Here are the four things you need to know before your coffee gets cold, the February 21, 2017 edition:
From the Southern White House yesterday in Mar-a-Lago, the President appointed Lieutenant General H R McMaster to by his new National Security Advisor. General McMaster replaces General Michael Flynn who was forced to resign after he lied to the Vice President about conversations that Flynn had with his Russian counterparts after Mr. Trump’s election in November. Both Mr. Trump and General Flynn maintain that the reason that General Flynn was dismissed have to do with his decision not to be forthright with the Vice President rather than the discussions had with Russian officials. Mr. Trump was solid in his contention that General Flynn was acting appropriately in establishing necessary backchannels with Russian and other foreign officials before the Inauguration.
General McMaster is a widely-respected commander and his appointment was met with praise from Democrats and Republicans, including those who are typically critical of Mr. Trump. McMaster, who was one of the architects of the “Surge” in Iraq that was largely responsible for turning the tide in favor of the United States against Iraqi insurgency, is considered to be an intellect and someone with the strategic thinking to foresee potential foreign policy concerns. As an example of his writing, he composed a piece for the New York Times in 2013 detailing the new theories of war that were unfolding in the 21st century (link: https://mobile.nytimes.com/2013/07/21/opinion/sunday/the-pipe-dream-of-easy-war.html).
Of course, it wouldn’t be the Trump Administration without a few naysayers on the sidelines. Despite the fact that McMaster is replacing a military man, there are complaints that Trump has surrounded himself with too many Generals. Of course, this is optics rather than substance. Like his selection of successful businesspeople to lead executive departments covering issues familiar to anyone who has worked with this issues in practice, the same governing principle is clearly applicable to Trump’s choices with regard to foreign policy and national defense. Mr. Trump is not selecting “theorists” and “scholars,” but rather people who have gotten their hands dirty and understand the inner workings of the organizations they are tasked with leading. Certainly, General McMaster, whose job it has been to examine future threats and prepare accordingly is someone who has the requisite skillset to lead the National Security Council. Further, one of the most effective criticisms of United States foreign policy has been the fact that the United States rarely seems to anticipate the consequences for actions taken in the present. Having someone like General McMaster, who has spent the last decade examining future consequences for present decisions is tailored to avoiding the constant pitfall of blowback that seems inherent in modern American foreign policy.
The Administration Abroad
The Vice President, the Secretary of Defense, and the Secretary of State are taking the new Administration on the road and visiting America’s allies abroad. Defense Secretary Mattis has been across the world, from South Korea and Japan to Belgium to Iraq providing a sober and reassuring presence to military leaders and allies who feel that the United States under President Trump may not be as committed to the international status quo as previous Presidents.
Of course, while Mr. Trump seems ready to shake up business-as-usual around the world, it’s important to smooth-over ruffled feathers. The Vice President met with leaders of NATO and the European Union to maintain the commitment of the United States to free and independent countries in Europe. Moreover, the Vice President brought with him the assurance of the President that America would remain a steadfast part of NATO. However, like Secretary Mattis a few days ago, the Vice President did not shy away from the President’s concern that NATO countries need to live up to their obligations under the treaty. Currently, only five nations of the twenty-eight members of NATO commit the required 2% of their economic output to the mutual defense arrangement. The United States bears the lion’s share of the burden. Mr. Trump was highly critical of the arrangement and it’s apparent that other world leaders have taken notice.
New Immigration Order Inbound
Last week, the President mentioned that he would be rolling out a modified version of his immigration pause that has been held up in federal court. If the new order doesn’t come today, it is likely to come by the end of the week. It looks, at least from what the President has said, like the Order will be very similar to the one that has been enjoined by a federal court in Seattle, but will more explicitly exempt certain individuals who have already been cleared for entry into the United States.
The President and his legal team have argued that, on the merits, the Administration would be likely to win the pending challenge to the immigration pause, which has, erroneously been called a “Muslim ban.” However, given the time-sensitive nature of the need to protect Americans, simply re-working the Order to comply with the criticisms from the Court seems more expeditious. The President has broad powers to suspend immigration for national security reasons. The seven countries that were selected in the Middle East and Africa are predominantly failed states that have insufficient police resources to guarantee that persons boarding planes set for the United States are cleared of any potential terrorist sympathies.
Regulatory Rollback Continuing
The President will continue to do his part to roll-back regulations promulgated by the Obama Administration this week. Congress and the President have been working in tandem to do what they can to unwind the regulatory superstructure created by the former President that tied the hands of American industry and production. It’s important to note that this story, the Congress and the President working jointly on regulations, isn’t getting front-page coverage because it undermines the narrative that there is dysfunction and disagreements between the White House and Congressional leadership. While there are certainly some policy differences between Republicans in Congress and the President, they have both been working quickly and diligently on regulatory matters. Realistically, though they aren’t the “sexiest” stories in the world, the net effect of rolling back regulations is creating jobs and freeing up capital for investment.
The regulations set to be rolled back this week include a re-write of a greenhouse-gas emissions rule from 2015 that stymied electrical utilities. The proposed Order also would end a restriction on coal leasing from federal lands. There is also a proposed Order that would re-write another 2015 regulation that dramatically expanded the EPA’s power over “waters of the United States.” This rule was a drastic increase of the EPA’s jurisdiction at the time and violated State sovereignty. It allowed federal regulators to take over management of streams, rivers, and wetlands wholly contained within individual states because of potential runoff.
There’s no doubt that changing these rules will result in environmentalists getting angry and could result in more lawsuits. However, the net effect of the consistent cooperation between the Administration and Congress (that, last week, ended several regulations on coal mining and energy production) will be to show businesses that America is worth the investment. There is some potential that one or two regulatory overhauls may be held up by litigation, but the vast majority will likely make it through and aid in the release of tremendous amounts of capital and investment.
Of course, there are more things going on in the world, but these should be enough to get your day started.