Thursday, February 9, 2017

Respite or reprieve?

The pace of executive orders and other changes issued by the Trump White House appears to have slowed.
Is this a respite or reprieve?
According to senior Trump administration officials, the administration has hundreds of draft executive orders ready to be finalized and signed. The slower pace at which Trump is signing these orders may optimally reflect President Trump’s belated recognition of the desirability of staffing the draft order through the departments and agencies that will be responsible for implementation. For example, the new Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, retired Marine General John Kelly, has acknowledged that the Trump administration should have better staffed the executive order on immigration before issuing it. If so, this may represent the beginning of a positive learning curve for the Trump administration.
Furthermore, President Trump is no longer assured of being center stage in the daily news, nudged (or shoved, depending upon one’s perspective) aside by other people and events, e.g., Super Bowl LI.
Finally, President Trump is encountering the limits of presidential power. He has no direct control over the judiciary, as evidenced by a federal district judge blocking implementation of his immigration ban. He is discovering that his words matter. Unlike in business, where inflammatory rhetoric, even if it is false, may help the speaker achieve a negotiating advantage, in politics and foreign affairs inflammatory rhetoric – especially if false – may exacerbate a bad situation, provide opponents irrefutable ammunition, or otherwise work to the speaker’s disadvantage.

A respite from the flurry of Trump’s initial presidential actions is welcome; a reprieve would be a sign of hope that the chaos, dishonesty, and incendiary efforts intended to cause conflict are ending, moving the US and the world away from potential catastrophes that an unreformed Trump might cause.

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