The Hill (Op-Ed)
By Brent Budowsky
April 11, 2017
Presidents must choose. President Trump must choose between acting like leader of the free world and president of all the people, or governing like an “alt-right” ideologue who rules a one-party Republican state, regards American allies as adversaries, and treats Democrats and the free press as enemies of the people.
With the danger of war in Korea over nuclear weapons and inflamed tensions with Russia over mass murder in Syria, the Trump presidency stands as a house divided at a critical moment.
Warring factions struggle for power and battle over irreconcilable world views and clashing opinions about the use of American power and the nature of American democracy.
In this volatile moment of grave danger over war and peace, Stephen Bannon would be more at home advising far-right extremists in Europe than advising an American president who must unite our great, diverse nation at home and work with our democratic allies abroad.
He stands for the most dangerous brand of politics at the worst possible moment.
Bannon is a brilliant entrepreneur of ideas, but they are the wrong ideas.
He is consumed by a book about historical turnings that he translates into a bitterly divisive and dystopian ideology of destroying institutions and values that unite Americans at home and America with its allies abroad.
Consider the disastrous results when Bannonism was applied to Trump’s executive order on immigration.
Consider the fiasco surrounding the ill-fated move by House Republicans to replace and repeal ObamaCare. Imagine the danger if Bannon’s ideas infect national security at a time war is possible on two continents.
Trump is now simultaneously pursuing two major military escalations, one on the Korean peninsula and the other in the Mideast.
American warships are sailing toward South Korea, and American missiles are landing in Syria after the latest crimes against humanity by Syrian dictator Bashar Assad.
We have entered a dangerous moment for world affairs and American security.
Trump has dramatically changed his views about Russia and Syria, which is healthy. But Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who has many senior positions at State still vacant, is meeting the Russians while every day brings a cacophony of conflicting explanations of Trump’s Syrian “red lines.”
Syria, Russia and North Korea present hard choices on difficult matters with real danger of America becoming embroiled in escalating military conflicts on opposite sides of the world.
Trump must choose wisely and work carefully with Congress and allies. He could evolve into a modern-day Ronald Reagan, using his newfound hawkishness to create diplomatic leverage — or he could stumble in two major wars.
Trump must abandon Bannonism to avert disaster. He should not be attacking our intelligence services, showing contempt for democratic allies, falsely accusing former officials of the Obama administration of crimes, demonizing Democrats, threatening the free press, or undermining European unity. Those notions all follow Bannon’s extreme views of world affairs and democratic institutions.
Trump should abandon the destructive Bannon-like concept of “America First,” which leads to his repeated vow that if allies do not join us defending our security he will “do it alone.”
How many wars does Trump believe we should or can wage without allies whose democracies Bannon deplores with his dystopian world view?
Leading a divided nation in a dangerous world, Trump must end the civil war within his presidency and seek peace through strength, not division from extremism.
Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-Texas) and Rep. Bill Alexander (D-Ark.), then-chief deputy majority whip of the House. He holds an LL.M. in international financial law from the London School of Economics. He can be read on The Hill’s Contributors blog and reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The views expressed by this author are their own and are not the views of The Hill.
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