I’ve remarked before that Trump is behaving like a president deep into their second term. The inability to move big legislation, the constant executive orders, the approval rating floating somewhere around that of syphilis. There’s another part to the second term, and that’s foreign entanglements. It makes sense. If you can’t achieve any domestic victories than you need to go abroad to find your wins.
The way the US presidency is set up the president largely has control over foreign policy. This isn’t just something the founders set up, it’s been reaffirmed again and again throughout history. To this day the president can unilaterally launch a nuclear attack and kill tens of millions of people in just a few minutes. Getting things done domestically is harder. The way it shakes out is that the president can essentially make a major foreign policy decision, and Congress can stop it by cutting off funds. And Congress can make almost any domestic decision, but the president can veto it immediately. So where does that leave Trump?
Trump is amazing at campaigning. With just a few words he can completely change the conversation to wherever he wants it to be. Hillary Clinton wasn’t a lifelong, dedicated public servant. She was Crooked Hillary. Marco Rubio wasn’t a popular governor of a diverse state, he was Little Marco. Healthcare reform would be easy. He alone could solve the immigration problem. Even if you didn’t believe any of these claims, you suddenly had to argue them. He changed the conversation to what he wanted it to be, and he did in such a way that made it appear completely natural. At the start of the primary campaign everyone thought that Jeb Bush would be the republican nominee. After one or two debates, he was barely given the time of day. In retrospect it might seem obvious that Bush could never win, but I believe a big part of that was Trump’s attacks. Bush couldn’t even win a single state. Even if he was destined to lose the general election, Trump’s nickname of Low Energy Jeb seemed to stick, dooming him before he could even get started. I believe that foreign policy is going to be similar to the campaign.
Think about it. At this point, most people will probably agree that regime change isn’t a great strategy. We can’t just walk into another culture with different priorities and histories and think we can convert them to our way of life. Change has to come from elsewhere. Trump can almost certainly change the conversation to what we want it to be. In a single meeting he has the prime minister of China publicly stating that he was dedicated to a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula. I think we can all agree that this is a fantastic first step. Granted, that’s his only real success at this point. His strikes on Syria might have been a good starting point, but it’s unclear what comes next. That’s ok; it wasn’t clear how Trump would win the primary, but he kept finding ways where he would be in a win-win situation. Foreign policy just may be the best thing Trump is suited for.
I find it a little ironic. We elected a man largely on the claim that he will fix all our domestic problems. But our system is built in such a way that the president can’t do that. However, this man is well suited to fix problems the president can control, foreign policy. As long as his needs line up with the American people’s, it’s entirely possible Trump may known as the president who helped stabilize the world. Leave the domestic issues to Congree, the area where they have control. I think that’s his best option at this point.