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Trump wavers between controversy and initiative

  • Published at 05:53 pm September 29th, 2018
Trump’s obtuseness does not help anyone REUTERS

The future does not look too bright for the US president

It is being generally felt that recent controversies generated about Trump and his administration will cast a long shadow on the coming mid-term election paradigm. Trump’s long-serving personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, apparently pleading guilty to twin federal election law offences, might have alienated his religious right-wing supporters. It is understood that the disclosures might end up in a subpoena being issued against Trump.

Some analysts have also drawn attention to the fact that the Manafort convictions combined with Cohen’s guilty plea and the guilty plea of Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, and Mr Chen, have impacted on the US president’s popularity.

One thing is clear. Trump is compounding an already difficult situation. 

All of this is happening when the US midterm elections are less than 40 days away. Republicans currently hold majorities in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. If such an evolving dynamic continues, it might lead to some major Democratic gains in the House. If Democrats take over the House, Trump’s life could get more complicated. All 435 seats in the House of Representatives are up for grabs along with 35 seats in the 100-member Senate and also the posts of governors in around 30 states. 

Former President Obama is trying to assist the Democrats in this regard and has accused Trump of “capitalizing” on “fear and anger.”

To tackle the growing challenge from the Democrats, Republicans have been focusing on Trump’s achievements in the economic sector. In this context they are underlining that unemployment, as promised by Trump during his presidential campaign is currently at an eight-year low at 3.9% and the GNP has also grown by 4.2% in the second quarter. 

However, despite efforts of the Republican Party, a recent Washington Post/ABC News poll of registered voters has revealed that 52% said that they favored the Democrat candidate over the Republican Party in their district. 38% said they favored the Republican.

No evaluation of Trump would be complete without referring to his administration’s latest initiatives with regard to the changing geo-political and strategic paradigm in South Asia, particularly in the context of China, Iran, and the Taliban. Within this matrix one would also have to refer to recent developments that have taken place due to the changes in the leadership structure in Pakistan.

Mike Pompeo, US secretary of state, began the tricky diplomatic trip to Pakistan on September 5 before eventually travelling to India. This latest tour was an example of the US seeking traction for his revamped Indo-Pacific strategy in the face of China’s growing strength. 

While in Islamabad, Pompeo held a meeting with his counterpart -- Pakistan’s Foreign Minister SM Qureshi and both attempted to iron out the problems that have emerged within their bilateral relations. 

This was followed with the visit to India by the US Secretary of State Pompeo and the US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis. The US gave special emphasis on their visit to India and their meetings with Sushma Swaraj, the Indian Minister of External Affairs and Nirmala Sitharaman, the Indian minister of defense.

The two plus two dialogue offered both countries an opportunity to identify the issues that have been troubling policy-makers and also helped them move forward in their interactive engagement pertaining to the region’s geo-political factors.

Trump realizes that his actions have been creating controversy all over the world. That has probably persuaded him to now seek some prime time world attention by hoping to chair the UN Security Council session during the current UNGA session. This decision, however, appears to have generated more qualms and anxiety instead of relief. Many countries are worried because they think Trump might make things more difficult with regard to the complex topics.

I guess one has to wait and see how the dynamics unfolds over the next two months.

Muhammad Zamir, a former ambassador, is an analyst specialized in foreign affairs, right to information, and good governance. He can be reached at [email protected]

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