When President Donald Trump came into office, most expected him to focus on domestic policy. The last thing people expected was that Mr. “America First” would become one of the most active foreign policy presidents since Ronald Reagan.
You may agree or disagree with his decision, but by moving the American embassy to Jerusalem and thereby recognizing it as the capital of Israel, he has left a permanent mark on the Middle East. No future president is going to reverse this decision.
It is too early to tell if Trump will succeed in denuclearizing North Korea and end the Korean war, but he surely has made far more headway than anyone thought possible just a year ago.
Some of his foreign policies can still be reversed, however. The jury is very much out on the Iran deal and the Paris Climate Accord. Nevertheless, it is astonishing that his domestic achievements pale in comparison to his international work.
Getting to Work
But why? Last year the media mocked him for complaining that being a president was more work than he had anticipated. They immediately spun this as being the whining of a lazy man who preferred playing golf. Instead, Trump was probably saying that he ran into far greater resistance in the Republican party than expected.
He probably thought that if the Republicans had the President, the majority in Congress and the Senate, it would be easy to get things done. Instead, he discovered that The Swamp ran far deeper than he had imagined.
His focus on foreign policy can be seen in this light. Trump is an opportunist and a result-oriented president. Since he couldn’t get things done domestically, he turned his attention to more fertile ground: foreign policy.
That turned out to be a wise move by the president. His skill sets as a negotiator and persuader was a breath of fresh air into the stale dark lobbies of diplomacy.
While this is encouraging for Trump it is also ominous. What does it say about the sorry state of American politics when it is easier to denuclearize North Korea than to repeal Obamacare and build a wall, even with a Republican majority in Congress?
When Kim Jong-Un is a more reasonable negotiation partner than your own supposed allies, something is rotten in the state of Denmark.
Knock On Effect
However, Trump’s detour to foreign lands may end up making it easier for him to get things done back home. His approval rating is rising, and even before his tax cuts had any effect on the economy, the unemployment rate has dipped to a level not seen since the last millennium. These factors are setting him up for likely re-election.
And more importantly, from his perspective, it gives him negotiation leverage in Congress. Draining the swamp may turn out to be too difficult, but he may be able to dig a ditch through it to fulfill more of his domestic campaign promises.