I Really Need Your Help With This

Reading time – 3:49  .  .  .

My pal John Calia (find him here) describes himself as a libertarian. Because I’m a progressive we have lots to talk about and frequently do so. Last week we had an email exchange that eventually reached the shoulder shrug point because even together we were unable to find much in the way of solid answers.

This series of exchanges was sparked by an essay in The New York Times that took a look at what it is that causes voters the most heartburn about Donald Trump. Public polling shows that his persona, separate from his policies, is a huge source of angst.

Okay, nothing new there, as this issue deftly crosses our political divide. But the comparison itself set me to asking the key question: What are Trump’s policies? Let’s start with an historical benchmark.

During the Cold War the foreign policy of all presidents included Soviet/communist containment, and the expansion of democracy. With hindsight we can pick apart the successes & failures and the value of those policies and the strategies that supported them, but the intent was always clear. Agree or disagree with it, that’s what policy looks like.

As I crafted my list of Trump policies it quickly became clear that what I was able to name was a list of Trump actions. What wasn’t clear was any identifiable policy behind them. Here are some examples.

Two of the first things Trump did upon assuming office was to pull us out of both the Paris Climate Accord and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Those are not policies; they are actions. What is the foreign policy those actions support? What is his policy on climate warming?

He took us out of the JCPOA – the Iran deal. Iran was in full compliance with the agreement at the time. After Trump took the U.S. out of the deal, Iran promptly restarted its uranium enrichment program, exactly what the JCPOA had stopped. Since then he has levied new sanctions, has pressured allies to institute snap-back sanctions and talked very tough against Iran. Again, these are all actions, but I’m hard pressed to identify the policy they serve.

He boasted he would “drain the swamp,” but has installed mostly swamp creatures in his Cabinet; i.e., industry moguls, insiders and lobbyists in charge of their own industry. What’s the policy?

He talks tough about law and order and has sent federal troops to attack protesters in, for example, Portland, OR. But apparently the protests and white supremacist violence in Charlottesville were okay – no troops were sent there. Plus he praised the 17 year old vigilante who killed 2 protesters and injured a third in Kenosha. What is his law and order policy?

He has dramatically reduced legal immigration but used 5 immigrants as props in a new citizenship ceremony on the second night of the RNC show and did so without their consent. In speaking about immigration he has excoriated “sh#t-hole” countries and called for more immigration from Norway. What is his policy on immigration?

He has tried multiple times to ban all Muslims from entering the country. What is his policy on freedom of religion?

His actions regarding China are schizophrenic. What is his China policy?

He gave Kim Jong-un international standing by meeting with him and then claimed a great victory for the U.S., saying he had negotiated the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. Regardless, there has been no change in North Korea’s behavior, nor a disposal of its nuclear arsenal or its missiles, despite Trump’s claim the he and Kim “fell in love.” What is Trump’s policy regarding North Korea?

Roughly 80% of terrorist acts in the U.S. are done by white supremacists. Trump never addresses that, but does rail about MS-13, ISIS and Muslim/Islamist terrorists. What is his policy regarding terrorism in the U.S.?

Trump is once again challenging the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) in order to eliminate it. He promised during the 2016 campaign and afterward that he would replace it with a program that is both farther reaching and less expensive, yet four years later has literally nothing to offer in the way of a replacement. What is his healthcare policy? To be fair, in all 10 years since 2010 when the act was passed the Republicans chanted and promised “remove and replace,” yet never offered any replacement, so it appears their policy on healthcare was limited to “Repeal Obamacare.” That isn’t a policy; it’s just an action that is absent of justification.

I truly cannot answer my own questions and my pal John is pretty well challenged to name policy, too.

As I made my list I tried valiantly to avoid judgment and snark and must confess I didn’t do well with that.  Nevertheless, I continue to want clarity about policy. Not presidential flamboyant statements, not tough guy posturing, but actual national policy, so I turn to you.

Please post your notions in the Comments section about any Trump policy that seems clear to you. I’m after coherent statements, something that might be on a screen at the front of the Situation Room and on a flip chart in the Oval Office to keep everyone clear and focused.

What are Trump’s national policies?


Speaking of policy, if Joe Biden wins he’ll be wise to follow some of the FDR policy advice as explained in a recent David Brooks piece. The loud voices on the left want a revolution, but most Americans want something that goes down a bit easier.


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7 Responses to I Really Need Your Help With This

    The only area where Trump comes even close to having what could be considered an actual policy would be immigration, which would include the Muslim ban. At best his actions on immigration could meet the barest minimum of what could be considered a national policy: a plan with specific goals and procedures to be used to achieve those goals.

    His obvious goal is to reduce legal immigrants and stop asylum seekers and all other immigrants from coming into the country and to remove all undocumented immigrants including DACA recipients. The unstated goal is to keep America white and feed the xenophobic fears of his supporters.

    If you ignore how chaotic, contradictory, immoral and illegal their actions are in attempting to achieve their goals, you could consider it a plan. Build a wall that Mexico is suppose to pay for, but steal money from the Defense Department instead; rescind the executive order on DACA; use the separation of children from their parents at the border to terrorize future immigrants from coming; ignore our laws and our treaty obligations to give asylum seekers their say in court; attacking the sovereignty of sanctuary cities and ignoring court orders are a few of the tactics used that could conceivably considered a policy plan.

    Trying to glean out policies from the chaos that is Trumpism is a fool’s errand. Well defined policies are a function of good governance. And that is a term that should never be used in the same breath with Trump and the Republican party.

  2. Anna B Reply

    Trump’s strategic approach is to institute fascism. To undercut the rule of law, to promote distrust of facts and scientific truth, to make everyone but white, Christian, native born people “lesser” people undeserving of the same rights, even to the point of genocide.

    To stop immigration altogether and possibly deny birthright citizenship. Internationally to put America Uber Alles. To deny abortion and even birth control to women. To shove LGBT people back in the closet or deny their humanity altogether.

    To deny climate change and get rid of regulations that stand in the way of maximum profit.

    Without the rule of law, it will be the rule of Trump and his minions and what THEY decide is the law and that is what will be enforced on everybody else — mandatory patriotism to their rule.

    He has made a marriage of convenience with the Christian Fascists who want to create a theocracy. He’s already calling Black Lives Matter terrorists. He’s already calling athletes who strike in support of the basic humanity of Black people treasonous. He’s already lauding cops who murder unarmed Black people. He’s already calling out “patriots” and “militias” as well as paramilitary forces under his control to beat down and even kill protesters. He’s already calling for fascist “poll-watchers” to suppress the votes of potential Biden voters.

    These are some of his policies. These are fascist policies. And he has been even more emboldened since he wasn’t impeached.

    He is aiming in the next 60 days to “seal the deal” of staying in power through whatever means necessary. We cannot afford to sit back while all this is happening, and just wait for the next “shock and awe” attacks. There need to be millions in the street demanding the ouster of this regime NOW before it is too late. We need to be organized and visible and standing up to all this before he steals the elections, or refuses to leave, or precipitates his own Reichstag fire-type action.

    Please check out RefuseFascism.org and join protests starting Sat Sept 5 nationwide to being our own 60-days struggle to unite everyone to stop this.

    Thank you

  3. Jim Nathan Reply

    Assure as many appointments as possible for installing a conservative court at every level.

    Maintain evangelical support by being tough on abortion.

    Transition the nation towards more totalitarian policies while emulating “Dear Leader” role models and installing Trump family in key leadership and control roles.

    Avoid personal accountability at all costs.

  4. John Calia Reply

    I don’t wish to refute your central point. But I would like to suggest some repositioning. People wondered what Obama’s foreign policy was too. What he described as a “pivot” to Asia was also a disengagement from the Middle East which he finally admitted to in a TV interview. I suspect he had a clear idea in his head that he didn’t want to share before he implemented for fear of political repercussions. Trump has reversed the direction, again without stating a clear policy beyond declaring who are the good guys and who are the bad guys. Israel, Saudi, UAE: good guys. Iran, Syria: bad guys.

    As for draining the swamp, I applaud his actions with the exception of what’s happened at EPA. The federal government has become too intrusive. The goal of government regs should be to create a level playing field that encompasses consumer and worker safety. What is too much may be in the eye of the beholder. To this beholder, there is too much overreach.

    Not mentioned in your post are the policies implemented by the much-maligned Betsy DeVos, which I favor. First, she is in favor of school choice opposed by Democrats because of union support but which would allow children of poor families the same educational opportunities as the rich. Second, she has eliminated some egregious regulations the penalties for which were loss of funding under Obama. Specifically, she has eliminated the kangaroo courts that assume guilt rather than innocence on college campuses. And, she has eliminated the requirement that bathrooms be unisex, a ridiculous notion favored by the left.

    The tax cuts are portrayed by the liberal media as favoring the wealthy. But the wealthy pay most of the taxes and the poor get tax credits and distributive benefits. What is ignored by the liberal pundits is the impact on middle class families, most of whom received a huge cut due to the increase in the standard deduction. It can be said that his policy is supply side economics, clearly. What is egregious is that both he and Republicans abandoned their principles by not cutting the budget when they had the chance. So, we are stuck with $1T annual deficits.

    Where Trump has done the most damage, in my view, is in the foreign policy arena. It’s fine to take a more muscular position with our strategic opponents. But we shouldn’t go it alone. We should be shoring up our support for international institutions to blunt the influence of Russia and China. That includes not only NATO but also the IMF, the World Bank and, yes, the TPP.

  5. Robert B Bloom, Ph.D. Reply

    Trump’s policy is singular, Undo everything that Obama has done. He cannot tolerate the respect and success of a black predecessor. He is acting out his narcissistic personality disorder.