Weekly Letter to the President
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INAUGURATION,   January 20, 2009

Drunk in its stale air
For two hundred years.
Fettered in mind and body,
The soul, the safe escape

To let me breathe the cries
Of my heart singing
Tears of mel-an-choly.

The tears flow free today
Washing the stains of blood
And sweat in brotherhood.

Raise the curtain then an'
Let the world look in
On this promised land --
We breathe free today.... almost.

--- Arshad M. Khan
We will be known forever by the tracks we leave.
---  Native American proverb
September 7, 2018

Mr. President:  The sensation this week is Bob Woodward's book on the Trump White
House titled, "Fear:  Trump in the White House."  It shows a President Trump
universally disparaging his own White House staff, even cabinet members.  His first
Chief of Staff Reince Priebus is likened to a rat, "He just scurries around."  Attorney
General Jeff Sessions is, "mentally retarded.  He's this dumb Southerner.  He couldn't
even be a one-person country lawyer down in Alabama".  To Commerce Secretary
Wilbur Ross:  "You're past your prime."  He could well be, otherwise he would have
resigned following such a clear and direct indication of no confidence.

As can be expected such 'favors' are reciprocated.  Thus Chief of Staff John Kelly,
"We're in Crazytown."  He is alleged also to have called President Trump an "idiot'
repeatedly.  Defense Secretary James Mattis told an aide that Trump understands
foreign policy at the level of a "fifth or sixth grader".  Of course, former Secretary of
State Rex Tillerson was once quoted in news reports as calling Trump "a f****ing

All of which serves as an introduction for a quick look at Trump's foreign policy.  To
say it is unorthodox is to minimize the upending of the status quo ante.  He has
simultaneously angered European allies, Canada and Mexico, threatened trade war
with China and broken the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action agreement with Iran.  
He has embraced Israel's Netanyahu in the tightest hug seen, moving the U .S.
embassy to Jerusalem -- the sole major power to do so -- and dumping the
Palestinians in a garbage bin of misery by cutting US funding for their UN Relief and
Works Agency lifeline.

His reflexive attack on Syria following a chemical attack in the country established a
trigger-happy Trump reputation, which might paradoxically have helped negotiations
with North Korea.  Tensions have subsided following the summit and the North
Koreans have dismantled nuclear testing facilities, although it would be naive to
imagine they will give up nuclear weapons.  The ambiguity of informal promises
continues to cause mild acrimony.

Mr. Trump is not getting a new wall from Mexico but a new NAFTA has been agreed
upon pending Canada's decision.  The White House says it will continue talks with its
northern neighbor.  The issues with Canada are of course different from Mexico.

For several decades, Donald Trump has been accusing America's allies notably the
major European powers and Japan of getting a free ride on defense while they focus
their resources on improving their own quality of life.  He wants Europeans to abide by
the NATO stated goal of spending at least 2 percent of GDP on defense.  A  majority
now have plans to do so by 2024.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has neatly side-stepped a trade war.  As early as April
2018, he showed a willingness to compromise, pledging to reduce barriers to foreign
investment in his country.  Meanwhile, more tariffs escalating tensions continue to be
imposed by both sides as trade negotiations continue and China enjoys a huge trade

The wily Vladimir Putin manages to maintain good relations with countries that are
sworn enemies to each other, for example Israel and Iran.  He is selling arms to NATO
member Turkey and he has had a friendly summit with Mr. Trump ... plus he is getting
his own way in Syria.

So the report card on Trump's foreign policy?  He is being taken seriously by his allies
as he continues to be outflanked by China and Russia.