During his three plus years in office, Donald Trump has waged an unrelenting war on the existing nonphysical American infrastructure. This has proven, under today’s realities, not to be to America’s advantage. It is far more favorable to Russia since that country’s primary goal is to see America seriously weakened. Thanks to the coronavirus and overall Trump policy, America is weakening by the minute, medically, economically and politically.
Trump has either made or proposed changes in all of the following areas: Social Security, food stamps, Obamacare, Medicaid, national parks, the Clean Water Act, tobacco law, DACA, school lunch programs, Medicare, taxes, NAFTA, the VA, education funding, the 2019, 2020 and 2021 budgets, the national debt, national environmental policy, national regulatory policy, health care, energy, criminal justice reforms, presidential pardons, the infrastructure and immigration. In the process, he has removed many of the legislative and other mandated barriers that keep the unscrupulous from exploiting their fellow Americans.
Additionally, he has been intent on remaking the federal judiciary. According to the Economist, in little over three years, Trump has nominated and won Senate confirmation for 192 federal judges, including 137 district-court judges, 51 appellate judges and two Supreme Court justices. No president since at least Ronald Reagan has racked up judicial appointments so quickly (the closest was Bill Clinton with 189 at this point in his presidency). By the end of the year, on current trends, a quarter of federal judges will be Trump’s appointees.
Mitch McConnell deserves much of the credit. The Senate majority leader and presidential handmaiden has made confirming the president’s judicial nominees his “top priority”. He has not let Senate norms and institutions get in his way. To speed up the process, Republicans have scheduled confirmation hearings during Senate recesses, and packed several hearings into a single day, over objections from their Democratic colleagues. They have also done away with a century-old tradition giving senators the power to block judicial nominees from their home states.
In addition, McConnell has reportedly reached out to senior conservative judges, urging them to consider retiring so they can be replaced while the White House and Senate are still in Republican hands.
What all of this means is that the American judiciary will be held in the grip of conservative judges who are appointed for life, creating an intractable situation for decades for any American who disagrees with them politically.
His focus on “America First” foreign policy has been equally broad and equally destructive. Consider his position on Israel/Palestine, his withdrawal from or denigration of international organizations and treaties (NAFTA, Iran, the European Union, NATO, the TPP, the Paris Climate Accord, The UN Human Rights Council), his war on the State Department and on the US Intelligence Community, travel bans on diverse countries and populations, his trade wars with Brazil, Argentina and China and his apparent preference for despots (Putin, Duterte, Kim Jong Un, Erdogan, Abdel Fattah el Sisi, Xi Jinping, the Saudi Royals) over those who support democracies are just some of the examples of the changes he has wrought in our relationships with other nations.
It is a simple fact that we are no longer viewed favorably around the world. We no longer have the influence in foreign affairs that we had before Trump. Of course, if you are an isolationist, an America Firster, a Russian or simply a xenophobe, you will applaud his moves in this arena. If, on the other hand, you see value in positive relations with foreign governments or are concerned about the anti-democratic behavior of others, his attitudes will not please you. In short, Trump would appear to be promoting and following policies that are not supported by a hefty chunk of the American people. On the other hand, curiously, those policies would appear to be in line with the goals of the Russian leadership to weaken their American rival.
And what of the coronavirus? The Washington Post has reported that Trump has overlooked or rejected intelligence on this matter for months. Nothing is working. The Russians must be absolutely delighted. Trump has missed every opportunity since January to step up and do something — testing, the Defense Production Act, Personal Protective Equipment — anything — that would get us at least even and maybe ahead in the battle with the virus. Yet he has done nothing that has really worked for America — maybe for Russia — but not for America. Does he realize what he is doing?
Haviland Smith is a retired CIA station chief who spent his career during the Cold War working on the Soviet Union.