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Outsiders vs. Insiders: Feckless Congress forces Trump’s attention to the foreign policy realm

It seems like an eternity ago that (then presidential candidate) Donald Trump called for a complete moratorium on Muslims entering the United States until America’s leaders figured out (paraphrasing) “what the h—l is going on” with the rash of Muslim terrorist attacks.

Trump’s famous (infamous?) words came in early December of 2015, just as the GOP presidential primary race was hitting its stride a little less than two months ahead of the Iowa caucuses. To accurately rehash, Trump Trump and Macronsaid in a statement on December 7, “Without looking at the various polling data, it is obvious to anybody the hatred is beyond comprehension. Where this hatred comes from and why we will have to determine. Until we are able to determine and understand this problem and the dangerous threat it poses, our country cannot be the victims of horrendous attacks by people that believe only in Jihad, and have no sense of reason or respect for human life.”

What’s wrong with what Trump said? If you uttered such a thing around the Thanksgiving dinner table would anyone object?

To place the action in greater context Trump’s bold declaration came five days after the San Bernardino (California) massacre where 14 innocent Americans were killed and 22 more wounded by Muslim terrorists at an office Christmas party in a hospital conference room. Less than a month before this gruesome incident 130 souls were mercilessly slain by Muslim terrorists in Paris, France. The perpetrators had all seemingly planned their assaults out of the reach of authorities. Needless to say, the strikes were unanticipated.

In other words, by all appearances Muslim terrorists were active and could conceivably be situated just about anywhere. As any good leader would do, Trump (the supposed “novice” presidential candidate) didn’t mince words or sugarcoat what needed to be done to combat the problem – shut off the Muslim terrorist spigot until America’s political class devised ways to properly vet all potential newcomers.

Fast forward to nearly a year and a half later (to the early days of Trump’s presidency in 2017), when true to his promises, the new commander in chief ordered federal law enforcement to “ban” immigration or travel from specified war-torn countries (including North Korea, so it wasn’t a strictly “Muslim” ban, was it?). A few liberal federal judges subsequently overturned or issued stays on Trump’s orders and the issue was never fully resolved.

This week the matter finally reached the Supreme Court. Melissa Quinn reported in the Washington Examiner, “A closely divided Supreme Court wrestled Wednesday with a case challenging the legality of President Trump’s travel ban, which restricts travel to the U.S. for foreign nationals from five Muslim majority countries.

“The justices gathered on the last argument day to consider one of the most high-profile and highly anticipated cases before the court this term. At issue in the case is whether the president exceeded his authority under federal immigration law and whether the ban violated the Establishment Clause of the Constitution.

“The case marks the first time one of the Trump administration’s policies is being reviewed by the Supreme Court. It drew significant attention not only from legal minds and academics, but also from lawmakers and celebrities who attended the argument, including Sens. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, White House counsel Don McGahn, and ‘Hamilton’ creator Lin-Manuel Miranda.”

So… celebrities turned out in force to witness a Supreme Court argument? No wonder there’s such a push to install cameras in the Court chamber…the attendees want to be seen.

Media notoriety aside the Court’s eventual decision in this case will speak volumes as to the president’s constitutional prerogative to impose measures to protect Americans in times of emergency – or even to devise contingency plans to prevent attacks that can’t be foreseen. The left’s main argument against recognizing such authority appears to be that Trump is a tweeting racist who hates Muslims; conservatives point out that the president has virtually unfettered discretion to protect citizens under his national security powers.

Quinn’s report made it sound as though the justices will likely divide along liberal/conservative lines on the travel ban/restrictions, meaning a probable 5-4 decision in favor of the administration is in the works. Any objective observer should concede that there’s a grave threat involved and the president has reasonable powers to combat an enemy who can’t be defined or identified. Logically speaking, the president should have the right to keep anyone he deems as a potential threat out of the country. Where’s the controversy here?

Regardless of the Supreme Court’s decision in the travel ban case it’s becoming increasingly clear Trump is establishing himself as a legitimate foreign policy president. In just fifteen months in office Trump has charmed world leaders, threatened enemies, pulled America away from the disastrous policies of his predecessor and laid the groundwork for “deals” that will reestablish the United States’ premier place in world order. This week’s visit by French President Emmanuel Macron only reinforced the growing impression that first-time politician Trump is more than up to the job of handling foreign affairs.

Needless to say Trump’s upcoming meeting with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un is causing quite a stir among foreign policy elites. Some are excited at the possibilities stemming from such a face-to-face while others prematurely dismiss the talks as a public relations stunt meant to disguise the NORKs’ true intentions and buy more time.

Pessimists have already concluded Jong-un will never give up his nukes. Jonah Goldberg wrote at National Review, “The leaders of Hamas cannot accept the legitimacy of Israel; the mullahs in Iran cannot embrace secularism; and Kim almost surely cannot decide that North Korea doesn’t need a nuclear arsenal or that he can make real peace with South Korea.

“Domestically, accepting the legitimacy of South Korea’s government would be tantamount to delegitimizing North Korea’s government. The Kim regime is similarly convinced, perhaps with reason, that it needs a nuclear deterrent to survive. Agreeing to disarm, in the leaders’ minds, would be suicidal. Moreover, they’ve been telling their own citizens that having nukes is an existential imperative.

“In other words, you cannot simply negotiate a country into negating its reason for existence.”

Goldberg makes a lot of good points and certainly on the surface it looks like he’s correct. “Little Rocket Man” Jong-un has seemingly been huffing and puffing for far too long to just give up easily. Over the decades North Korea’s Kim dynasty has maintained control by extending the proverbial middle finger to the west and doing whatever was necessary to scare South Korea into believing a military invasion was imminent.

And while it’s true it would be considered “suicidal” for Jong-un to give up his nukes it could just as easily be “suicidal” for his regime to keep them. For if the NORKs refuse to deal fairly with Trump and the United States then other regional powers would get involved. Is there anyone in Korea (either north or south) that would feel comfortable with a nuclear armed Japan? And Trump could straightforwardly threaten to turn over all the necessary technology to South Korea to build their own nuclear deterrent.

South Korea’s burgeoning economy is already dozens of times larger than North Korea’s; South Koreans aren’t starving and they have plenty of money to fuel power plants to supply electricity and every other basic necessity. North Korea…? None of those things. Heck, North Korea doesn’t even have airplanes.

Trump’s tougher negotiating position with China could also be steering Kim Jong-un towards striking some sort of deal with the western powers. North Korea would starve – literally – without a healthy infusion of Chinese aid. Who knows whether the Chinese are leaning on the North Koreans – they certainly don’t want anything to do with Japan and South Korea having their own weapons of mass destruction just a few hundred miles away from the homeland.

So yes, although we’re admittedly a long way from North Korea voluntarily surrendering its arsenal it’s a little soon for anyone to declare it could never happen. The same thing was said in the late eighties about the Soviet Bloc breaking up – would the Berlin Wall ever come down?

The truth is we have no idea what Kim Jong-un’s motivations are for seeking a formal entente with the United States. One way or another it’ll be fascinating to watch, won’t it?

Trump’s foreign policy moves are even generating talk of earning him a Nobel Peace Prize. Law student Evan Berryhill wrote at the Washington Examiner, “The Nobel Peace Prize is one of the most prestigious awards in the world. Former recipients include the likes of Martin Luther King, Jr., Mother Theresa, and Nelson Mandela. Recipients of the award also include four former U.S. presidents. Assuming the criteria to win the Nobel Peace Prize is the same today as it was when former President Barack Obama won the award less than one full year into his first term in 2009, President Trump should be the fifth U.S. president to win the award.

“Obama received the award due to ‘his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.’ Additionally, a special emphasis was given to Obama’s support for the reduction of nuclear weapons worldwide.

“Applying those same qualifications to Trump, he has more than satisfied the prerequisites. But there's a chance he'll do much more soon.”

Wouldn’t it be crazy to see Donald Trump delivering an acceptance speech after collecting his Nobel prize? Here’s yet another one of those “never in this lifetime” scenarios that could actually come true, though the elites would probably rather take cyanide pills than admit Trump’s tough rhetoric and unusual diplomacy style fostered increased peace.

The privileged snobs would much prefer to give Obama another award though the former president’s lead-from-behind philosophies didn’t really do much to improve the situations in the Middle East or on the Korean peninsula.

It could be argued Trump’s effectiveness in representing the United States overseas is due in part to his not needing to consult with feckless GOP congressional leaders on the most appropriate path forward. The Constitution requires the senate to provide “advice and consent” on treaties and congress enjoys wide oversight responsibilities yet it’s the chief executive that sets policy.

Again, it’s odd Trump is being so aggressive in the foreign sphere because he’s taken a very hands-off approach towards domestic policy. Maybe Congress’s failure to put much effort into Trump’s agenda has forced his attention elsewhere. Matt  Glassman wrote at National Review, “GOP legislative power mostly lies in Congress right now. Republican leaders have almost completely ignored the policy priorities of President Trump.

“To date, not one major piece of legislation has been taken up that ideologically reflects Trumpism rather than Republican orthodoxy. Congress has not considered immigration restrictions. It hasn’t taken up any protectionist trade legislation. No infrastructure package has moved in either chamber. The one major trade bill Congress did consider was the Russia sanctions bill that reduced the president’s discretion, which Trump opposed. It passed the House 419–3.

“In the realm of appropriations, Congress has not only ignored Trump’s agenda, but has repeatedly rejected it wholesale…What wasn’t funded in one of the largest discretionary spending bills in history? Trump’s oft-demanded border wall.”

Facts are facts; pundits chastise Trump for his lack of legislative accomplishments yet it’s the GOP Congress that hasn’t gone along with his MAGA agenda. Republicans need new leaders.

With Republicans’ attention dominated by the 2018 midterm elections it will likely take a major foreign policy breakthrough to get President Trump noticed this year. Trump is accomplishing what he can through executive authority – conservatives must pressure Congress to do the rest.

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