WASHINGTON - The Trump administration is still in the throes of getting its foreign policy act together, expressing conflicting messages on Russia, Syria and other troubles abroad as it nears the 100th day of his presidency.
In domestic matters, Obamacare is still the law, at least for the time being, Trump’s tax cut plan is facing a tangle of GOP policy disputes in Congress that will not be taken up until August at the earliest, while the economy shows deepening signs of weakness.
Personnel troubles are rampant in the administration’s ranks, too. Many top managerial positions remain unfilled in countless departments and agencies. In the Department of Justice alone, replacements among the nation’s U.S. attorneys have yet to be named.
Its message coordination is in chaos, and nowhere was that more obvious than last week when the president said he’s “sending an armada, very powerful” toward Korea in the face of North Korea’s threatening missile tests.
But it turned out that the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier strike group was going in the opposition direction, cruising thousands of miles away from the Korean Peninsula.
Meantime, Trump remains at odds with his top advisers on how to deal with Russia and its alliance with Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad and Iran. “Things will work out fine between the U.S.A. and Russia,” he tweeted last week. “At the right time everyone will come to their senses & there will be lasting peace.” No one in his high command believes that.
Last week, his CIA Director Mike Pompeo lashed out at Russian president Vladimir Putin, describing the Kremlin thug, who has helped Assad butcher his own people, as “a man for whom veracity doesn’t translate into English.”
In a speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Pompeo described Moscow as an unredeemable adversary.
While Trump was still praising Putin and characterizing him as a good guy he can deal with, U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley was condemning him for his supportive role in the Syrian gassing of civilians, declaring “how many more children have to die before Russia cares” enough to stop Assad from his continuing atrocities.
And Secretary of State Rex Tillerson continues to attack Russia without letup, this time for being “incompetent or complicit” in the latest chemical warfare bombing raid that killed dozens of Syrians.
Other top Trump advisers no longer even try to offer a lucid rationale for the president’s undying support for the Kremlin boss who invaded Ukraine.
When Trump’s national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, was asked in an ABC News interview for an explanation of the president’s optimism “that things will work out fine” with Russia, he made a joke of it.
“Well,” he said, “when relations are at the lowest point, there’s nowhere to go but up.”
Meanwhile, the economy is showing worsening signs of distress across the country in consumer spending, weaker economic growth, unsold business inventories, and falling home sales.
Retail sales were down in March, particularly among auto dealers, which tumbled 1.5 percent, and restaurants, down 0.6 percent.
Building materials also fell last month, another sign of the housing industry’s sharp decline among new home construction, down by 6.8 percent, according the the U.S. Commerce Department, and fewer existing home sales, too.
U.S. home builders were reported to be “slightly less optimistic” about future sales, according to the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo builder index released this week.
U.S. factory output also fell in March, in what the Federal Reserve said was its biggest decline in seven months.
That’s leading to increased layoffs among some of the nation’s major manufacturers, including Boeing which plans to lay off hundreds of engineers in Washington state and elsewhere as a result of slowing sales.
The latest layoffs by the aircraft giant followed dismissal of nearly 2,000 employees earlier this year.
All of this is putting pressure on the administration and House Republican leaders to bring pro-growth tax cut legislation up for a vote earlier than its August target date.
As of now, there is growing political opposition among GOP conservatives to Trump’s border tax that will raise consumer prices, and likely lead to retaliation among our trading partners.
Meantime, Trump is asking Congress to give federal workers a nearly 2 percent raise, and the U.S. Treasury reports the government ran up a budget deficit of $176 billion in the month of March alone, nearly 15 percent higher than a year ago.
Hold on to your wallet.