As the silliness of the purported Russian collusion narrative begins increasingly to appear as a deluded attempt by Democrats to excuse an incompetent candidate, and as the mainstream media’s fascination with President Trump’s purported dalliance with a pornstar is understood to conceal a larger reality, we should be able slowly to watch the Trump presidency come into its own, and establish itself as a remarkable new chapter in American history.
Three events last week contributed powerfully to the emergence of what will eventually be seen as this extraordinary development of our nation. The first was the president’s threatened imposition of tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. The second was his announced willingness to accept the invitation of North Korea's Kim Jong Un for face-to-face negotiations to denuclearize the Korean peninsula. The third was the re-entry of hundreds of thousands of American workers into the labor market. This last news item resulted in a powerful stock market surge.
It's too early to determine precisely how these three developments will pan out, but it is not too early to understand what they tell us about Donald Trump. That is, that this is a president not afraid to challenge conventional pieties, that this is a leader prepared to put the national interest higher than any recent administration, and that this is a man dedicated to restoring an understanding of a simpler time in our nation’s past. He is, in short, doing precisely what he promised during his campaign — making America great again.
Still, there is not a move that this president makes that is not greeted by a firestorm of criticism from the champions of the establishment and, in particular, the bastions of progressivism from the last administration and the internationalist wing of the Republican party.
Mercifully, no one has found fault with the surge in job creation, but The Wall Street Journal worries if this can continue if the tariffs raise the price of steel and aluminum in a manner that makes it unprofitable for some other manufacturing jobs to exist. This is a risk, but the president is counting on the threat of tariffs to encourage other counties to adjust their trade relations with us in a manner that results in a healthier economy in the long term.
The shibboleth of free trade is, of course, desirable in the abstract, but free trade is not what actually exists in a world of currency manipulation, theft of intellectual property, and nationally subsidized dumping of low-priced goods. Actions all designed to give an unfair advantage to some nations with which we trade — particularly China. The president exempted Canada and Mexico from the tariffs, in order to encourage those countries, our other major trading partners, to work out more favorable terms for economic arrangements with us.
Eventually the Chinese and others can be expected to come in line, to revise their unfair trade practices, and then the president can use his authority to withdraw the tariffs against the goods of those counties. In the meantime, the incentives to investment created by the recent lowering of corporate taxes and regulatory reform to reduce costs for American industry can be expected to continue to create new opportunities for American industry and the economy generally, while our steel industry recovers from recent job losses, all reversing the sad path of the prior administration.
Encouraging as these developments are, however, the success of the Trump administration’s domestic efforts could be undermined by crises abroad. Thus, the president’s acceptance of the opportunity to forestall the development of nuclear weapons which could threaten the very security of the U.S. resulting in war on the Korean peninsula— one leading to the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives.
No one wants such a development, and it is only common sense to see if diplomacy can avoid such a threat. Thus the president can be expected to do everything he can to bring the North’s hermit kingdom into a better relationship with the rest of the world, an aim that has eluded American administrations for the last six decades.
There is no reason, really, why we should still have thousands of American troops in South Korea if the threat to that nation posed by the North is removed, and this is surely the long-term goal sought by this president, as it has been that unsuccessfully sought by his predecessors.
Far from the president of empty platitudes his enemies have imagined him to be, president Trump stands poised to become a paragon of long term peace and prosperity. Former Trump skeptics, like the brilliant Republican strategist, Mary Matalin, have recognized the new reality. Calling the president’s moves a "paradigmatic shift," "stunning," and "common sense," she concluded that he is "a great overall president." Just so.
Stephen B. Presser is the Raoul Berger Professor of Legal History Emeritus at Northwestern’s Pritzker School of Law, the Legal Affairs Editor of Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture, and a contributor to The University Bookman. He graduated from Harvard College and Harvard Law School, and has taught at Rutgers University, the University of Virginia, and University College, London. He has often testified on constitutional issues before committees of the United States Congress, and is the author of "Recapturing the Constitution: Race, Religion, and Abortion Reconsidered" (Regnery, 1994) and "Law Professsors: Three Centuries of Shaping American Law" (West Academic, 2017). Presser was recently appointed as a Visiting Scholar in Conservative Thought and Policy at the University of Colorado's Boulder Campus for 2018-2019. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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