Donald John Trump was inaugurated as the 45th President of the United States one year ago on 20th January 2017. From a European perspective, he has visited Brussels once in May 2017 for a NATO summit, but he has not yet appointed a US Ambassador to the Kingdom of Belgium, and there is still no US Ambassador to the European Union.
This is dysfunctional behaviour. The USA has many natural friends and allies in Europe and given the importance of the EU market for US exports and the strategic importance accorded to the capital of Europe by most leading US multinational Corporations, I cannot accept that the transatlantic relationship is not worth investing in. These diplomatic appointments are important, and they should be filled as soon as possible.
At his inauguration the President promised to “make America great again” and he committed to “drain the swamp” by radically reforming the way Washington worked. It was always clear that his focus would be on internal and domestic issues, and that accordingly foreign policy would be of lower priority.
However, within his first year he has not delivered any improvements in respect of delivering better healthcare or better education services to US citizens, which are the classic policy areas deserving priority on any domestic agenda. Where are the big domestic reforms? He can claim one major tax reform, but the corporate tax reductions approved are not funded in the budget and it remains to be seen what the impact on the economy will be in practice. We have a 30% increase in the Dow Jones Stock Exchange Index over the past year, but was this due to domestic US policies, or global economic growth?
Rather we have had a constant morbid obsession on the part of the media with the President’s personality. Whether intentional or not, this fascination continues to distract public attention from what the President may actually be achieving or not, and how he may be really performing in terms of strategic advantage for the United States.
As a long term friend of the United States, there are two elements in this first year of office for President Trump that have dismayed me. The first is the fact that his personality cult has been constantly the subject of derision in social media; comedians like Randy Rainbow and others have mercilessly mocked the President.
Whether you find this satire humorous or not, the fact is that it has been incessant. It has distracted from the real policy issues at stake by mocking the behaviour of the President, and more importantly I believe that it has demeaned and eroded the status of the office of the President of the USA in the eyes of young people. Everybody is waiting for the next gag to be posted on facebook or twitter.
In other words the promotion of a cult of personality of the individual above the promotion of debate about policy issues has had the effect of dumbing down democracy and eroding support for this fundamental pillar of the beliefs and values of our society.
The second area which has dismayed me in respect of the President’s first year of office relates to immigration policy. This is entirely a US domestic issue, but I allow myself to make this observation, because I honestly believe that sensitive immigration policies for the USA can only make the country great. Also I have family relatives who have benefitted from benevolent US immigration policies, including my late great uncle James Wilson (who left Saint Andrews in Fife in Scotland to go to Philadelphia 6 generations ago in the 1700s) and became one of the founding fathers and authors of the American constitution.
There is strength in diversity. Blind and restrictive immigration policies will cause long term damage to the image, reputation and economic prospects for the USA. On the Statue of Liberty in New York is inscribed “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” These liberties are vital symbols of hope and principles upon which this mighty country has been established.
If the President of the United States wishes to keep his country great and if he wishes to prove his genius, then he would do well to promote the country’s diversity. He has another 3 years to serve his term, and he has shown so far that he is not above changing his mind from time to time. Let us review his progress next year. Until then, I keep an open mind.