The show so far, a continuing series
1. The situation with North Korea has moved to one of open confrontation. That said, there are stronger commercial sanctions on North Korea than before, and the attitude of the Chinese does seem to have shifted toward recognizing North Korea as a problem needing to be solved. For the time being, both the missile tests and the jawboning have stopped, for unknown reasons. Note that the South Korean and Japanese markets remain high, of course the U.S. market is strong too.
2. Trump has spent a great deal of time with Prime Minister Abe, the real “pivot toward Asia.” Abe is being treated like the most important leader of the free world — is that crazy? Merkel is now teetering.
3. The Trump administration has recognized and encouraged a much more explicit semi-military alliance between America and India, also part of the pivot. China-India relations could be the world’s number one issue moving forward.
4. The apparent “green light” from the Trump administration probably raised the likelihood and extremity of the Saudi purge/coup. I give this a 20% chance of working out well, though with a big upside if it does. Whether you like it or not, so far it appears to me this is Trump’s most important initiative.
Just to interject, much of your assessment of the Trump administration should depend on #1-4, and I am worried that is hardly ever the case for those I see around me. While I do not view the current administration as “good executors” on foreign policy, the remaining variance on #1-4 is still very high and it is not all on the down side.
5. The Trump administration seems to think that keeping production clusters within this nation’s borders is of higher value than shaping the next generation of the world’s trade architecture. I don’t think they will get much in return for this supposed trade-off, but there you go.
6. I am seeing deeply biased assessments of tax reform, from both sides. I don’t favor raising the deficit by $1.5 trillion (or possibly more), I do favor cutting corporate rates and targeting some of the most egregious deductions. I am disappointed that there is not more celebration of the very good features of the plan on the table, that said big changes in the proposed legislation still are needed.
7. In terms of regulatory reform (WSJ), the administration has done better than my most optimistic scenario. In their worst area, carbon, progress on solar and electric cars is bigger good news than the bad policy news. And for all practical purposes, the carbon policy of Trump is not much different from that of say Angela Merkel.
8. The suburbs are rebelling against the Republican Party. There is a decent chance the Republicans will lose the House in 2018, as well as numerous governorships. Soon we may get a window of a very different Trump, plus more investigations.
9. Various people connected to Trump will be nabbed for crimes and perjuries.
10. Trump has personally “gone after” many political and social norms, but it is not yet clear if they will end up weaker or stronger as a result. His “grab them…” tape for instance seems, in the final analysis, to have empowered a major rebellion in the opposite direction. #10 is a major reason why many commentators hate Trump as a person and president, and I can understand that response, but I am myself more focused on what the final outcomes will be and there we do not know.
11. The cultural and intellectual force of liberalism — broadly defined — has been greatly weakened by a mix of Trump and Trump-related forces. I find this tragic and a major source of despair.
12. I do not favor “a decline in the dignity of the presidency” in the manner we are seeing, but I find many of these criticisms are stand-ins for not liking the substance of what is happening. I don’t think we know what are the costs (or benefits) are from this transformation of the presidential image. I could readily imagine those costs are high, but as a sociological matter I am seeing “the dignity of the office of the president has been insulted” as a stand-in for “my dignity has been insulted.”
13. The quality of discourse continues to decline.