During the campaign, Donald Trump published a “Contract with the American Voter,” and he may even have read it. He described the document as “my pledge to you.” If anybody had been listening, they might have learned from his former business partners what a Trump contract is worth and from his ex-wives what value he puts on a solemn pledge.
I have some bad news, Sunshine: Ya got took.
Trump says this is just strategy, that China stopped manipulating its currency months ago; in reality, there has been no major change in Chinese monetary policy. He also says that bringing up the issue now would make it more difficult to get Beijing’s cooperation in dealing with North Korea. That is true. It was true six months ago. It was true six years ago. It may very well be true six years from now. This is a typical Trump pattern: Do nothing, declare the problem solved, claim victory. That isn’t deft diplomacy — it is a failure of nerve.
A few other things have come up: That wall across the entirety of the southern border that Mexico was going to pay for? Mexico isn’t paying for it, which is convenient for everybody, since it isn’t going to be built. There will be additional fencing put up, as there almost certainly would have been in any case, and the United States will pay for it. And John Kelly, homeland-security secretary, says that the wall in many places will not be a wall at all, but an array of “technological sensors.” Ryan Zinke, interior secretary, has been paying a little attention to the geographical arcana that escape the view from Fifth Avenue, including the fact that a very large portion of the border is a river. “What side of the river are you going to put the wall?” he asks, not unreasonably. “We’re not going to put it on our side and cede the river to Mexico. And we’re probably not going to put it in the middle of the river.” Wait until they hear about the Amistad Reservoir and the Santa Elena Canyon.
No fighting China on currency, no wall, no NATO reform.
No fighting China on currency, no wall, no NATO reform. Add a few more items to the list: Janet Yellen was definitely out before she wasn’t; our relationship with Russia was “great” during the campaign but today is a “horrible relationship” that is “at an all-time low” (he may not know about the Cuban missile crisis); the president could not make war on Syria without congressional approval (“big mistake if he does not!”) until he could. The Affordable Care Act remains the law of the land. Steve Bannon of Goldman Sachs, Gary Cohn of Goldman Sachs, Steven Mnuchin of Goldman Sachs, and Dina Powell of Goldman Sachs are firmly ensconced in their various roles throughout the Trump administration. The alt-right basement-dwellers and sundry knuckleheads beamed that Trump was going to be a “nationalist,” and that he would give the boot to coastal elitists, moderates, and Ivy League snoots. In reality, Trump is a New York Democrat who is being advised by other New York Democrats — Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner prominent among them — who are more or less the sort of people who brought you the Obama and Clinton administrations: business-friendly corporate Democrats, people who think of themselves as post-ideological pragmatists, consensus progressives who are much more interested in opening up backdoor channels to Planned Parenthood than they are in the priorities of people they consider nothing more than a bunch of snake-handling rustics and talk-radio listeners stockpiling gold coins and freeze-dried ice cream in their basements. Trump was a Clinton donor and a Chuck Schumer donor, and he is acting like one.
Rush Limbaugh was right in his way: What Trump said during the campaign was, in fact, a load of nonsense deployed for the purposes of steamrolling the other side in difficult and delicate negotiations. What Limbaugh and the rest of Trump’s admirers missed is that it wasn’t NATO and the Chi-Coms and Enrique Peña Nieto on the other side of the negotiating table getting hornswoggled.
It was them.
— Kevin D. Williamson is National Review’s roving correspondent.