Washington continues to be abuzz, and news is dominated by President Donald Trump. As this hot, muggy Washington summer drags forward, Trump is a part of every Washington conversation. His Russian trip and the episode of his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin left CNN and others ranting about how dishonest he allegedly is. And those who dream of impeaching him are crying "treason" and "we have got him." However, Trump has now acknowledged the accuracy of his intelligence agencies, so maybe things will quiet done a bit.
Meanwhile, the stock markets have kept going up. The government and the military are functioning well. And President Trump, "the great disrupter," is going forward and apparently surviving much the same as he has done in the past. How can he continue to survive with all the loud opposition?
First of all, his political enemies dislike him so much that they overplay their hands. For example, some very prominent critics of Trump used the words "treason" and called for his impeachment. My own judgement is that the president handled the Moscow situation very badly, but that is no grounds for impeachment. And he is certainly not guilty of "treason." There may be a very strong case against Trump's handling of the Putin summit from many professional points of view, but his detractors discredit themselves with the use of such language.
I did not vote for Trump, but I think the man deserves a chance to be president. Many citizens have grown weary of the constant charges and almost-daily rants against him in the national media and from political opposition. Let us remember that he was elected president of the United States. And if all those opposed to him would sit down and propose some specific alternative policies, they just might be able to vote him out of office in two years. I have come to suspect that they have secretly concluded they cannot beat him at the ballot box, so they must find some other way — possibly impeachment — to get rid of him. I hope that is not the case, because in a democracy, we settle our basic disputes at the ballot box.
President Trump, in spite of his stylistic shortcomings, has been bold enough to bring a lot of disruptive new thinking to the presidency. For example, he is using tariffs to try to get better treatment in our trade relations. As my friend Robert Lighthizer, the U.S. Trade Representative, has pointed out, a president has very few tools to go after foreign nations that are taking advantage of us in trade. If the president goes into the World Trade Organization or into the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs with a trade complaint, he will be outvoted by the large number of foreign judges who populate the boards of such international trade organizations. Most of the international trade agreements have a United Nations-type format with 13 to 17 judges — most of whom seem to take trade stances contrary to American interests.
As a young Foreign Service Officer many years ago, I was a legal delegate to certain international trade conferences. I observed firsthand how badly the United States was treated if a trade dispute went to arbitration. All the other nations seem to want to take advantage of the U.S. So Trump speaks to me and millions of other Americans who want us to get better trade treatment. Tariffs are a crude weapon, but probably the only weapon in the presidents toolbox.
China uses a lot of non-tariff barriers to steal our patents, software and technology. China requires most U.S. companies to form a joint venture with a Chinese firm as a prerequisite for selling its products into China. And the rules of the joint venture allow the Chinese to see all of our technology, and they steal it. Trump is the first president to really stand up to them and at least use some tariffs to countervail them.
Trump's language and style do not appeal to me — but he is getting some major reforms moving in trade. He is our elected president, and he is certainly not treasonous. Trump's critics discredit themselves by using the very same tactics that they accuse him of using.
It is time to give President Trump a few breaks. Let him be president as the country so elected him.