Trump Succumbs to Political Pressure On Separation of Illegal Immigrant Families, But Not On North Korea? Why?
Donald Trump’s decision to end the separation of illegal immigrant parents and children when they are detained at the border represents a rare moment where the President has apparently succumbed to constructive political pressure from outside of his radical Right-wing base. The Trump Administration has, of course, chosen to adopt a policy of detaining both parents and children instead of just parents, which likely runs afoul of the 1997 Flores consent decree and will assuredly invite legal challenges, but Trump has demonstrated his willingness to yield to criticism from across the political spectrum. Given the seemingly countless examples of controversies where the President has refused to bow to political pressure, it is easy to assume President Trump and his Administration have an immunity to political pressure. This development in immigration enforcement may well demonstrate the limits of that immunity.
Donald Trump’s decision to meet with North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un represents a bold example of the President refusing to heed unrelenting criticism and political pressure. Many Trump supporters have claimed the President was able to defuse the North Korean nuclear threat, thus making it possible to eventually resolve the Korean War, because he is a stronger leader than President Obama. Although an extremely premature conclusion, the nuclear threat is a couple of decades old while the Korean War has spanned numerous Presidencies. Even to the most partisan of individuals, there have assuredly been other “strong” leaders. One must, therefore, conclude strength has little to do with any real or perceived success the Trump Administration may have achieved. Strength has little to do with the ability of a leader to confront issues.
Clearly, it takes some degree of strength to confront and address serious issues. In the case of the Singapore Summit, it has more to do with Trump's willingness to tackle the issue of North Korea than his strength. Trump is far from a conventional political leader. Some would even argue he is far from a conventional business leader. No US President, whether Obama, W. Bush, Clinton, H.W. Bush, Reagan, or Carter, would have agreed to meet with the Supreme Leader of North Korea. President Obama was willing to send out top level officials to engage Iran, Cuba, and Myanmar without preconditions, which was interpreted as a highly controversial move at the time, but Obama did not meet with the leaders of these authoritarian governments as he tried to reestablish normalized relations. Trump, quite frankly, encountered even greater backlash for this even more controversial move, yet he moved forward with his plans to meet with the Kim Jong Un without a solid agenda or preconditions.
Donald Trump did not care about the massive controversy surrounding his decision to meet with North Korea’s leader. In fact, it seemed to encourage him to meet with the Supreme Leader. Whether or not Trump's decision will ultimately lead to peace is a question for history to answer. What can be said about his decision is that no other US leader seemed willing to take such a seemingly radical course. The political cost was too great for all others. The Media, pundits, and analysts kept trying to increase the political cost by piling on criticism, but Trump demonstrated an immunity to traditional political pressure. This matters to average people, not necessarily because Trump is the President, but because they need leadership that is willing to solve problems when others do not want problems solved.
Beyond Trump, there is an an important lesson. It is necessary to seek leadership that is willing and able to overlook certain kinds of political pressure. Conversely, the American People do need a President who responds to populous political pressure when the interests and views of the People are not being represented and addressed by government. They need a President who is immune to special interest political pressure, but one who will also listen to them. In the case of the border separation issue, it would appear Trump fulfilled this key qualification of a President. Hopefully, he will learn he needs to react similarly on other issues. That said, the pressing question is what actually motivated the President to change his mind. If it is simply the case that the right people within his own personal and political circles criticized him, coupled with the fact he hopes to make progress on a Congressional solution to illegal immigration and the policy shift seemed reasonable, his special interest, agenda-driven thinking is part of the problem with government.
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