It has been an interesting couple of weeks for President Donald Trump, particularly in regards to foreign policy. Last week, the administration announced its official position to not move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. To say the news created a bit of a stir would be like saying the Cleveland Browns may not be the most competent football team. Both statements, while true, are the understatements of the decade.
In the same trip, the President gave his first international speech to the Arab world. The speech addressed Islamic terrorism and is receiving high praise, particularly from the conservative side of the political spectrum. What was so striking about this speech isn’t just what he said, but when he said it.
Only a week ago, President Trump was being compared to Barack Obama–and rightly so, I might add after Trump’s backtracking on Israel and the location U.S. embassy. After his latest speech, the President sounds more like Ronald Reagan. I might need to buy a bottle of Pepto-Bismol (does anyone even buy that anymore?) because this roller coaster ride is starting to give me a heart attack.
So, what can we make of this? Does the President have a borderline personality disorder? Is he so blind to not see how ironically inconsistent his stances are, or are we just crazy? I don’t think it’s quite as complicated as some may think. In fact, I think it plays right along into his character.
- Donald Trump does not like being told what to do.
Yes, I know what you’re thinking: “Welcome to earth, Oliver. Glad you could make it.” But in all seriousness, it’s true and should not be overlooked as a simple fact. One of the reasons Donald Trump became such a successful businessman was due to his inability to take “no” for an answer. That’s a great trait to have, but it can be a bad thing if used at the wrong moments.
Ever since then-candidate Trump launched his presidential bid, he promised to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. During the last few weeks of the Obama administration (I know, those are painful to reminisce on), Trump promised better relations with Israel. He promised to fix the mess President Obama placed on the Israelis through things like the Iran Deal, moving the embassy, and so forth. While I didn’t have much confidence in Trump at all, I did honestly believe he would potentially keep his word on that. Perhaps he will. Perhaps there is more going on than we know.
Look at President Trump’s speech over the weekend, however, and it will leave many confused. I don’t think it would be a stretch to call the speech Reaganesque, though I would never describe Donald Trump himself that way. Why would Trump seemingly take a weak position on Israel last week, yet call out Islamic terrorism and tell the Arab world to wipe them off the face of the earth this week? The answer, to me, is quite simple: Trump will do whatever he wants to do in whatever way he wants to do it, regardless of conventional wisdom or protocol. This leads directly to my next point.
- He’s a populist businessman, pure and simple.
I truly believe the President wants Islamic terrorism to be eradicated. I truly believe he loves America. At the same time, he likes to cut deals. He is a businessman and sees the Presidency primarily as a business position rather than political or diplomatic. Sure, you may want the embassy moved. You may not believe that the Palestinians have a legitimate claim to the Jewish land; but that may not be the way Donald Trump sees it. I’m not saying he’s antagonistic towards Israel at all. I’m simply saying that, in the end, Trump’s populism and obsession over deal-making takes priority over your conservative, Christian principles. If he thinks he can reach a compromise and walk away bringing a better legacy, then that’s what he’ll do. You and I may not agree at all with what he or his administration thinks is a good strategy, but we’re not making the decisions, are we? That’s not to suggest we’re wrong. It just means that, ultimately, those in power tend to look out for their interests more than what’s often morally right.
However, there is a crucially important difference between last week’s position and the speech, and that is this: one speech was a speech directly from Trump; the other was not.
Every president has to have a legacy, correct? I’ll also venture to say that when running for reelection, a president must have control of the argument. The President can easily say he took a strong stance against Islamic terrorism and never backed down. He would have a strong argument. He can also say he has great respect for Benjamin Netanyahu and has always stood with Israel. Why? Because he never publicly said anything to oppose them. He invited Netanyahu to the U.S. to meet and talk. He said Israel is a great ally. What will Trump say in response to his critics? Cue typical politician: he will push the blame on someone or something else. It won’t be his fault. It will never be his fault. Somehow, there will be a scapegoat; the people will forget his inconsistencies on this issue, as well as other issues, and he will have his base in his camp once more. That’s how this game always works, except it isn’t a game to you and me.
You see, you care about consistency. That’s why you’re here. That’s why you’re engaged. I implore you to remain that way and never shift with the winds like so many others have and will. We must demand consistency from our leaders and, more importantly, from ourselves. Anything less than that is a house built on sand, begging to be brought down.