“It is going to be so easy.” Those were the words candidate Donald Trump used in October, imagining a future where he, as president, would replace the Affordable Care Act with something “great.”
In reality, no presidency is easy—the office’s unique role at home and around the world assures that. To be president is to face an unending barrage of problems emanating from an unimaginably vast array of topics.
In less than three weeks’ time, Donald Trump will be sworn in as president. What are the biggest challenges that await him? At the dawn of a new year and new presidency, we asked 20 top thinkers in various fields. Here’s what they said.
‘Revolutionary states’ and ‘Islamic extremist organizations’
General David Petraeus (U.S. Army, Ret.) commanded U.S. Central Command and coalition forces during the surges in Iraq and Afghanistan, after which he served as director of the CIA. He is now a partner with the global investment firm KKR and chairman of the KKR Global Institute, a Judge Widney Professor at USC, and a Senior Fellow at Harvard University’s Belfer Center.
Two broad categories of threats will likely present the principal security challenges to President Trump and his administration in the year ahead:
First, the administration will have to contend with the aggressive actions of the four most prominent “revolutionary states” (i.e. those not satisfied with the status quo)—Iran, Russia, North Korea and China.
Second, the president and his team will have to deal with continued terrorist activities of Islamic extremist organizations—the Islamic State and Al Qaeda and their affiliates—not just in the Middle East, but also in parts of Africa, Central Asia and the Asia-Pacific region. Moreover, terrorist attacks will undoubtedly continue to present significant challenges for our allies and partners around the world, especially in western Europe, while the threat of further attacks in the homeland will continue, as well.
Inevitably, U.S. leadership will be required in responding to each of these challenges—though we should always seek as many partners as possible and ensure the host nation does as much as it can, too. Furthermore, we will have to recognize that, in most cases, comprehensive, rather than narrowly limited, strategies will be required. Finally, because many of these challenges will undoubtedly be generational in duration, the policies crafted will have to be sustainable, minimizing the cost in blood and in treasure.
It goes without saying that none of this will be easy.
Washington’s ‘deep capacity to resist change’
Newt Gingrich is the former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.
The greatest challenge to the Trump presidency will come when the Cabinet realizes how deep the capacity to resist change is built into the Washington system. The combination of bureaucratic entrenchment, old laws, thousands of regulations, lawyers filing lawsuits for delay, armies of lobbyists protecting their interests, the diversity of influence and opinion in the Congress, the hostility and confusion of the news media, the negativity of the think tank world, all will be pressures against bold change.
At that point the cabinet of winners and achievers will face its core crisis: Does it concede the inevitability of the old order surviving and shrink its ambitions to meet Washington's standards, or does it take all its collective talent and resources and blow the old order apart?
The key decision will probably come in March or April. The result will define the Trump presidency’s role in American history.
‘The major cleavage within his coalition’
Neera Tanden is the president and CEO of the Center for American Progress and the Center for American Progress Action Fund.
Trump’s biggest challenge will be addressing the major cleavage within his coalition of supporters: those who supported him because he was aligned with traditional Republican policies, and those who supported him because he wasn’t. He garnered a percentage of people who voted for Obama twice in part because he wasn’t a traditional Republican; indeed, he often attacked the leadership of the Republican Party. However, now he’s attached himself to Republicans in Congress with an agenda that many opposed.
Even on an issue like health care this has profound consequences. Trump promised to repeal and replace health care together. His voters relied on that promise. Like so many Americans, millions of Trump supporters rely on the Affordable Care Act, and they believed Trump when he said he would protect their health insurance. As one of his supporters in Kentucky said recently, “If he don’t come across like he promised [on health care], he’s not gonna be there next time. Not if I can help it.” But now Congress is on the precipice of repealing the ACA without any replacement for years, throwing our health care system into chaos, inciting a potential market collapse and threatening to leave more than 20 million Americans without coverage—including many of Trump’s own voters.
Many of his own voters didn't expect him to blindly follow Congress, and when he does so, they will balk.
‘The acute lack of trust … in our country’s leaders’
Jon Huntsman is the chairman of the Atlantic Council, a former U.S. ambassador to China and Singapore, and former governor of Utah.
America’s most corrosive threat and therefore greatest challenge for President Trump to begin addressing in 2017 is the acute lack of trust the American people currently have in our country’s leaders. If no progress is made on the core issues that have direct impact on the lives of every American—job growth, expanded economic opportunity and a secure homeland—our trust deficit will skyrocket. This type of deficit is far more debilitating than a financial one, as it tears apart the very fabric of civil society and degrades the functioning of our democracy.
President Trump has a unique opportunity to reset confidence in our political process, institutions and leadership—efforts that will be critical to achieving real progress for our country, thus also enhancing America's credibility and stature at a time of historic global uncertainty.
‘Learn[ing] to govern in a democracy’
Tom Daschle is the former majority leader of the U.S. Senate, and the founder of the Daschle Group.
The next four years is likely to be the most disruptive of our lifetimes. President-elect Trump will likely face greater challenges than any president since Franklin Roosevelt. Perhaps his most important challenge will be to learn to govern in a democracy with a healthy and historic respect for the rule of law. His ability to do this well will determine the fate of our institutions of governance, perhaps in perpetuity.
Beyond governance, there is a probability he will face the real threat of a major crisis generated from the use of a weapon of mass destruction—bio, cyber or nuclear—either within the United States or somewhere in the world. His test of leadership will be the quality of his response using all of the resources available to us under these tragic circumstances.
‘Getting anything done’
Kori Schake is a fellow at the Hoover Institution. She formerly served as director for defense strategy and requirements on the National Security Council staff, and as deputy director for policy planning in the State Department of the George W. Bush administration.
Donald Trump’s biggest challenge in 2017 will be getting anything done. For all his criticism of President Obama, Donald Trump shares many of his predecessors’ most self-defeating executive characteristics: a near-messianic belief in their personal ability to produce outcomes, dramatic under-estimation of the extent to which the American system of governance is designed to do nothing absent broad political cooperation, under-investment in Congressional relationships that translate policy into law, and deep reliance on a White House staff of campaign people.
The first year of most presidential administrations is mildly chaotic as senior political appointees work their way through the confirmation process, lay hands on cabinet departments, and meld into a leadership team while the chief executive learns the true dimensions of the job. The first year of the Trump administration is likely to be chaotic on an epic scale, with cabinet secretaries inexperienced at governance, White House staffers battling departments over policy direction, Congressional Republicans wary that Trump shares their ideology and looking to protect their brand from his worst excesses, intelligence politicized and non-stop media revelations of conflicts of interest. As we have already seen with Trump salvos about defense procurements, the processes of evaluating policies, building consensus and effectively carrying out decisions are all likely to be repeatedly up-ended, preempted by the president’s preferred forms of instantaneous and direct communication. Companies whose market value are negatively affected and states like California that disavow policies may seek legal recourse, tangling decisions further.
All of which is even before the administration gets blasted by the cold winds of economics and geopolitics, and those, too, are likely to be a bracing reality.
‘The next recession’
Jared Bernstein is a senior fellow at the Center On Budget and Policy Priorities and former chief economist and economic adviser to Vice President Joe Biden.
No one knows when the next recession will occur, but when it does, there’s a good chance the Trump administration will not be well positioned to implement measures to offset its impact.
The two main tools against recession are countercyclical monetary and fiscal policy. The former, run by the Federal Reserve, mainly involves lower interest rates. But there’s a good chance that when the next recession hits, the interest rate the Fed controls will still be quite low, meaning they may not be able to help as much as they have in past downturns.
That leaves fiscal policy. Yes, there are automatic responders to recession, like unemployment insurance and SNAP (food stamps), but herein lies two problems facing the new administration: First, Republicans are already making noises about turning these vital countercyclical programs into “block grants”—fixed funding amounts that do not respond to increased need in recession. Second, it’s entirely possible that an administration focused on tax cuts, deregulation and repealing Obamacare, will not be interested in implementing the discretionary fiscal support that is so important in combatting recessions. This possibility is exacerbated in a situation where “fiscal space” has been diminished by a big tax cut.
The next recession is out there somewhere and the combination of the Trump administration and this Congressional majority may well be unprepared to deal with it.
‘The Republicans in the House’
Cokie Roberts is a political commentator for NPR and ABC News.
Trump’s biggest challenge is likely to come from the Republicans in the House. Two-thirds of them were elected in the Tea Party class of 2010 or later, have no experience in crafting legislation and have shown precious little interest in doing so.
Their time in office has been characterized by a government shutdown, the repeated attempts at repeal of Obamacare and their threats to allow the nation to default on its debt. Following the lead of Disrupter-in-Chief Ted Cruz, they shout that compromise is just another word for corruption.
If the president-elect wants to achieve his legislative goals like replacing Obamacare and building infrastructure he would be wise to consult with the men in his party who know how to get bills passed: Bob Dole, John Boehner, Orrin Hatch. All endorsed Trump and stuck with him—at least in part to thwart their nemesis Cruz—and all know the true art of the congressional deal.
Lawrence J. Korb is senior fellow at the American Progress Action Fund. He served as assistant secretary of defense from 1981-1985.
The greatest challenge for President Trump will be in handling the threat that Vladimir Putin and Russia pose to U.S. security in at least three areas: the continued waging of cyber warfare on the US and our allies; his aggressive behavior toward our NATO allies in the Baltics; and his nuclear modernization program that could violate New START levels.
In addition, Trump will have to decide how to respond to aggressive actions by China in the East and South China Seas and continuing tests by North Korea of its long range ballistic missiles that could be capable of reaching the United States and its increasing production of nuclear weapons.
‘A serious replacement for Obamacare’
April Ponnuru is senior advisor at the Conservative Reform Network.
The Grand Old Party might want to hold the champagne this year (no problem for the tee-totaling Trump) and get to work on a serious replacement for Obamacare. Scratch that: Have the champagne. What awaits is enough to sober-up even the most intoxicated reveler.
Long gone are the days when Republicans could simply return this unwanted gift from the Obama administration. While it’s true that Obamacare has never been popular, repeal has never had very strong support either. Less so now that the egg has been scrambled. Roughly 20 million people now have coverage either through Obamacare’s exchanges or its Medicaid expansion. Many of those people just took a chance on Republicans. In return, Republicans should offer an alternative plan that makes health insurance available and affordable for them, and for those who have yet to find coverage.
Some Republicans have offered plans to do just that while avoiding Obamacare’s heavy federal regulations. But many Republicans want to just repeal the law—or, worse, repeal parts of it in a way that would make the rest of it work even worse than it does now. If they do that, they will be replicating one of the worst mistakes of Obamacare: disrupting millions of people’s health arrangements from Washington, D.C. Either way, keep that case of champagne on hand: in victory you’ll deserve it; in defeat even Trump will need it.
Ian Bremmer is president of Eurasia Group and a global research professor at New York University. You may follow him on Twitter @ianbremmer.
Trump’s “America First” policy isn’t isolationist, but it does reflect belief that the U.S. can get a “better deal” with our allies and frenemies around the world. That’s going to be most challenged early in U.S.-China relations, where Trump wants to show the U.S. can play hardball (on currency, trade, Taiwan, South China Sea, etc.) without a recognition that America’s negotiating position vis-à-vis Beijing has been deteriorating significantly and American alliances in the region have been weakening.
If he follows through on policy statements that show he can drive a harder bargain, he’s going to be hit back hard by Xi Jinping, and without a lot of support from American friends in the region. That’s particularly true given Xi’s own need to look strong in the run up to his own leadership reshuffle in the fall.
Jacob Heilbrunn is editor of The National Interest and author of They Knew They Were Right: The Rise of the Neocons.
When a reporter asked British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan what he feared most, he replied, “Events, dear boy, events.” What event might most confound Donald Trump in 2017? Plenty can, and probably will, go wrong, from dealing with the aftershocks of repealing Obamacare to upheaval in the Middle East. Already, the prospect of a Trump presidency has revitalized the neocons who are preparing to assail him over Russian hacking and any overtures to the Kremlin that he and Rex Tillerson may be meditating.
So if Trump wants to outmaneuver his detractors, he needs to throw the foreign policy equivalent of a long bomb—visit North Korea.
Pyongyang, which is hellbent on developing nuclear missiles that can target the West Coast, may well represent the most urgent national security threat to America, one that has heretofore vexed Republican and Democratic presidents alike. Trump should announce next week that he has taken an “unpresidented” move by talking directly with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, and that he intends to broker Korean reunification by creating a demilitarized and neutral Korea. Surely the preconditions are auspicious: He and Kim have a lot in common—both are members of family dynasties and both appear to have similar governing styles.
Trump will have to engage in protracted and intricate diplomacy to cut a deal—he might consider handing over control of Taiwan to China in exchange for Beijing’s cooperation as well as a deal with Russia over Ukraine—but solving the Korea conundrum would be a huge victory for Trump. He might even consider demanding a Trump hotel in Pyongyang as part of the deal and establishing an NBA franchise with Dennis Rodman. His critics will howl conflict of interest but it really would be time for our country to move on to bigger and better things. It seems a small price to pay for what truly would be peace in our time.
‘Bipartisan support’ for Obamacare’s replacement
Alice M. Rivlin is a former director of the Office of Management and Budget and Congressional Budge Office, and a visiting professor at Georgetown University.
President-elect Trump created a huge challenge for himself by vowing to repeal Obamacare and replace it with “something great,” with details to follow the election. Now he must deliver without creating a lasting political liability for his new administration.
Repeal is easy. The money aspects of Obamacare—subsidies to make insurance affordable, penalties for not having insurance, expanded Medicaid funding and added taxes—can all be scrapped by using the budget reconciliation process that requires only a majority vote in each chamber and the president’s signature.
But repeal by itself would create a human and political disaster. At least 20 million people would lose their health insurance; millions of others would be unable to buy affordable coverage in a chaotic individual insurance market; many doctors, hospitals and other health providers would lose paying customers; and states would feel the pinch of cuts in federal Medicaid money. Ironically, many of the states that made the most dramatic progress reducing their uninsured populations under Obamacare, and would suffer the most disruption from repeal, are the Rust Belt and Appalachian States that put Trump over the top. To avoid starting the new administration in a political hole, “Repeal” must be followed promptly by “Replace” (with a smooth transition between the two), as the president-elect himself pointed out on “60 Minutes.”
The political challenge is that the replacement for Obamacare must have broad bipartisan support—and not just because Republicans have only 52 seats in the Senate and need 60 votes to quash a filibuster. More importantly, as the history of Obamacare illustrates, health reform supported by only one party is unlikely to survive in this deeply polarized nation. If President Trump is to create a lasting legacy in health care, not just another political football, he needs buy-in from most of his own party and a significant fraction of Democrats.
The intellectual leadership on replacement comes from Speaker Paul Ryan and House Budget Chairman Tom Price (Trump’s choice for secretary of Health and Human Services). They favor tax credits to help those without health insurance purchase it in private markets, subsidized high risk pools to absorb some of the cost of the very sick and rules to prevent carriers from jacking up premiums on sick people who have maintained coverage. Their ideas are sufficiently similar to Obamacare (which after all evolved from Romneycare) that one can imagine their negotiating a plan that centrist Democrats could support. It would preserve the basic concept of Obamacare’s subsidized consumer choice, but use incentives instead of mandates, allow less comprehensive coverage and give states more flexibility in design and regulation.
But there are at least two big obstacles to success in such a negotiation. One is that Speaker Ryan and Chairman Price insist that Medicare reform be part of the package, a stance that President-elect Trump avoided in his campaign. While there are good reasons for eventual reform of Medicare, shoving Medicare changes into an ACA replacement is almost certainly a deal breaker for Democrats. Moreover, many members of House Republican Freedom Caucus will likely reject any replacement for Obamacare. They are focused on smaller government and “Just repeal it” looks pretty good to them.
So, welcome to Washington, Mr. President-elect! “Repeal and replace” sounded good on the stump, but it will take all your political deal-making skills to make it happen without stumbling into a deep political hole.
‘Ensur[ing] he has the information and judgment to make the best decisions’
Aaron David Miller is vice president for new initiatives and a distinguished scholar at the Wilson Center. For the prior two decades, he served at the Department of State as an advisor to Republican and Democratic secretaries of state.
As daunting as the foreign policy challenges might be for the incoming administration—from North Korean nukes to jihadi terror—the greatest challenge the president-elect faces is internal: how to ensure that he has the information and judgment to make the best decisions.
First, a president needs to know what he doesn’t know—and be in hurry to find out. In 1982 as a young intel analyst at the State Department, I received a call one morning from Vice-President Bush, who wanted to know if I had few minutes to answer some questions about a memo I’d written about Lebanon. I couldn’t believe it. Really, did I have a few minutes to talk? This kind of curiosity is critically important in breaking the hermetic seal that surrounds a president. It’s not some wonky proclivity for knowing things; it’s critical so that a president can know and understand the terrain of any challenge and being in the best position to evaluate the advice and recommendations of advisers.
Second is a president’s willingness to embrace the Nieburhian challenge abroad—in essence the serenity to accept what can’t be changed; the courage to change what can; and the wisdom to know the difference. Presidents tend to get themselves in trouble abroad when they lose this valuable balance and try to do too much on one hand or not enough on the other. Finding that balance means accurately assessing the relationship between U.S. objectives and the means at your disposal to achieve them, and looking at the world not just the way you want it to be but factoring in the way it really is.
Advisers can provide plenty of both good and bad advice. But in the end, it falls to the president to have the wisdom and judgment to know the difference.
‘Rais[ing] the living standard for working-class Americans’
Tamara Draut is the vice president of policy and research for Demos. You can follow Tamara on Twitter @tamaradraut.
The greatest challenge facing President-elect Trump is following through with his campaign promises to raise the living standard for working-class Americans and bring back manufacturing jobs. Will Trump be able to convert his campaign rhetoric into meaningful solutions to address the financial struggles the working class faces?
Today’s working class has seen a persistent decline in economic prosperity due to stagnant wages and unchecked corporate greed. America’s working class is no longer a homogenous group of white males with factory jobs but instead has expanded to include women and minorities holding one or more jobs in the service industry. What this new working class of Americans desperately wants is to earn a living that gives them stability and flexibility. Worker-friendly policies such as paid sick leave, increased minimum wage, fair work schedules and affordable child care would be seen as significant steps toward addressing the economic inequalities that working class families face.
Sure, Trump has made quixotic promises to rip up trade agreements that hurt American workers, penalize companies for moving jobs overseas and strengthen manufacturing—which all make for great talking points, but the question now is: How? The reality is Trump will have to partner with a Republican Congress that rigidly opposes the very policies popular with the working class. At the end of the day, Trump will have to prioritize policies that create economic opportunity for the working class, or the voters who sent him to the White House will just as quickly turn against him.
Deciding whether ‘to fix the … international system or to hasten its demolition’
Heather A. Conley is senior vice president for Europe, Eurasia and the Arctic at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. These views are her own.
The most significant challenge of our generation—and of which Mr. Trump’s election was emblematic—will be either to fix the growing structural cracks in the foundations of the current international system or to hasten its demolition and replace it with something else. A 70-year global system of alliances and institutions were developed in the post-World World II era to secure American global leadership and economic strength. The United States and the international community have long taken these structures and institutions for granted—if not abused them outright—at today’s great peril.
Mr. Trump’s presidency—either by omission, commission or both—will profoundly shape the future international system simply by its daily decisions or tweeting about what the U.S. is willing or unwilling to defend and support in 2017. These decisions will ultimately define the role of the U.S. in this future system. This is why U.S. policy choices toward countries that have already rejected the principles of the old international system—specifically Russia, China, North Korea and Iran—loom so large and why non-state actors like the Islamic State are important. These countries and entities seek to redefine and reorient the international system in their regional favor at the expense of the U.S.-led international order. Will the U.S. agree that these nations can forge a new system with new rules?
We will also closely watch the Trump administration’s future relations with America’s closest allies in Europe and Asia which are integral to the international system. Will the U.S. see its traditional allies as the problem with the old system and seek a reduced relationship to pave way for new relationships?
These are the questions that will be asked of the United States and answered by the Trump administration: What does the United States really stand for? And, if asked to sacrifice to support international rules, will it act or will it walk away? Seventy years ago after an attack on the United States at Pearl Harbor, a devastating global conflict and Holocaust, the Greatest Generation had their answer. In 2017, we are no longer certain of America’s answer.
‘Giving [China] a greater security role in the Asia-Pacific’
Robert Daly is the director of the Kissinger Institute on China and the United States.
China’s drive to play a greater, and perhaps determinative role, in the security architecture of the Western Pacific is easy to understand. China depends on Western Pacific sea lines of communication for energy, natural resources and food. Now that it has the capacity to guard these lines for itself, it is not content to rely on the United States for protection. China has benefitted from the Pax Americana put in place after World War II, but distrust between Beijing and Washington is so high—and China’s determination to create a zone of deference in the Western Pacific so strong—that an American-led security architecture is no longer acceptable to China. China already has advantages of proximity and economic influence in the region. It will soon have the capacity to counter American hard power in the area in any scenario short of all-out war, and it has a stronger will to prevail, backed by a political system that allows it to put a higher percentage of national resources at the service of strategic goals than can the U.S. The U.S. can’t afford a long-term competition aimed at “winning” under these circumstances. It will have to make adjustments.
The Trump administration’s greatest challenge vis-à-vis China is to lower the PRC’s regional threat perceptions (and aggression) by giving it a greater security role in the Asia-Pacific. This must be done in a way that does not threaten America’s alliances or erode international law—a tall order, complicated by the near impossibility of answering an unavoidable question: What meaningful adjustment to existing practices could be made in the Western Pacific, such that China is placated rather than emboldened? The United States, and most of China’s neighbors, worry that no compromise will satisfy China; only regional dominance will do. The Trump administration will therefore have to assure China that it recognizes its legitimate security concerns and welcomes China as a provider of global public goods, while making clear that that it will counter any threats Beijing poses to liberal international orders and institutions. To counter effectively, the U.S. must strengthen its domestic economy and political system and improve military capabilities and trade and diplomatic relations in Asia.
The Trump administration, in other words, is destined to rediscover the strategic rationale for the Obama “rebalance to Asia.” Upholding U.S. interests in the region depends on the rebalance succeeding the second time around.
‘Conflict at home, not abroad’
Michael Lind is a fellow at New America, and author of Land of Promise: An Economic History of the United States.
The challenge that will define the presidency of Donald Trump may be be conflict at home, not abroad. The first year of his administration could show whether the billionaire businessman has taken over the Republican Party—or merely the White House.
Trump succeeded in his hostile takeover of the Republican presidential primary process by breaking with establishment GOP orthodoxy on trade, immigration, infrastructure spending and entitlements. But conservative orthodoxy is alive and well in the Republican Congress led by House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. If they reject Trump’s campaign priorities and push a version of the unpopular Bush era agenda of tax cuts for the rich, the repeal of Obamacare without a better replacement, Social Security benefit cuts and voucherization of Medicare, congressional Republicans could alienate many of the populist voters Trump inspired and energize today's demoralized Democrats.
Trump has dethroned the Bush dynasty. Whether he has defeated Bushism remains to be seen.
‘Lack of legitimacy’
Elizabeth Borgwardt is an associate professor of history and law at Washington University in St. Louis, the author of A New Deal for the World: America’s Vision for Human Rights, and a co-editor of the forthcoming Rethinking Grand Strategy.
At the high-water mark of effective American influence on the international stage, in the 1940s, a Republican presidential candidate observed that “the gigantic reservoir of good will towards the American people” was “the biggest political fact of our time.” More than 70 years after Wendell Willkie wrote these words, a Republican president-elect is spurning long-held values and norms to argue that financial disclosure, clean elections and even support of our allies and the institutions of democracy are in effect optional extras in his crabbed vision of statecraft.
During World War II, living up to what Willkie called “our ideals and our methods” as Americans was of supreme importance, because ultimately, as he explained, “a policy of expediency will prove inexpedient.” Trump’s biggest challenge is his lack of legitimacy, a problem that extends far beyond finishing a distant second in the vote tallies. He and his advisers seem to have little sense of the historic power of Willkie’s message: that shortcuts, self-dealing and ethical double standards when it comes to the habits and practices of good governance hurts U.S. prestige and influence abroad, even as it threatens trust and stability at home.
American strength flows from sources other than hiding unsavory truths and hoping everyone is willing to move on. President-elect Trump says he plans to “drain the swamp” of corruption and illegitimate influence, both domestic and foreign. But we may end up draining something else instead—that “tremendous reservoir” that Willkie described, which turned out to be the actual wellspring of American power and authority. Refreshing this resource is an urgent national security priority, as legitimacy at home undergirds and reinforces legitimacy abroad.
Andrew J. Bacevich is author most recently of America's War for the Greater Middle East: A Military History.
President Trump’s greatest challenge, at least in the near term, will be “Donald Trump,” the provocateur with an apparent compulsion to offer off-the-cuff commentary on whatever happens to strike his fancy. If “Trump” gains access to the Oval Office, then the likelihood of the Trump administration being able to devise a coherent foreign policy reduces to about zero. Instead of formulating policy, administration officials will spend their time engaged in damage control, explaining that what “Trump” said yesterday or tweeted early this morning is not actually what the president means.
In statecraft, everything is connected to everything else. The past determines the present and how we choose to interpret what happens today shapes possibilities for the future. “Trump” appears oblivious to such connections. He displays a strong tendency to see things in isolation. This is a recipe for disaster.
President Trump needs to take a lesson from “Stephen Colbert.” There comes a moment when it’s time to retire the character that made you famous. For Donald Trump, that moment is at hand.