Congress. The merits of Trumpcare were seriously questionable. It would have increased premiums, negatively affected the elderly whilst depriving many people of affordable health care. Its implementation would have been a blow to not just Trump’s reputation but also his grand assurances to deliver excellent policies for the American people. It would have meant that the blame for all of the ill-effects of Trumpcare, which far outweigh the positives, would have fallen on Trump. Given the fact that the elderly were a significant portion of Trump’s electorate, a bad healthcare policy by Trump would have meant political suicide with the Congressional Republicans as collateral damage. Trump should have understood that he needs to formulate good policy if he wants the get the Republicans on his side and fulfill his promises. He needs to involve Congress because their advice can be valuable and that good policy needs time to be created with political consensus building as a key part of it. Speaking from a moral point of view, Trump as the leader of free America must take heed to the counsel of its other senior and wise leaders. Trump needs to administrate by involving Congress and not trying to bully it. This is even more important if he wants to create a long term impact. I honestly believe that if Trump had sought a legislative solution to the travel bans rather than a sloppy EO, he would have made not only good policy but also reached a milestone in building a strong relationship with Congress. If Trump had sought collaboration with Congress on repealing Obamacare, which they have been wanting to do for a long-time, he would have, inter alia, made a healthcare law which would have been far better than Obamacare and certainly better than Trumpcare. The message from this debacle is clear- if you want Congress to accept your proposals and more importantly if you want to make good policy, solicit Congressional opinion.
3. Give both Republicans and Democrats their due respect. Trump’s no-holds-barred adversarial attitude towards Democrats and Republicans can only be described as a hangover from his campaign. He needs to understand that his penchant for humiliating his detractors may win him votes but it will not win him support in Capitol Hill. There is no need to humiliate the Speaker of the House in social media for not ramming through Congress an ill-conceived piece of legislation. Trump needs to pick his fights and a fight with Ryan will cost him, the GOP and above all the country. Donald Trump cannot expect any respect, let alone support, from Democrats if he indulges in name-calling and twitter wars. It seems, however, that Trump seems to have learned this lesson, as Time reports: “ President Trump is "absolutely" willing to work with Democrats on other parts of his agenda after discord among Republicans torpedoed his plans to repeal and replace Obamacare.” I can only hope that such intent on Trump’s part translates into action.
4. Stop listening to Bannon. Trump needs to realize that his strategist is bullish, new to politics and extremely right-wing in his views. Bannon’s abilities as a chief advisor to the President are questionable and Trumpcare is evidence of how he is not a good aide when it comes to enforcing Trump’s will or building consensus with Congress. Combine this with the sloppy handling and drafting of the initial travel ban executive order and Bannon’s case looks weak. Moreover, Trump and Bannon are similar individuals and Bannon is woefully not up to the job of making Trump take a hard look or a second opinion. He is an ardent propagator of dubious conspiracy theories, as evidenced by his documentaries and a man who would bark at Congress and insinuate them rather than bring them to the table and “do a good job.”
5. Patience. Trump needs to learn that patience is not only a virtue but also a necessity in
Government. Obama spent a great deal of time planning and pushing for ObamaCare. Trump needs to wait it out for more than three weeks if he wishes to push landmark legislation. If Trump had waited long enough whilst formulating his Travel ban EO, consulted the Office of Legal Counsel to ensure it was formulated using robust legal language and ensured that the Department of Homeland Security were ready to implement it before signing it, then its fate would not have been so bad the first time around.
Trump’s Presidency has just stepped out of the “honeymoon” and his supporters( like myself) require him to make good on his promises. His Presidency was handicapped from the beginning due to Hillary’s actual majority and fierce liberals belligerently opposing him and if Trump fails to deliver now he shall suffer permanent political costs. However, I am still optimistic about the future because Trump, at the end of the day, is an intelligent man who I believe will learn from his failures.
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