Chaos In The Capitol - Coronado Eagle & Journal | Coronado News | Coronado Island News: Opinion

Chaos In The Capitol

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Posted: Friday, January 4, 2019 1:22 pm

By now everyone, from his supporters to his detractors knows, or should know, that the only thing predictable about Donald Trump is his unpredictability. That trait may be useful in poker or negotiating real estate transactions but as a technique for governing, it stinks. I’ll concede that unpredictability may have helped shake things up at first in a Washington that badly needed some shaking up but it is a dangerous strategy to use on your allies or on members of your own team of advisors. Governments, like markets, hate unpredictability but that’s what they’re getting and it’s causing chaos.

Being the chief executive of the world’s most powerful nation and largest economy is vastly different from running a real estate business. If requires some knowledge of how the branches of government are supposed to work together to get things done and Mr. Trump took office with no experience in government. He was, consequently, heavily dependent upon advisors from the very outset. Initially, he surrounded himself with a variety of knowledgeable advisors reflecting a variety of viewpoints, some at variance with his own, frequently-changing views. Among them were senior retired generals with extensive military experience, experience which Mr. Trump totally lacks. Can you believe he actually thought that the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, the nation’s senior military officer, made about $5 million in salary a year, according to a Washington Post and Navy Times report? (The position pays less than $200,000.) He also bragged, wrongly, that he gave the military its first pay raise in a decade. Not so.

In a dangerous world, a president with no military experience, needs plenty of advice from those who actually have some. At first Mr. Trump boasted about “his generals.” Among the best of them were John Kelly and James Mattis. The former, as his Chief of Staff, brought some order to a chaotic White House. The latter, as Defense Secretary, brought current and proven military experience to that department. Both are gone now as Mr. Trump increasingly surrounds himself only with those who agree with him and thus reinforce his own biases. The popular and highly capable Jim Mattis has essentially been fired, replaced by someone with no military experience.

Secretary Mattis tended his resignation after he reportedly was blindsided by the president’s precipitous decision to remove U.S. troops from Syria and Afghanistan. In announcing his decision to resign in February in order to provide time for a smooth turnover and plan a safe troop withdrawal, he thanked the president for the opportunity to serve and said that every president deserved someone in the position whose views were closely aligned with the president’s and his, emphatically, were not. He should have known by now that this president would react to such criticism just as he did by ordering Mattis to leave by Dec. 31. Again, Mr. Trump’s temper got in the way of mature judgment and added ammunition to those who seek his removal from office.

The issue here is not so much the actual decision to withdraw troops as it is the fact that this sudden decision blindsided allies and a key advisor and cabinet member. When will the next surprise occur? How can allies trust this government to honor agreements? How can his own team members plan and do their job well under such a chaotic and undisciplined decision maker?

All this took place in the midst of a partial government shutdown, the third of 2018, which included, of all things, the Department of Homeland Security, the department responsible for security at the southern border as well as the Coast Guard, at a time when we are dealing with an immigration crisis. The issue supposedly is funding for the border wall or fence or whatever one wishes to call it, which Trump campaigned for successfully. But funding isn’t really the issue. Mr. Trump would probably settle for something less than the $5 billion he requested. Democrats, many of whom once supported a wall before Trump said he wanted one, could have avoided this stupid shutdown by providing at least some funding for it. The previous Democrat administration wasted a lot more than $5 billion on recovery programs that didn’t work. The issue is now the wall itself which Democrats now oppose for purely political reasons. It’s ironic, indeed, that the wall, intended to deter dangerous illegal crossings, now divides Americans and contributes to the chaos in Washington.

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