Thursday, Feb 22, 2018 | Last Update : 06:12 PM IST
Unlike his election rhetoric, Trump was more nuanced and gave some explanations of what he planned to do.
After enduring an avalanche of scathing critique: the bull in the China shop, the elephant in the room, the President out of control, etc., President Donald Trump delivered his maiden address to the joint session of the US Congress on March 1, which has been described by the New York Times, a known critic as “the most presidential speech he has ever given”. And the Washington Post, which hasn’t spared him either, grudgingly acknowledged, “this may have been the best speech Trump has given since he entered politics in June 2015 and people rooting for his imminent demise may be disappointed.” These two comments speak a lot about Mr Trump’s evolving presidency.
Invoking the ideal of “one nation, one people and one destiny”, he sent out the message of national unity and strength. Talking of the renewal of American spirit, American greatness, optimism, national pride and promising “impossible dreams firmly within” people’s grasp, Mr Trump conjured up an inspiring presidential vision: “From now on, America will be empowered by our aspirations, not burdened by fears inspired by the future, not bound by the failures of the past and guided by our vision, not blinded by our doubts.”
To sceptics who apprehend an inward looking US under him, Mr Trump had a message: “Our allies will find that America is once again ready to lead. All the nations of the world — friends or foes — will find that America is strong...” While expressing strong support to Nato and stressing that the US foreign policy calls for “a direct, robust and meaningful engagement with the world, he reiterated his earlier view that Nato and other allies must “take a direct and meaningful role in both strategic and military operations, and pay their fair share of the cost.” Admitting that “America is better off, when there is less conflict — not more” he laid down his priority: “my job is not to represent the world. My job is to represent the US.”
“America First” seems the buzz word as he decides to withdraw from the “job killing” Trans-Pacific Partnership, blames North American Free Trade Agreement for the “loss of one fourth of American manufacturing jobs” and promises to build a beautiful wall, stop drugs from pouring in, dismantle the criminal cartel and reduce violent crime.
Unlike his election rhetoric, Mr Trump was more nuanced and gave some explanations of what he planned to do. Recommending repealing of the Obamacare, he pointed out, “The way to make health insurance available to everyone is to lower the cost of health insurance, and that is what we will do.”
“America must put its own citizens first… because only then, can we make America great again,” must have been music to the ears of his middle class supporters. Referring to dying industries, export of jobs and wealth to foreign countries and spending $6 trillion in West Asia, he promised an investment of $1 trillion in infrastructure sector financed through both public and private capital guided by “buy American and hire American”, which will create millions of jobs. Claiming to have “placed freeze on non-military and non-essential Federal workers”, begun to drain the swamp of government corruption, created a deregulation task force inside every government agency, he promised to “restart the engine of the American economy — making it easier to do business in the US and much harder for companies to leave”. Referring to America’s global trade deficit of $600 billion, Mr Trump promised tax reduction maintaining that, “We must create level playing field for American companies.”
He tried to offer a context to his immigration policy claiming that “94 million Americans are out of labour force, over 43 million people are now living in poverty, and over 43 million Americans are on food stamps.” Like an Indian rope trick magician he assured — “every problem can be solved” and promised to bring back millions of jobs.
Though the blanket ban on seven Muslim-majority countries (stopped by the courts) was roundly criticised in America and abroad, very few could disagree when he claimed that it was “reckless to allow uncontrolled entry from places where proper vetting cannot occur” and “we can’t allow our nation to become a sanctuary for extremists.” His emphasis: “our obligation is to serve, protect, and defend the citizens of the US” and to “protect our nation from radical Islamic terrorism” resonates with most Americans.
Indian techie Srinivas Kuchibhotla’s killing in Kansas has caused considerable anxiety and concerns among Indian Americans, specially among the recent arrivals. The issue of their security, H1B visa, hike in visa fee, greater market access, joint defence production in India and Narendra Modi’s visit to the US might have figured in foreign secretary S. Jaishankar discussion in Washington. Some see a silver lining for India in Mr Trump’s preference for “merit-based visa system”. Barring cooks and chauffeurs, most of Indian visa applicants, are not lower skilled immigrants. Besides, it shouldn’t be too difficult for Indian IT giants: TCS, Infosys, Wipro and HCL to upgrade the skills of their employees so that merit-based visa system won’t be an insurmountable obstacle for their entry in the US.
Vowing to defend the US from radical Islamic terror he revealed that the department of defence was developing a plan to demolish and destroy the ISIS network.
Going by the conventional wisdom, Mr Modi and Mr Trump should hit off well and develop a personal chemistry. Both are strong, nationalistic and proud leaders who exude confidence, energy and dynamism and unfold an inspiring vision for their respective country: make it great again! Mr Trump, the first US businessman President and Mr Modi India’s shrewdest politician with Guajarati business acumen in his veins, should be able to strike win-win deals for both sides in spite of serious differences on certain economic and strategic issues. Mr Trump should live up to his assertion that he will be India’s best friend in the White House. He can’t find a more reliable strategic partner than Mr Modi.
Coming on the heels of Michael Flynn’s exit, attorney general Jefferson Sessions seems on a slippery road with unforeseen consequences.
Mr Trump must unequivocally condemn the violent attacks on innocent people and order stern action against the perpetrators lest the whole fabric of multi-racial, multi-ethnic, multi-religious, pluralistic American society is destroyed.
The writer is a former ambassador