(This is the second in a series of articles by WND White House reporter Garth Kant examining President Donald Trump’s foreign policy. Read Part 1, “The 5 pillars of Trump’s foreign policy unveiled.”)
WASHINGTON – What a difference a new president makes.
Border Patrol morale is at an all-time high now that President Trump has ended President Obama’s “catch-and-release” policy on illegal immigrants and officers have been enforcing the law again.
Border Patrol union president Brandon Judd said Monday, “There’s a vibe, there is an energy in the Border Patrol that’s never been there before,” because, “we’ve had a drop (in illegal border crossings) that we’ve never seen before with any president.”
Meanwhile, Newsweek predicts ISIS will be destroyed by the end of the year, now that the remnants of its leadership are surrounded in Raqqa, Syria; it has lost its Iraqi stronghold in Mosul; and the caliphate has lost two-thirds of its territory and 80 percent of its revenue.
Unlike Obama, Trump is leaving military decisions to the military, and that policy is paying off quickly.
His penchant for delegating authority was evidenced after the U.S. military dropped its largest nonnuclear bomb, nicknamed the “Mother of All Bombs,” on ISIS fighters in Afghanistan in April.
Asked by a reporter if he had personally authorized the strike, the president responded, “What I do is I authorize my military.”
Trump added: “We have the greatest military in the world, and they’ve done a job as usual. We have given them total authorization, and that’s what they’re doing and, frankly, that’s why they’ve been so successful lately.”
By contrast, the New York Times described the labyrinthine and tortured process for authorizing lesser actions during the Obama administration that “frustrated many in the military”:
“First there was the initial proposal from the Pentagon. From there it went to a policy coordinating committee, composed of lower-level officials from the Pentagon, State Department and White House, who reviewed the proposal’s every aspect. Defense officials likened the process to a subcommittee review of a bill on Capitol Hill.
“If the proposal cleared the policy committee, it then went to the National Security Council’s deputies committee, composed of middle-level White House, State Department and Pentagon staff members, who in turn decided if they would kick it up to their cabinet-level bosses, among them President Barack Obama’s national security adviser, Susan E. Rice, who often sent proposals back with multiple questions.
“Finally, the full National Security Council – with the president in attendance – met on the proposal. At that point, Mr. Obama often had his own questions to ask.”
The Trump administration has chafed that such stories as restoration of morale and significant progress in advancing the president’s agenda both at home and abroad have gone so under-reported in the establishment media. Press Secretary Sean Spicer has repeatedly chided the media for ignoring or burying the administration’s success stories and instead fixating on pushing the narrative of a Russia scandal.
Indeed, as the six-month-old administration forges ahead in its efforts to reverse Obama-era failures and implement a broadly appealing “America First” agenda, the media, especially in the White House, are constantly trying to apply the brakes.
The average American might be stunned to witness in person just how transparently top White House reporters in daily press briefings are dedicated to probing for anything possibly detrimental to the president, constantly looking for an opening and a line of attack to damage the administration. And how visibly upset they become when stymied. It’s more than being a watchdog – more like an attack dog.
The visceral dislike of the administration briefly boiled over after the White House made a series of subtle adjustments that eventually did turn down the heat, including making networks occasionally turn off the cameras during daily press briefings.
CNN White House reporter Jim Acosta likened the loss of face time to a loss of First Amendment rights, tweeting June 19, “There is a suppression of information going on at this WH (White House).”
And, “Make no mistake about what we are all witnessing. This is a WH that is stonewalling the news media. Hiding behind no camera/no audio gaggles.”
Actually, during “gaggles” (off-camera briefings), reporters can and do record audio to ensure accuracy, and that audio can be broadcast after the briefing ends.
The White House clearly believes network reporters have been grandstanding for the cameras and hindering actual communication.
During a June 21 radio interview with Laura Ingraham, Spicer said when the cameras are off, “you end up having a more substantive discussion about actual issues because they’re not trying to get their clip. They’re not trying to figure out, how do I get on TV? How do I ask some snarky question?”
From inside the White House press briefing room, it’s clear that since the changes the reporters’ rhetoric has cooled off, the dialogue is more civil, and more questions of substance are being asked.
And, since the changes, the White House has furthered communication by holding more background briefings (with quotes attributed to officials but not by name) and off-the-record gatherings with reporters, giving them the opportunity to candidly quiz top administration officials.
More often than not, the topics in those briefings have involved foreign policy, where the administration clearly believes it has had success and is poised for more, even in a world rife with daunting dilemmas.
America at a crossroads
Despite inheriting from Obama a Mideast drenched in blood, savaged by horrific civil wars and gruesome acts of terror, Trump declared in his May 21 speech in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, “Our vision is one of peace, security, and prosperity – in this region, and in the world.”
What could account for such optimism?
Not letting a crisis go to waste isn’t just a maxim of left-wing activists; finding genuine opportunity to accomplish good in a crisis is also a key part of a theory of history embraced by the president’s top strategic adviser.
This theory predicted 20 years ago that America would arrive at a crisis, a revolutionary era putting the nation at a crossroads that could bring disaster or a bright new future.
In “The 4th Turning,” published in 1997, authors William Strauss and Neil Howe maintained history has four repeating cycles culminating in turning points, each cycle lasting roughly 20 years, and that the last of these produces upheaval and the end of the old civic order – for better or worse.
What makes the theory particularly relevant to Trumpism is that White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon wrote and directed a documentary in 2010 called “Generation Zero,” which explains the book and posits that the financial meltdown of 2007-2008 triggered a Fourth Turning.
Roughly, a First Turning is an era of optimism and new growth; a Second Turning is a safe and secure time, but one that brings the questioning of values and institutions; in a Third Turning, the old institutions begin to fray, meaning is elusive and initiative is waning.
The Fourth Turning is triggered by a crisis, such as war or economic collapse, and forces society to reinvent itself or perish. It is depicted as a necessary phase for the evolution of civilization, when what is old and no longer workable must be discarded and institutions must make major course corrections to survive and thrive again.
That makes it a time of both great peril and great potential. A positive response would see society rally around a major purpose or issue. A purpose, perhaps, such as Make America Great Again.
Bannon’s film sought to identify the cause of, and the cure for, the current Fourth Turning.
The documentary identified the cause of the crisis as the unchecked growth of a secular, socialist welfare state with an ever-expanding federal government, leading to ever-slower economic growth. Leaders had abandoned what made America exceptional: few regulations, free-market principles, decentralization, entrepreneurism, volunteerism and a strong work ethic. Politicians had come to represent big business rather than the people.
Or, as Trump succinctly put it in a campaign ad, “Washington is broken.”
The solution presented in Generation Zero was simple: Stop.
Stop overregulating, stop spending outrageously, stop manipulating financial system and, most of all, stop big government.
Instead, the country went the other direction and elected Obama twice.
The theory envisioned a solution for that, too. Once enough voters had had enough, they would use the ballot box to seize power from the elites.
During such a time of profound crisis, according to the theory, a champion may emerge with a call to action that society may or may not follow. If the champion is successful, a period of rebirth and renewal would follow.
Reagan is considered such a transformative figure. He didn’t just revitalize the economy and national spirit. Reagan was the only major politician who dared dream the biggest dream of his era in international politics, one considered impossible: the defeat of the Soviet Union in the Cold War.
Perhaps, then, it should be no surprise Trump has expressed the hope that his Saudi summit will not only lead to the defeat of ISIS, but also bring a seemingly impossible peace to the Mideast, as well as launch a global era of peace and prosperity.
Principles of Trumpism
President is the first job in politics Donald Trump has ever had.
His guiding principles come from his experience in the business world, and a prominent historian thinks they can be used with the same exceptional success in politics.
“Trumpism is a new concept,” said former Speaker of the House Newt Gingich, and “Trumpism has some characteristics.”
In a speech, an op-ed and his recently released best-selling book “Understanding Trump,” Gingrich came up with a series of principles to help explain Trumpism, which may be equally useful in understanding the president’s foreign policy strategies.
Those principles could be generally described as:
1) Get the best
2) Demand results
3) Use salesmanship and marketing
Here is how Gingrich explains those business principles as Trump applies them to politics.
1) Get the best
Build the best team possible, and then delegate responsibility.
Gingrich muses that Trump may have assembled “the smartest Cabinet of modern times.” And he sees it as having extremely effective potential.
“If you ask Americans, ‘Would you rather have three generals or three lawyers?’ the country will overwhelmingly prefer three generals,” he says in reference to Defense Secretary James Mattis, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly and National Security Adviser H. R. McMaster (who replaced another general, Michael Flynn).
Trump values experts in their fields with real-world experience and success while disdaining consultants who presume to be experts. Ridiculing establishment politicians who rely on political consultants, Gingrich notes, “Jeb Bush raised $110 million, and had one delegate.”
Gingrich sees Trump’s instincts about who to trust as well founded: “People said, well he doesn’t know anything. This is the guy who, ‘The Apprentice’ was the number one TV show in the country, he’d been on the air 13 years, but they thought he didn’t know anything.”
A prime example of Trump’s thinking was the selection of former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson as secretary of state, because, notes Gingrich, Tillerson “actually has gone around the world negotiating agreements with foreign countries, successfully, on behalf of an American company.”
That is a threat to the Washington elite, Gingrich explains, because, “If you’re John Kerry or Hillary Clinton, or the entire State Department, and your entire career is one of going around the world unsuccessfully, negotiating non-agreements, Tillerson is horrifying.”
“What if he actually effectively represents America?” mocks Gingrich. “What if we actually get good deals that create jobs in America? What if he’s actually able to explain Trumpism to the world?”
“The American people need to understand that President Trump is an alloying of two things,” explains deputy assistant to the president, Dr. Sebastian Gorka. “He’s a great patriot, he loves this country, but also look at his business career, he’s an amazing pragmatist.”
“He knows where he has to get, and that’s why he is the master of the deal.”
2) Demand results
As a spectacularly successful businessman, Trump demanded results and emphasized efficiency.
“You have a ruthless, entrepreneurial frugality that applies common sense, insists on getting the job done, cuts through the red tape,” which, notes Gingrich, will force the Washington bureaucracy to finally think in terms of, “How cheaply and how fast can you get things done?”
The former House speaker outlined other business talents that should serve the president well: “You’ll see him negotiate very toughly. He’s also very ruthless about getting good service, and getting good construction. What people never understood in this city is, he is not a financier. He’s a builder.”
That should help Trump drain the swamp, says Gingrich, because “At least 40 percent of the current bureaucracy has to be superfluous. Literally. What does that cost?”
And it is his business experience that will compel Trump to demand, and produce, results.
“Trump’s a builder. If you build a building, it has to actually stand up. It’s a very important principle. You are faced with the reality that you’ve been governed by people in both parties, who wouldn’t have a clue how to build a building, but they can issue regulations.”
3) Use salesmanship and marketing
Trump rode to power on MAGA as a brand. It was a clear, concise way of expressing exactly what he stood for.
Gingrich sees it as no coincidence that the successful businessman became the successful politician.
“He had the most popular tie in the country. He ran a $10 billion empire, but of course, he didn’t know anything (according to critics.) He made Miss Universe a success. They said, ‘Yeah, but what do you really know about the voters?’ Well, he knew that they were consumers. What does he know about consumers? Branding matters.”
And how did Trump hit upon just the right message in MAGA?
“He went around the country, and he figured out, this is how you appeal to people.” And, it turned out, the biggest market was still for the American Dream.
“Nobody in the elite media could figure this out, and neither, by the way, could the other candidates. That he had figured out what the country was desperate for,” explained the historian.
A simple but profound realization turned into a devastatingly effective message when properly marketed.
Trump shrewdly didn’t market himself as much as he marketed his brand. His idea. His vision. And it resonated.
“If you are a normal, everyday, blue-collar American, the kind of people who built Trump’s buildings, you thought, yeah, I like the idea of making America great again, so then they bought a hat. The hat didn’t say Trump. It said, Make America Great Again.
“It wasn’t just that he’s a good, articulate guy, and he’s a good PR guy,” Gingrich explains. “No, he had a message. It was a message the other candidates didn’t understand, couldn’t articulate. He would say again and again, ‘We can make America great again.'”
Candidate Trump used social media to market his brand, and, as president, he has used Twitter as a bully pulpit to go around the media and sell his agenda straight to the people, much to the consternation and confusion of the press.
“People in the elites couldn’t figure out that this is a guy who’d made his entire living marketing to consumers,” remarked Gingrich. And that helped explain why “the propaganda media cannot come to grips with the level of talent that they’re dealing with.”
“Trump,” Gingrich concluded, is a combination of Andrew Jackson, Theodore Roosevelt and P.T. Barnum.
But there is something else unique he saw in the rise of Trump.
The strength of Trump’s message wasn’t that he would reform Washington but that he would destroy the status quo.
And that, the historian suggests, made the unique leader just the man for the moment:
“I really think this is a very important turning point in American history. I cannot say to you too strongly; every day by inertia, by bureaucracy, by hostility, by the very definitions of the old order, every day, we will face active resistance trying to stop us from the revolution we need.”
Trump’s leadership style has always promised to be different because he is different.
He is “a unique historic figure worthy of study in his own right,” adds Gingrich, and “automatically unique” because he is the first person to win the presidency without having held public office or having served as a general.
Also unprecedented was his routing a field of 16 GOP candidates while under siege by both the Washington establishment (both left and right flanks) and the mainstream media, then eventually defeating a heavily favored Democratic opponent with a billion-dollar war chest.
While his rivals squandered millions on often-ignored political ads, Trump figured out how to saturate the populace with free publicity.
Trump used Twitter and Facebook to reach tens of millions of voters for free. And then, Gingrich marveled, “He had an instinct to combine two different things; huge rallies and twitter and Facebook,” which translated into free television coverage.
Trump rallies and speeches became must-see-TV for networks because of the huge ratings. He even used the networks’ quest for ratings to steal coverage from his opponent at critical moments. On the night Hillary Clinton won the Florida primary, the networks cut away from her victory speech to cover Trump hawking his brand of steaks and wine.
“I’ve never seen this ever before in American history,” recounts Gingrich. “Hillary starts to speak and not a single network covers her because they all understand in the age of the clicker, everyone will leave because they want to see what else Trump’s bringing out. Are you going to get a camel? Who knows what he’s going to do next?”
In short, Trump had effectively turned the overwhelming liability of an intimidating adversarial press into an asset by feeding the networks’ hunger for ratings. Yet his appeal was so unique, the major media could not understand it.
“It’s astonishing to me, as a historian,” mused Gingrich shortly after the election, “how the elite media has missed all of this. They are so rabid, they’re so ideologically committed, they are so terrified of the future that they can’t stop and ask themselves what is this anomaly? What is this remarkable thing? What is it we should know about the next president of the United States? They just can’t do it.
“His approach is so different it needs to be studied as a remarkably powerful and effective system for breaking out of the ideological gridlock which has kept America trapped in a cycle of destructive politics,” said Gingrich.
The historian also identified the unique source of power the president has in Washington.
“This is really important … I hope he does rallies for his whole presidency. He draws the strength of reminding himself he is the tribune of the American people, not of Washington.”