by Sebastian Gorka, opinion contributor · March 10, 2018
For a man who has been in the public limelight for more than 30 years, it is remarkable how little Donald Trump is properly understood, simply because he is now the president of the United States and no longer a real-estate magnate and media celebrity.
When I was in the White House, and even today, if ever I am asked to help explain the way President Trump thinks and acts, I always start with the same advice: Read “The Art of the Deal.” For diplomats, journalists or simply the unconvinced, this is the quickest and most accurate way of understanding just how much America changed when we chose the iconoclastic non-politician for the highest office in the land.
Recent decisions from the Oval Office, especially on steel and aluminum tariffs, as well as the developments out of the Korean peninsula, underscore the enormity of the shift in the American politics and our role in the world as a nation which shapes geopolitics as opposed to just riding along its wavetops and being buffeted by events.
One of the earliest declarative statements from “The Art of the Deal” is the advice Donald Trump gives that you should never ever be so invested in a yet-to-be-sealed deal that you cannot walk away from it at any juncture. This attitude informed President Trump for nigh on half a century in the private sector, and it still informs his decisions today as president, from the Paris Accord to NAFTA.
The negotiations themselves, or maintaining the established way of doing business, are never the objectives. The real objective is defined by realizing your interests, which may not be possible if the status quo is maintained. President Trump may not be a biblical exegete, but I can assure you that he instinctively knows that there are times when you simply have to “turn over the tables in the temple” to get things done.
In other words, outside of our borders, in relations with other nations and organizations, there are very few sacred cows, especially if the matter at hand clashes directly with promises candidate Trump made to the American people. That is why, for example, despite howls from the establishment and even members of his own team, President Trump was never going to cave on recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of the eternal Jewish state or renege on his promises to American coal miners and steel workers.
This commitment to promises made is all the more valid given that the president has minimal respect for the so-called “elite” that has been responsible for all the many policies that have undermined America financially and otherwise in recent decades, from interminable wars in the Middle East to trade deals and international regimes that facilitated the rise of a Communist China which steals our secrets wholesale, intimidates our friends and props up rogue regimes who preach our destruction.
Simply put, this is the “Revenge of Common Sense,” a characteristic of the new commander-in-chief which appeals to ordinary Americans all over the country, including areas that were long considered Democratic strongholds. The bucking of the establishment and its conventional wisdoms is, in fact, something the president relishes, most particularly when it comes to otherwise indefensible nostrums which have embedded themselves into the collective mind of the body politic.
How many times have we had to hear over the last few weeks that there are only 600,000 Americans working in the steel industry but millions in steel-dependent manufacturing, such as the automotive sector? Yet, did anyone stop to think what the logical ramifications of this “critique” of the president’s tariff policy truly are?
Such an unsophisticated boilerplate criticism only holds water if you subscribe to a belief that a national economy is a closed system and that we should never increase the number of steel workers because somehow for every additional foundryman you hire you must fire an assembler on a manufacturing line. Such zero-sum thinking is fine for a class in dialectic materialism in Pyongyang, but not on Wall Street, or the Chamber of Commerce, or anywhere else within a free market. Like the president, most Americans know instinctively that wealth is not an issue of redistribution in a bubble, but that it has always been created, from the historic Gold Rush, to Henry Ford, to Silicon Valley.
President Obama sent Hillary Clinton to present a mislabeled “reset button” to the Kremlin. In reality, there was no reset. The Obama administration did not effectively address the expansionist and destabilizing behavior of former KGB colonel Vladimir Putin, not even after he invaded Ukraine. With regard to the Middle East, the Obama White House empowered the murderous regime in Iran by releasing $150 billion to Tehran, paying a cash ransom and agreeing to the Iran deal that wouldn’t, in fact, prevent a nuclear breakout by the mullahs.
In Egypt, President Obama embraced the Muslim Brotherhood government of Mohammed Morsi. In Iraq, he decided to prematurely withdraw before our work was done and Al Qaeda had been crushed, thus sowing the seeds for ISIS. With regard to Asia, the last administration refused to take any meaningful action as Beijing expanded its reach with military installations on illegal artificial atolls, all the while perpetuating its acquiescence to North Korea’s continued policy of nuclear blackmail of Washington and the West. Ironically, all this while in ownership of a Nobel Peace Prize.
President Trump may not have been awarded a prize by anyone, let alone from the now increasingly irrelevant Nobel Committee. But he has effected a true reset, and a global one at that, from a revitalized NATO finally committed, after decades of sloth, to paying its fair share on defense, to the crushing of the physical caliphate of ISIS, to the restoration of our relations with nations we had turned our backs on, most importantly, Israel and Egypt. It is a reset that included tough talk with China and North Korea, talk followed up by actions that have led to a response on behalf of Pyongyang, which may take us to the cusp of bringing peace and stability to the region after 65 years of potential war.
And we are only in the fourteenth month of the Trump presidency.
Sebastian Gorka, Ph.D., is a national security strategist with Fox News and former deputy assistant and strategist to President Trump. He is the author of the New York Times bestseller “Defeating Jihad: The Winnable War.” You can follow him on Twitter @SebGorka.
The Hill · by Sebastian Gorka, opinion contributor · March 10, 2018