Memoirs of the Addams Administration 5.

Immigration occupied the spot-light.  On the one hand, the Trump Administration’s ill-prepared travel ban got banned itself by a federal judge in Seattle, soon backed up by the Appellate Court of the 9th Circuit.[1]  On the other hand, the president got into an ugly spat with the prime minister of Australia.  President Obama had struck a bargain with Australia to take in 1,250 refugees, and President Trump ungraciously agreed to honor the deal even as he was trying to ban immigrants from seven majority-Muslim countries.  Media attention—in the United States and Australia—highlighted the president’s boorish behavior.  Little noticed in the scrum was Australia’s own sweeping ban on refugees from selected countries.  Refugees trying to reach Australia are intercepted at sea to prevent them from ever setting foot on Australian soil.  That would allow them to apply for asylum.  Instead they are diverted to “detentions centers” (i.e. prison camps) in places like Papua-New Guinea and Nauru.[2]

Far more important than these eye-catching events, however, was the proposal from two Republican senators to cut the number of “green cards” issued each year from 1 million to 500,000.  Immigrants, broadly defined, create about half of new start-ups.[3]

The president issued executive orders for a review of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act regulating Wall Street, and the not-yet-implemented Fiduciary Rule.[4]  Observers dispute whether Dodd-Frank offers a reasonable safeguard against the stupidity of bankers or imposes crippling burdens on American business.  Possibly it does both.  Worse, what if it does neither?

As for the Democrats, it seems widely agreed that they lost many former voters to Donald Trump because those voters found that the Democrats had moved too far to the left.  The party’s solution for now appears to be to hold fast to Democratic loyalists.  One columnist argued that they “will not tolerate any sign of accommodation” with the administration.  What they want, said another, is “total resistance” to the president.  The trouble is that the Republicans hold the House, the Senate, and the White House.  They are poised to take control of the Supreme Court as well.  The president nominated Neil Gorsuch to take the Supreme Court seat left vacant by the death of Antonin Scalia.  Democrats are calculating whether it makes sense to try to filibuster a vote on Gorsuch.  What the Democrats have been able to do is to use parliamentary procedure to slow down the confirmation of Cabinet members and to stage showy demonstrations, both in the streets[5] and in the corridors-of-out-of-power.  This hardly represents a long-term strategy.

The New York Times characterized the president’s fuming about the judge’s stay on his immigration order as an assault on “the most dependable check on his power.”  A columnist in the Washington Post situated the president’s continuing denunciations of journalists within his larger effort to weaken anyone or anything that “place serious, meaningful limits on his power.”  Another lampooned “Trump’s bug-eyed retreat into fear and vengeance.”[6]  Trump’s not alone.

Largely unremarked were signs that Trump may have begun to learn something.   Chief-of-staff Reince Priebus may be winning his power struggle with Chief Strategist Steve Bannon.  The president has moderated some diplomatic positions as well.[7]  Still, “many’s the slip….”

[1] See:

[2] “How they see us: Australia stands up to Trump,” The Week, 17 February 2017, p. 15.

[3] “Boring but important,” The Week, 17 February 2017, p. 6; “Noted,” The Week, 17 February 2017, p. 16.

[4] “Trump takes aim at Dodd-Frank,” The Week, 17 February 2017, p. 5.

[5] “Rowdy constituents,” The Week, 17 February 2017, p. 7

[6] “Travel ban challenged in court,” The Week, 17 February 2017, p. 4; “Democrats: Should they become the ‘party of no’?” The Week, 17 February 2017, p. 6.

[7] “The White House: An internal power struggle,” The Week, 17 February 2017, p. 16.

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