A year after winning the US election, Trump is leading his country from centre stage to the wings of international affairs, writes the University of Auckland's Stephen Hoadley

By Stephen Hoadley*

One year after one of the most surprising electoral victories in US political history, it is time to assess the performance of the victor: President Donald Trump.

Trump officially took office in late January 2017, but even before Inauguration Day he had made his aims clear: to erase all of his predecessor’s initiatives, notably the Affordable Health Care Acts (‘Obama-care’) in order to ‘make America great again’. Other signature aims were ‘drain the swamp’, ‘build a wall’, keep potential terrorist immigrants out, re-negotiate ‘unfair trade deals’, keep US firms from moving off-shore, and compel allies to pay their ‘fair share’ of the world defence burden.

More recently he has escalated his rhetoric and imposed economic sanctions in an attempt to compel North Korea to cease its nuclear weapons and missile development.

So far his batting average is zero.

Divisions in the US Congress, not only between the majority Republicans and the opposition Democrats, but also within the ranks of the ‘ruling’ Republicans, have prevented replacement of Obama-care. Indeed, Trump has not been able to pass a single major piece of legislation after nearly 300 days in office.

Famous for the phrase ‘you’re fired’, Trump has dumped thousands of senior officials and ambassadors, most spectacularly the Director of the FBI James Comey. But his ‘you’re hired’ voice is weak, as key posts remain unfilled. Of concern to New Zealand and other Asia-Pacific states, the key post of Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and the Pacific remains vacant. Many of those whom Trump appointed proved unfit for the job and resigned, notably his National Security Advisor General Flynn, the Secretary for Health and Human Services, and two White House press chiefs.

Building the ‘wall’ has not begun because Trump has not been able to pass a budget for it, or to persuade Mexico to fund it. The courts have ruled Trump’s immigration initiatives unreasonable, discriminatory and unconstitutional, much to the relief of businesses and farmers who depend on immigrant labourers.

Two of Trump’s minor ‘achievements’ were withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership and disavowal of the Paris Accord on climate change.

But the dynamics of trade and investment have proved irresistible and US businesses continue to invest abroad and US consumers continue to buy foreign products. Furthermore, US manufacturers depend on foreign raw materials, components, and technology, and resist the President’s attempt to impose import barriers. Thus the trade imbalance with China and other trade partners persists.

Trump’s travels to Europe induced him to acknowledge grudgingly the value of the North Atlantic Treaty and America’s European allies. Trump’s current travels to Asia have likewise revealed the realities of the delicate balance of power underpinned by America’s post-World War II benign hegemony. The ‘pivot to Asia’ initiated by President Obama continues uninterrupted in its traditional three manifestations – military deployment, economic engagement and diplomatic projection – managed by competent subordinate officials doing their best to avoid incurring the wrath of their Commander in Chief.

Trump has blamed his predecessor for being too soft on North Korea and has pressured China to stop that rogue regime’s nuclear weapons and missile programmes. But history reveals that the Kim dynasty decided in the 1950s to achieve a nuclear weapons capability, and no US president, or China president, has been able to stop that process. Trump will have to adapt to a nuclear-armed North Korea because the alternative, attacking North Korea, is unacceptably risky.

Meanwhile, the Pew International Survey recently found that favourable opinions of America have dropped from the 60% to the 40% range while trust in Trump has dropped to 22%.

Looking back, one struggles to find a single positive policy achievement by Trump. Instead, one sees disruptive tweets, intemperate epithets, and negative Executive Orders masquerading as policy. Looking ahead, one cannot see any change, but rather a continuing decline of US ‘soft power’, credibility, and leadership. Trump has failed ‘to make America great again’.

Meanwhile, President Xi of China is emerging as a contender for leadership in Asia. One is tempted to conclude that Trump has squandered America’s political capital and is leading his country from centre stage to the wings of international affairs.

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*Stephen Hoadley is Associate Professor of Politics and International Relations at the University of Auckland’s Faculty of Arts. This article first ran on Newsroom here and is used with permission.

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34 Comments

He might not have built the wall of even laid a single brick , but by making it a big issue , illegal border crossings are down ( according to some ) by as much as 70%, .

Thats a big success story , you cannot have around 20 million undocumented illegal alien people ( almost the entire population of Australia ) wandering around your country and do nothing to stop more from coming

Trump is a loose cannon , who says some pretty stupid things but so is Winston Peters who also says stupid things or Paula Bennet who does stupid things.

There's are reason border crossings are down...also tourism down 20%. Better places to go these says than good old USA with an idiot at the helm.

Idiot at the helm rules out most of the Middle East,all of Africa,Lots of Asia.Great Britain and depending what you think of Jacinda and Malcolm most of the Pacific and most of South America and Europe.
Enjoy your holiday in whereverville.

Thanks..yes enjoyed holidaying in Sydney and Fiji this year..do you live in whereverville from your comment?

Spot on frazz, same as immigration into NZ will, now that we have a new government, taper off naturally

If you look a little harder,I think you'll find that a significant proportion of the decline was in place BEFORE Trump took office.. When he doesn't lie,he exaggerates.

It's going to be super easy to see who consumes MSM in this comment section.

For anyone else as clueless as myself, a quick google finds MSM means mainstream media.

Got rid of TPP like he promised.

And the Paris thing, gone.

And the clean out of the EPA. " Under a new policy Pruitt instituted this week, scientists receiving EPA funding cannot serve as the agency’s advisers. Seven advisers stepped down rather than relinquish their grants, agency officials said, while two opted to forego the federal money in order to continue serving."

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2017/11/04/pru...

Trump did a 180 on Saudi Arabia, and this one thing is the reason why

Worth a read, thank you.

God, don't tell me Bitcoin really is the next currency.

Destined to always be behind, ha.

That is exactly why I have been advising Iain Parker at Public Credit or Bust that before we can have honest money in New Zealand we must have energy independence.

Well, here's some defiantly non-MSM opinions:

Claudia Rosett: https://pjmedia.com/claudiarosett/trumps-spectacular-speech-seoul/
Roger Simon: https://pjmedia.com/rogerlsimon/will-trumps-greatest-triumphs-foreign-po...
David Goldman (Spengler): http://www.atimes.com/saudi-arabia-gets-first-real-government/
Asia Times staffers: http://www.atimes.com/article/xi-trump-agree-enhance-co-operation-trade-...

And the whole thread should be good for diagnosing Trump Derangement Syndrome....bring a comfortable seat and popcorn.

The MSM have this ongoing vendetta against Trump and meanwhile terrible atrocities happening in other countries around the world go unreported.

Melania refusing to hold his hand at an event makes the front page but 49 murders a day in South Africa doesn't get a mention. What a mixed up world of white privilege we live in.

despite MSM rhetoric, Trump just inherited a hopeless cause from Obama. America is in decline.
But China also has big issues - there's a nice overview here
https://ourfiniteworld.com/2017/11/08/will-china-bring-an-energy-debt-cr...
which basically means the world economy is in deep trouble...

So. The USA has spent $5.6 trillion over the last 20 odd years, fighting Wars, and China has spent $X ( the same?!) fighting very little and 'buying stuff". I wonder who Stephen Hoadley thinks is the winner in that equation?

You know Trump's grandchildren not only speak fluent Mandarin but also embrace the culture.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FtM7mqIpSbI

The clip was shown twice during the state dinner.

Prepare for the future.

I have visions of Trump's team brainstorming this idea like the contestants did on Apprentice, for business presentations. Like him or not, you've got to give him or his team a hand. It's marketing genius and the video has gone viral - apparently.

I know right? My eldest speaks a tiny bit of Mandarin (she's 9), but when I saw this, my first thought was, I really need to get on that and get both my daughters a Mandarin tutor!

Trumps speech currently into APEC is also very good, and echoes many of the viewpoints discussed on this finance community.
https://www.cnbc.com/2017/11/10/donald-trump-speaks-to-asia-pacific-econ...

If I were American I would have voted for Trump. He seems to make complete sense to me. Why wouldn't you want to protect your borders from illegal immigrants, deport criminals and defend your population from radical Islamic jihadists. The North Korean situation is well overdue a hard-line attitude, goodness knows what sort of blackmail they will attempt to hold over the world when they truly have nuclear weapons that they can put on ICBMs. The political correct universities need to be held accountable when free speech and discussions are no longer acceptable. The MSM and social media sites such as Facebook throughout the world and NZ seems to be actively censoring any information about the Clintons' alleged corruption, where is the information regarding the Clinton's rigging the primary election taking control of the DNC and cheating Bernie Sanders, the alleged money laundering of the super pacs through the Clinton Foundation, the destruction of emails, the convenient meeting with Bill and Loretta Lynch on the tarmac, the investigation of the sale of yellow cake uranium by the Obama administration to Russia and the ongoing Trump/Russia collusion delusion. Though I would have to say their laws on gun control is somewhat hard to stomach.

Trying to build your just deflecting when you talk about Clinton and Obama. Trump is a p&g. How you can defend a guy like that is beyond me. Granted you can cherry pick policies. But at the end of the day the guy delivering it is a p&g.

Lets pretend that what you say is absolutely correct. It doesnt detract from how bad trump is. Two wrongs and all that.

"https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/oct/07/donald-trump-leaked-reco..."

Thank you for replying. In all sincerity, what does "p&g" mean, I do apologize however I do not understand the terminology.

Probably why you like Trump if you cant work it out.

I don't understand why you can't just spell 'pig' normally.

Because I feel its like swearing or defaming or whatever at least its a guess.

So it could be a Pug

"The Pug is a breed of dog with physically distinctive features of a wrinkly, short-muzzled face, and curled tail" Minus the tail maybe an apt description.

So it was reasonable for Trying to build to seek clarification.

Calling someone a p&g doesn't improve your argument, it just makes you sound like a dumb c&nt.

That's why he got elected: he voiced the non-PC thoughts of tens of millions and in doing so has altered the tone and culture of the place forever.

F'rinstance, why, suddenly, do hundreds of former starlets pluck up the courage to confront their bosses with the tales now so apparent?

Because it is no longer so dangerous to voice long-suppressed thoughts. Trump may come across as (and may, for all any of us know, actually Be) a petulant child with no clutch between brain and mouth. (but then remind yerselves, dear readers, that we have our very own version of that in the Wizened Wun, who seems to have taken Utu to an art form).

But Trump, in acting as he does, has actually pushed the reset button that poor old foreign policy amateur Obama could only do in effigy. Cases in point: Norks, China, Syria, Saudi, Israel.

And in freeing up discourse, a lotta stuff comes out into the open. It's gonna be an Interesting ride, including financially, as various bits of the US scene reach their natural limits (like the impending bankruptcy of several States with unsustainable (at current levels of comfort) public service pension schemes.

For a trenchant article on the other bankruptcy - the intellectual one, of the MSM - try James Howard Kunstler, in full rant mode this week: http://kunstler.com/clusterfuck-nation/spanking-the-monkey/

...hysteria manufacturing business formerly known as the news media...

Buckle up: it's only the end of the beginning....

Thank you for providing the link. Mr Kunstler perfectly sums up the sorry state of affairs of the so called news agencies and the Hollywood debacle. The dumbing down and what appears to be brain washing of the masses is very troubling. Though the censorship of social media sites is probably the worst of all. A modern form of civil war seems to brewing.

I will certainly be reading more of this gentleman's articles.

...

Figure it out!!