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  • Glenn Sonnenberg

Musings from the Bunker 1/19/21

Good morning, Only one day until Inauguration Day! As we enter the final full day of the Trump presidency, I have three thoughts. SOME STUFF HAPPENED I always root for the home team. When Donald Trump was elected president, notwithstanding my general revulsion for the man, from his well-documented business dealings, my personal meeting with him, a dear friend’s stories about when he worked for him, his vile nature on the campaign trail, the Access Hollywood tape and his general total classlessness, I wanted him to succeed. Indeed, I wrote an article for the Jewish Journal that proposed several areas where a man of his renown and apparent support might actually be able to do some positive good for the country. With “immigration reform” among the areas I thought he could move the needle (suggesting following Reagan’s amnesty and the reform proposed by George W. Bush), it is clear he wasn’t of the same mindset… That said, I thought I would touch on a few things that he got right in concept (although often wrong in execution) during his tenure:

  1. Abraham Accords. He deserves credit for accelerating Israel’s official ties with several Arab countries. Yet, he was wrong to recognize Morocco’s claims on the Western Sahara and selling advanced arms to the UAE in the process.

  2. China. He was right to point out China’s long-term failure to adhere to international norms on trade, labor, and intellectual property. We have been looking the other way for too long and Trump brought this issue forward. That said, he rejected utilizing the correct forums for addressing these issues, instead launching a trade war. That war hasn’t worked out well for us. His push back on Chinese 5G and Huawei was important as well.

  3. Shaking up the Israeli-Palestinian equation. It probably was time to do something to encourage the two sides to come together. Moving the embassy, largely a symbolic gesture, may well have been a good idea to nudge the Palestinians along. Even recognizing the annexation of the Golan Heights, particularly given that there was no appreciable pre-1967 population. But doing both (either one would have sent a message but both was just overkill) and then encouraging the Netanyahu government and the building of settlements was too much too fast and too one-sided, defeating any chance of Palestinian cooperation.

  4. Bad guys in the Middle East. Say what you will but the world is better without Qassem Soleimani.

  5. Strengthening the VA. Still more to be done but the Trump administration recognized the need.

  6. Helping get generic drugs fast-tracked.

  7. Getting NATO allies to contribute their share to defense. The bellicosity and the high risk strategy didn’t make us any friends and it probably could have been accomplished with less sturm und drang. It will take us a long time to reestablish these critical relationships—relationships that have in large measure been responsible for maintaining peace, international order and freedoms since the end of the Second World War.

Then, of course, there are the areas where he has had the greatest lasting impact. He remade the federal judiciary and he stripped away many environmental regulations. These represent the two signature accomplishments of his presidency. Those who want to “preserve our values” by packing our courts with Federalist Society judges (many unqualified) to roll-back the availability of abortions and otherwise restrict the expansion of civil rightsy got their wish. And for the corporations the flat-earthers who see climate change as just another opinion, this administration has done great harm to the Earth. But he came through for them! I wonder if, even though he delivered in these areas, his supporters still think the damage done in so many areas has been worth it. HE AND HIS ACCOMPLICES HAVE BROUGHT US THE FIRST “MOB RUN” GOVERNMENT Some will say the impeachment in the House last week was just political show. There is some truth to that conclusion. After all, he’s gone in a couple of days. That said, it importantly showed on which side of the line our elected representatives stand. In the face of overwhelming evidence of the president’s provocation of the mob (not just that day, but I maintain for weeks during his fraudulent claims of fraud and theft), 197 Republican members of the House voted not to impeach. Some who voted nay still acknowledged Mr. Trump’s despicable behavior. Some wanted it both ways. How amusing it was to watch the invertebrate Kevin McCarthy try to play “both sides.” What we saw (and what we’ve been seeing for a while) is the Faustian bargain reached by so many within the Republican party. They are scared to say anything untoward about the president for fear they would enrage his base—a base fed and nurtured by Mr. Trump, his acolytes and social media. This allows people who know better and who realize that 63 separate court decisions failed to disclose the claims of massive fraud. They are willing to further a narrative of untruths, regardless of the impact on our nation. Some still avoid appearing to be against the president for fear for their safety. Most simply fear the voice of the mob expressed at the voting booth. What we are witnessing is a mob that is able to control their elected representatives. Leadership is about speaking sense to the public and even telling them when they’re wrong. Sadly, many of our leaders willingly have ceded their leadership to the whims of the mob. COMPLETE DEBASEMENT OF THE OFFICE, DECORUM AND AMERICAN IDEALS The Trump presidency has always been short on ideals or strategy but long on Trump. Trump all the time, Tweeting, holding “press conferences” where he doesn’t take questions and/or berates questioners. He has been name calling and abusive for his entire adult life. In the words of a friend “No class, no grace, no character—he ran the table.” He apparently won’t attend the Inauguration. At first I thought this was a terrible thing—an example again of his lack of character. But as I reconsidered, he has laid claim for exclusion from the “ex-presidents club” photo ops. This break from tradition and civility underscore that he won’t be feted, missed, or consulted in the future. He will become irrelevant and reviled, as the man who could “grab women by the pussy” and who “pushed on her hard.” I don’t know what the Russians have on him but his fealty to Putin and the oligarchs seems to know no end. He may not even be a knowing Russian asset but, as to use the phrae coined by the Russians during the Cold War, he may simply be one of those “useful idiots.” What we have not learned yet may well be even more damning than what we already know. I suspect much will come out through endless litigation in the State of New York and elsewhere. With the PGA canceling the Open at his Bedminster golf course (which cuts deep on a personal level) and business running for the doors, which are only the beginning, he will a lot of his time shoring up his business dealings and responding to his legal troubles. Mr. Trump took office with a note from President Obama, wishing him well, a congratulatory phone call, cooperation in the transition and tea the morning of the inauguration, as is custom. As he leaves office, he does so as a petulant, spoiled and dangerous child. No cooperation; no concern for the nation; no fair play; no consideration for what his behaviors teach our nation’s children. All Trump, all the time. The mob and the party bought the brand and, in the end, it did not disappoint. Onward to tomorrow and better days! Glenn

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