With Trump, What Is Next?
OpinionGuest Column

With Trump, What Is Next?

State Department budget cuts are the latest sign that the president is giving up America's world-leading role.

Cartoon by Kap, La Vanguardia, Spain
Cartoon by Kap, La Vanguardia, Spain

Jews depend on a stable, knowledgeable, competent government. The hacking of the Democratic National Committee by Russia, confirmed by the intelligence agencies, has laid the ground for tearing apart the U.S. government.

What Donald Trump got from Russia, with its assistance in supplying Wikileaks with the DNC materials, is being paid back right now.

One example is what is happening to the State Department. The Trump administration has fired or failed to retain a number of the top career executives who had many years of institutional knowledge, including the three employees with the most experience, one of whom has been part of the State Department team involved in many negotiations with the Russians.

And this is a new administration that has no experience in the affairs of state.

Harold Kirtz

It takes years to replace that kind of expertise and knowledge. These people were not political appointees; they were career employees who served whoever was president.

They were part of the guts of the agency and were doing the important day-to-day work, no matter who was in power.

They pledged themselves to work in the public interest, some having served since the presidency of Gerald Ford or Jimmy Carter and worked during the Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Clinton, George W. Bush and Obama administrations.

There is a question whether these employees will even be replaced.

If vacancies are not filled, the work of the department will be jeopardized. The proposed Trump budget for the next fiscal year, starting Oct. 1, would reduce the appropriations of the State Department by 37 percent.

Why would a president do this type of damage to some of the most important duties of a government?

Donald Trump has so far shown no appreciation for these concerns. In fact, the only explanation that makes any sense is that he wants the State Department to be weakened. The only reason for that explanation is Trump’s connection to Russia.

With the reduction of these employees, the State Department is less able to exert its soft power in the world.

That soft power provides our value-based, democratic-based, human-rights-based advocacy throughout the world — and the ability to negotiate with the hard-headed realities of the world.

One product of that soft power is the writing and announcement of the Human Rights Report about what is happening in the world; it is a widely anticipated product of the State Department.

Even with all our challenges, the world still looks to the United States as the major world leader.

But Vladimir Putin hates that the United States is so powerful because of the values and standards with which the United States has led the world.

So what happened?

The annual Human Rights Report is usually announced with great fanfare. The world awaits the advocacy of the U.S. human rights agenda and judgment.

The United States, even with the problems we face, is looked up to, through either hope or fear.

But the Trump administration has this month weakened the annual release of the report, for no explicable reason except to please Putin (or, also frighteningly, other bad actors in the world).

Bad actors around the world will be emboldened by the weakening of America’s position.

Another example of this concern is the inexplicable advocacy of a single plank for the Republican platform right before the July Republican National Convention.

The only plank that the Trump campaign had any interest in was the one advocating arming the Ukrainians to defend themselves from the incursion by Russia.

The Trump campaign neutered that plank. The only explanation is that it was paying back Putin.

None of this is good for the Jews. Jews are better off when the government is stable and committed to the values of a liberal democracy (liberal in the general sense, not in the partisan sense).

Cozying up to a dictator who is a former KGB operative, who is known to eliminate opponents and journalists committed to getting the truth out, who is the richest person in the world because of the worst excesses of crony capitalism, is not valuing human rights, including the rights of minorities.

There have already been concerns in the Jewish community: Trump’s retweeting of anti-Semitic websites during the campaign; his slowness to respond to the bomb threats roiling the community; and his suggestion during the early stages of the bomb threats that the episodes could be false flags — that is, Jews were doing it to undermine him.

It is unsettling to call for resistance to anything that the president of the United States does or wishes to do. But at this point, it is up to Trump, if he wants the approval of the vast majority of the American people, to change his predilections, to stand up for American values, and to become a more normal person and leader who can inspire confidence in a competent, reliable, knowledgeable, patriotic chief executive.

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