Spearhead Analysis – 02.11.2017
By Syed Murtaza Zaidi
Research Analyst, Spearhead Research
Taking a look back at all the men that have taken over the mantle of the United States Presidency, since George Washington, can prove to be quite an interesting read. From Abe Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt to John F. Kennedy and Bill Clinton; each man brought with him a distinct style of leadership and a unique perspective to the office of the president. Each left a lasting legacy in the country and around the world, and will be remembered in the annals of history for years to come. Yet, for all their differences, none have been quite as unique, or perhaps as unpredictable, as the current commander in chief, Donald Trump.
Rise to the top
Even before his accession to the biggest office in the country, Donald Trump had built quite a reputation for himself. As a property tycoon, he added to his family’s already considerable wealth by building and buying properties around the world, particularly in New York. He also made numerous investments, not always very successful, in a variety of different industries which included technology, food, banking, aviation and many more. He further cultivated his sphere of influence by fraternizing with Hollywood stars and executives, making sporadic appearances in various television shows and movies, before landing his own reality television show, “The Apprentice”. As he continued to rise to stardom, Trump’s ambitions rose with it and he announced his plans to run for President of the United States on June 16, 2015.
While Trump had alluded to having an interest in running for the top job many times in the past, this was the first time he conveyed his intentions to the entire nation. He used the opportunity to lay out a plan for his various policies on business, immigration, security and foreign relations, taking a hard stance against Islamic terrorism, the stagnating US economy as well as the leadership of Barack Obama. “Sadly the American dream is dead,” stated Trump at the time, “but if I get elected president I will bring it back; bigger, better and stronger than ever before.”
This statement of intent was not taken seriously in most quarters, especially since in one part of his speech Trump highlighted the dangers posed by Mexican immigrants by saying that “They’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime, they’re rapists, and some I assume are good people but I speak to border guards and they tell us what we are getting.” He also proposed plans for a “great, great wall on our southern border (US-Mexico border)” and promised that he would “make Mexico pay for that wall”. These and many more statements, convinced the Democrats, news media and political insiders that in an increasingly liberal and free thinking America, such notions would be shot down in an instant. But, the public had other ideas.
Over the next few months, as one political opponent after another dropped out of the race, people finally started taking the Trump campaign seriously, as it showed no signs of slowing down. Finally, on May 3, 2016, he was confirmed as the Republican candidate for the office of the President, after having received the highest number of votes in the history of the Republican primaries.
Many Republicans took this as a sign that they were in for another four years of Democratic rule, while the Democrats felt assured that their candidate, Hillary Clinton, with her expansive political experience, as well as her level headedness and discretion in the face of Trump’s brash and impulsive approach, would easily clinch the election. But, even after allegations of Russian hackers influencing voters, sexual abuse and assault claims against Trump, accusations of his alleged connections to various white nationalist groups as well as Hillary receiving the majority of the popular vote; Trump still managed to win the majority of the electoral votes, and with it, the Presidency.
Donald Trump has been in office for just over 276 days now, and there has been a flurry of activity at the White House during that time. With an unprecedented level of turnover, a divided Senate (even with a republican majority), a cascade of ridicule and criticism from the popular media, the US and North Korea on the brink of war and a nation more divided than it has been since the civil war; things have not gone exactly according to plan. His promise to initiate a new health care bill to replace Obamacare has been repeatedly rejected, while his ban on Muslims was also appealed in court and eventually shot down (although some aspects of the ban have been approved by the Supreme Court since).
It isn’t all bad news for Trump supporters. While getting the Senate’s approval to build a wall between the US and Mexico has so far been unsuccessful, there has still been a significant drop in the number of arrests made at the border. In fact, this number is at its lowest in over seventeen years and this is due to several factors, which include harsher sentences for perpetrators, a significant increase in the budget of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, as well as a rise in border patrol recruits.
The White House has also been quietly working on appointing high court and lower court judges of their own choosing. Not only are these judges likely to be conservative, they have also been instructed to take a harsher stance on low level drug crimes; something that had been missing under Obama’s presidency.
One significant achievement for Donald Trump has been his decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord (PCA). A staunch denier of Climate Change, in 2012 the President even tweeted, “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive”. The PCA was created under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and has been ratified by over a hundred and sixty countries, all of whom vowed to limit their greenhouse emissions and invest in renewable and green sources of energy in the future.
President Trump also scrapped the Clean Power Plan introduced under Obama’s government, that initiated a plan to bring down Greenhouse emissions in the US. According to a 2011 report from the Energy Information Agency, the US had a total of 5490.63 million Metric Tons of Carbon Dioxide Emissions from the Consumption of Energy, which is the second highest in the world, behind only China. This move received a lot of condemnation from all corners of the country and Trump was criticized for threatening the future stability of the planet by ignoring the obvious signs of Climate Change everywhere.
There is much that can be said about Donald Trump’s various policies since he has taken charge of the White House. However, this space may not be enough to do proper justice to each, with his decisions relating to Global Warming alone warranting a separate study. Instead, the focus in the second part of this article will be on Trump’s dealings with Pakistan and the South East Asian region by extension.