Belfast Telegraph

Whisper it in front of your 'liberal' friends, but maybe Trump won't be such a bad President after all

By Sean O'Grady

Whether you like him or not - and I have say I don't especially - you have to agree the possibility that Donald Trump's presidency may not turn out to be quite so radical as his supporters hope, and his opponents fear. Sometimes, the media has a tendency to hyperventilate when confronted with something unpredictable and unfamiliar, whether on the Right or Left. Just like President Trump.

It is usually an overreaction, as it will probably prove to be with Trump. So, allow me to administer some journalistic Valium.

The thing always to remember about Trump is that he is not a proper Republican, maybe not even a proper politician. He is the nearest thing the American system can produce to an independent political force and, as such, is the most successful insurgent in US political history (surpassing even the legendary Teddy Roosevelt's efforts more than a century ago).

He is, first and foremost, a deal-maker, and will never be beholden to any political party, or political convention. This is what we have seen in his recent interviews. Grasp that and you'll understand what to expect.

There is a downside to this. Trump has a relatively modest base of support in the Congress. There are fundamentalist fans of his there, we know, and the Tea Party Republicans will give him more of a hearing than Democrats whose time than he might deserve.

Yet the Republican leadership - the likes of Marco Rubio, John McCain and Paul Ryan - hate the Donald's guts and make no secret of it. They have no wish to make life easy for him.

There is, even in honeymoon times, an in-built resistance to change in the Congress, riddled as it is with lobbyists, interest groups and pork-barrel politics.

The founding fathers of the US famously created checks and balances to prevent accidents. For all the hype and all the trappings of an imperial presidency and his own brand of bluster, Trump will not be a dictator, because he cannot be a dictator.

Indeed, as used as he has been to running his own show, he will probably find dealing and compromising with senators and congressmen, and women he feels bottomless contempt for, to be a frustrating experience. On the other hand, he does have this reputation as a shrewd deal-maker who may, provided everyone is sensible, frame some sensible reforms.

Deal-making will also be a strength in foreign relations. Forget the spats with the Chinese, the stuff about "undiplomatic language" and the long, long list of people, and nations, that Trump has roundly insulted. Superpower politics are precisely that - often fairly simple calculations about base national interests.

If you want the world to be safe from nuclear Armageddon, then a new detente with Russia is very good news. Donald Trump suggests dropping sanctions for a reduction in Russia's nuclear armoury and maybe a Reykjavik summit. A callback to the Reagan-Gorbachev days of deal-making.

It is not a mad thing to do. If you want a human rights-driven confrontation with Putin, well, that's fine - provided you know the risks that involves. You cannot have it both ways. Trump was elected on the basis that Isis, and its imitators, are a bigger threat to the security of the United States than the Russian Federation. That's about it.

You may hate the notion of a Putin-Trump love-in, but at least you'll live to carry on hating the pair of them. The Chinese, the Mexicans, the Iranians and the North Koreans could also be induced to make a deal with Trump. Would Hillary Clinton have got better terms out of them than Trump will? Or even terms at all? I'd doubt it.

That brings us to his cabinet. They may not turn out to be the gaggle of yes-men and women they might appear. The putative Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, and the various retired generals Trump is recruiting, think Russia is a more potent threat than Trump judges it to be.

Out of that and all the claims about Russian spying and hacking may emerge some sort of realistic, balanced policy towards the Kremlin.

Vice-President Pence - more a conventional, God-fearing conservative Republican than the typical Trumpite radical - will also be a moderating influence across the administration.

Last, you have to concede Trump's policies may work. His version of Reaganomics may be what America needs - and it is what they voted for (allowing for the electoral college).

Ford and General Motors are already bringing jobs back to America that were destined for Mexico.

In the long run, that protectionism will hurt those companies, American consumers and Mexican workers, but in the shorter run it will obviously work, albeit in a crude way.

I've no doubt Trump won't do much for those at the bottom, for those who most need Obamacare and welfare support. But for blue and white collar Americans looking for a pay rise and a job for their kids, some improvement in living standards and prospects is all they desire.

Belfast Telegraph


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