Donald Trump's address to the Congress indicates US president is getting off his high horse

In his address to the joint session of Congress, President Trump came through well. Gone were the barbs and blusters one saw in his speeches during the presidential election and even at the time of swearing-in ceremony just a month ago. Here he was addressing the members of Congress with respect the American legislators deserve. A CNN poll said 57 percent of the people found his speech satisfactory.

He sketched his administration’s policy before the Congress. Largely he talked of how his administration will deal with the number one issue America, not unlike other democracies, faces today — unemployment. However, unemployment caused by American manufacturers outsourcing American jobs, relocating their companies to countries like Mexico or China (because of lower wages in these countries) is a major problem for them. Trump has often expressed (in his campaign rallies or tweets) that he would like to stop this export of American jobs by giving large tax incentives to companies. He he enjoys the support of American labour and businesses on this issue.

Immigration was one of the biggest agenda of his presidential campaign. Soon after he took over the White House, he decreed a ban on immigration from seven Muslim countries. The judiciary objected to his decision and several states condemned it calling it discriminatory. Since then he has toned down his approach by permitting immigration on merit basis.

Donald Trump. AP

Donald Trump. AP

Trump has to reckon with the system of checks and balances of this sturdy democracy, now 251 years old. Trump is soon realising that his ideological zeal has little place in a system that has well established institutions and practices. His biggest climb down from his original election platform is on the issue of health. In March 2010, former US president Barack Obama had passed the Affordable Health Care act which was a first considering even Franklin Roosevelt, one of the most popular US presidents, failed to give the American people a public health system.

Since Obama achieved this fete in 2010, Republicans who dominated Congress during his tenure decided to block all legislation by the Democratic government. This was much similar to the Indian situation on the GST issue. A legislative-executive deadlock hurts people. Donald Trump who said during the election that he would demolish 'ObamaCare' now stated in his address to the Congress that he would put in its place a new health care measure. Whatever the name he gives it, it’s basically ObamaCare, and the Democrats in the Congress thunderously applauded it as their own.

The Trump administration has bluntly said no to Obama administration’s move of creating a Pacific community, for free trade of 12 countries, consisting of American and East Asian Pacific countries. This they did on the grounds that such a policy would rob of American people of its jobs . Trump administration's foreign policy is majorly going to be governed by these factors —  immigration, jobs and health.

On two foreign policy issues the administration has reversed its policy: Nato and Russia. Before Trump took office he criticised Nato. Now in his address to the Congress he says Nato is of vital importance to the country. It is the lynch-pin of American security. He also reiterated his position on Russia at the time UK prime minister Theresa May's visit last month: sanctions of Nato countries on Russia remain. As long as Putin’s Russia appears to be a threat to the European members of Nato, the American commitments to the security of Europe remains, Trump reportedly said to Theresa May.

There is a new dimension to America’s relations that’s going to make this relationship very choppy. Democrats and now increasing number of Republicans are asking for an impartial investigation into links, if any between the Trump's campaign team and Russian president Vladimir Putin. There are louder calls by members of both parties that the present Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, resigns from the investigation team looking into this affair. Earlier the president’s national security advisor Michael Flynn had to resign for his calls to the Russian embassy in Washington.

It should be recalled here that as a candidate of the Republican Party he expressed vicarious joy in Russian hacking of Hillary Clinton’s emails. Should any such links between the Trump's campaign team and the Putin administration be discovered, the Russia-America relations will crash. It was premature of foreign secretary S Jaishankar to say, as he did, at a recent MEA gathering, that Russian-American relations have never been as good as they are today – a gross exaggeration.

There are no deeply divisive issues between us and Trump’s America. The thing we need today is hard analysis of our own foreign relations and less of grand pronouncements.


Updated Date: Mar 03, 2017 20:05 PM

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