NEW US PRESIDENT Donald Trump has taken office with customary American pomp and ceremony, and has already started work on his quest to “Make America Great Again;” whether you love Trump or hate him, much of his agenda is far more orthodox than either his belligerent rhetoric or the outraged reaction to it from the Left might suggest. Trump should be given a fair go, and Australia must work with the new administration.
At the outset, I will simply note that whilst I am not a supporter per se of Donald Trump, I am not hostile to him either; my only position during the recent presidential election in the United States was that Hillary Clinton (irrespective of who else was standing from any party) should lose, and that excellent outcome materialised very sharply in early counting. The world and the US has dodged a bullet whatever Trump might be accused of or indeed do, and in particular, those who think women have been shortchanged by her defeat in any way imaginable should review this unrebuttable piece.
This column minutes its congratulations to Donald Trump on his ascension to the office of President of the United States, and sincerely wishes him well as he seeks to implement far-reaching change in one of the Western world’s leading democracies; stripped of the rhetoric and assessed on its merits, there is as much to commend his agenda as there is to express unease over, but should the new President succeed he will leave the United States in far more robust shape than he found it after eight years of a socialist experiment that can only be described, domestically and internationally, as a failure.
One of the great ironies, as Trump settles into his new post, is that the chief gripe of the assorted socialists and other left-wing fruit cakes who have staged noisy demonstrations across America and around the world derives squarely from what Trump has actually been elected to do — govern in the best interests of the USA — and the nihilism and cult-like rage over the vanquishing of Hillary Clinton aside, Trump promises a revolution every bit as far-reaching as that overseen by Ronald Reagan in the 1980s, which arguably restored a post-Vietnam America traumatised by the Nixon years and crippled by the Carter years to the position of global pre-eminence it had enjoyed in the early decades following World War II.
The Barack Obama presidency wasn’t as bad as that of Jimmy Carter, but by God it came close.
Trump should be lauded, not ridiculed, for his desire to establish better relations with arch-enemy Russia and is leader, Vladimir Putin, in particular; so low had US-Russian relations fallen during the Obama years that a third world war has become a distinct possibility for the first time in 30 years, and the Obama model of delivering rhetoric designed to humiliate Russia (a “regional power,” in Obamaspeak) whilst turning a blind eye to the threat it poses — even pontificating about eliminating the US nuclear arsenal — shows an ignorance of world affairs and historical strategic risk that placed not just America, but the rest of the world, in existential peril.
For years, it has been an open secret that Russia has been modernising, upgrading and expanding its strategic capabilities; for years, it has been building vast underground bunkers to shelter its people — an effort that has accelerated in recent times — and the Obama position, that Russia represents little risk and can be humiliated and put back in its box, is lunacy.
The world has become a much more dangerous place on Obama’s watch; in eight years we have seen Russian insurgents destabilise Ukraine, Russia itself annex the Crimea, forces aligned to the Kremlin commence positioning for a possible move against the Baltic states, China begin to rattle the sabres of war over its claim to the entire South China Sea, building military installations on reclaimed islands in that waterway in defiance of international law, the growth of the threat posed by North Korea, the rise of Islamic State and an apparent US strategy to deal with it that has been completely unproductive, and a deal to “disarm” Iran that any honest assessment of shows the theocracy in that country retains clear avenues to arm itself with nuclear weapons.
On balance, only an idiot can object to fresh attempts to deal with these hot spots: Trump may or may not succeed, but one certainty is that more of the same would not have worked: and more of the same is exactly what could have been expected of Clinton, save for the fact the Russians hate her anyway after her misadventures as Secretary of State (under, of course, Obama) and the familiarity that comes with the knowledge her husband’s presidency — which many believe was actually Hillary Clinton’s administration in all but name — was also largely focused on kicking foreign policy threats down the road instead of dealing with them too.
On Trade, Trump has announced that an “America First” philosophy — to buy American and to hire American — will guide the policies of his administration; he has also said that trade deals struck with global partners must work “in America’s interests.”
This does not mean that dealings with the USA will be precluded from satisfying the interests of other parties too, and in Australia’s case, an opportunity to strike bilateral deals to the betterment of both countries beckons.
It remains to be seen whether Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and his ministers are up to this assignment. Yet opposition “leader” Bill Shorten has all but declared Trump, his administration, and by extension the USA itself, an enemy of Australia. It is yet another huge black mark against the suitability of Shorten (and the ALP) to ever hold office, not least during Trump’s tenure at the helm of our most important economic and defence partner. Typically, however, the self-serving Australian Left, devoid of any common sense or obvious signs of actual intelligence, thinks the Shorten approach is just great.
In fact, there are enormous risks to Australia inherent in the Trump agenda that, with proper diligence and appropriate overtures, could be turned to great benefit; Trump is proposing, for example, to cut the corporate tax rate in the US to 15%, which will make Australia’s already overpriced goods and services even less competitive despite our dollar shedding 30% of its value in the past couple of years against the greenback. The change of power in America can and should be grasped as the pretext to enact comprehensive taxation reform in our own country, and not the kind of hot air and bullshit propagated, and dissipated, by Turnbull last year in a grotesque waste of the political capital he began 2016 holding.
Trump is an enthusiastic advocate of Brexit — the UK’s pending departure from the EU infrastructure — and eager to take advantage of opportunities to more closely integrate with Britain as it re-engages more fully with the wider world after 40 years of an overwhelmingly pro-Europe focus. There is scope to work collaboratively here to further the so-called “Five Eyes” relationship between the US, UK, Canada, New Zealand and ourselves to build comprehensive economic and security links between the five countries on Earth that arguably share the most in common with each other.
Veteran financial journalist Robert Gottliebsen has published a brilliant analysis of how the international landscape is likely to change under Trump — and how this will affect Australia, and ways in which we might constructively respond — that you can read here. Far from a picture of international doom and gloom, there is plenty of upside for Australia in a Trump administration: if, that is, our “leaders” have the bottle to identify the opportunities that exist and to capitalise on them.
It is at times like this that the retirement of former Trade minister Andrew Robb is likely to be increasingly felt, and regretted, by those in this country with the insight to recognise the real value he offered.
And whilst many rightly find Trump’s 20-year-old remarks about grabbing women “on the pussy” distasteful in the extreme, the simple fact is that the lot of women stood to be far more comprehensively compromised and vastly more damaged by a Clinton presidency than anything Trump will in fact do in office: offensive drivel is one thing, but Clinton “boasts” a decades-long history of real action to destroy the lot of women and, in a litany of cases, women themselves, and those who don’t believe it should revisit the link I posted near the top of this article if they haven’t already done so.
Trump has, in the most part, assembled a first-rate administration — something conveniently overlooked by the outrage merchants of the hard Left — that will, in many cases, check some of the wilder outbursts their leader will undoubtedly make.
He must also deal with Congress, something Obama circumvented by issuing hundreds of autocratic executive orders that Trump is rightly repealing in his first act as President. One wonders what excuse the Australian Left, which claims the Liberal Party is “incapable” of negotiating with an utterly intransigent Senate, might offer in defence of Obama’s dictatorial misuse of executive orders through which to prevail.
Yes, there is much to worry about where Donald Trump as president is concerned; the bellicose rhetoric, the propensity to make unfiltered international announcements on Twitter, and the apparent lack of any “filter” at all for that matter are all points on which a pause for thought is far from inadvisable.
My point today, irrespective of what people might think of Donald Trump, is that he deserves to be given the opportunity to deliver on his promises, and to deliver on the outcomes he has promised those Americans who have elected him. There is much to do.
The final point I would make, for the benefit of those who profess to despise him, is that Trump’s victory is the logical end result of an approach to democratic government that benefits the rulers, is aimed solely at appeasing and buying off minorities and the marginalised, and completely ignores the silent majority in the middle.
This is no green light to the likes of Cory Bernardi — who is a red herring peddling snake oil — or Pauline Hanson who, whilst not a racist personally, has perfected an appeal to the bigoted and the rednecked in a cynical path to harvesting votes, a handful of seats in parliaments around the country, and public election funding.
But political types of all stripes in Australia — in contemplating the “Trump factor” and how it might apply here — would be well advised to remember that whilst winning elections in Australia requires a majority of the vote, it is the actions they take after achieving that which fuel approval and dissent. Ignoring the majority of voters to pander to narrow sectional interests is a recipe for political disaster, and that disaster is already beginning to be reflected in election results in Australia.
Exhibit #101: the 2016 federal election. Both Houses. No Authority. Splintering Support. And a process of revolt that is by no means complete.
This is the most salient lesson from the “Trump factor:” governing for all, in practice, means governing for as many people as possible, and this means for the majority — not just those interests who fit a politically correct, debased, quasi-socialist agenda that shafts the majority of the voting public.
Congratulations, Mr President. We are watching with great interest.