Viewpoints on Energy, Geopolitics, and Civilization
Jonathan Bernstein / Bloomberg:
Why Trump Is Failing in Venezuela
Who's in charge here?
He feuds with aides, acts impulsively and holds contradictory opinions.
It's no wonder he can't get the results he wants.
We finally may have found a peak Donald Trump headline : “A frustrated Trump questions his administration's Venezuela strategy.”
The Washington Post story that goes with it is a classic. It seems that Trump hired John Bolton to be his national security adviser, cleared the path for him to be the main policy maker on foreign affairs, and … is now shocked that Bolton is something of a warmonger and that his schemes don't produce perfect and painless results overnight. Trump and his aides also aren't really eager to disguise that the president is something of an outsider to his own administration's policy-making process.
Remember: It's not uncommon for presidents to fight with executive-branch departments and agencies for control over policy. Those bodies have multiple masters. But splits between the president and his own staffers in the White House are far rarer, since such people work directly for, and answer only to, the president himself. This presidency is very different.
The Post reports that Trump is wavering on official U.S. policy toward Venezuela after a botched attempt to oust the country's strongman president last week. Two considerations seem to be driving the change of heart. One is Trump's apparently gut-driven decision that President Nicolás Maduro, whom the administration has been pressuring to cede power, now seems to him a tougher guy than opposition leader Juan Guaidó. Trump tends to like tough guys, and seems at times to base his foreign-policy preferences on his admiration for those he decides fit in that category. The other factor is a recent phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin. My assumption, contrary to some speculation out there, is that Putin can manipulate Trump simply by flattering him and playing to his idea of toughness. But whatever his method, it sure does seem to work a lot.
There are several other telling details. The Post's reporters note Trump's customary impatience in getting results. And of course the whole story is based on leaks from within the White House that put the president in a bad light, a hallmark of this administration. But perhaps most revealing is a description of Trump's attitude toward the use of force. In both Venezuela and Iran, the report says, “the administration has adopted a get-tough policy that appeals to Trump's instincts to project American power abroad but that also echoes the kind of military adventurism he has long ridiculed.”
In other words, Trump is both for and against the aggressive use of force, depending on how it's worded. That's a pretty normal attitude among voters, who don't have firm preferences on most policies and can agree with contradictory sentiments depending on how they're presented. But it isn't normal for most politicians – and certainly not for presidents.
1. Keith E. Whittington on impeachment when there's little chance of removal .
2. Dave Hopkins on voters and electability . I agree, but I'd add that if and when someone other than Joe Biden has a surge in popularity, it will likely be accompanied by messages that he or she is really the electable one.
3. Jennifer Victor on money in politics .
4. David Schultz and Manisha Madhava at the Monkey Cage on the elections in India .
5. Greg Sargent speaks with House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff about the escalating confrontation between Trump and Congress .
6. And my Bloomberg Opinion colleague Noah Feldman on the president's assertion of executive privilege .
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Jonathan Bernstein is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering politics and policy. He taught political science at the University of Texas at San Antonio and DePauw University and wrote A Plain Blog About Politics. Petroleumworld reprint this article in the interest of our readers.
Editor's Note: This article was originally published by Bloomberg, on May 09, 2019. All comments posted and published on Petroleumworld, do not reflect either for or against the opinion expressed in the comment as an endorsement of Petroleumworld.
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