- Trump should consider appointing a special master to oversee the Flint Water Crisis, like former New Jersey governor Chris Christie.
President Trump just had his best week. After explaining to our “traditional allies” that we would no longer be their ATM, Trump travelled to Singapore to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, in what was arguably the most important diplomatic mission by a sitting president since Ronald Reagan went to Reykjavik. The meeting happily concluded with both sides pledging to work towards denuclearization and mutual comity. This comes in the wake of the North Koreans, feeling pressure from the United States, agreeing with the South Koreans to officially end the Korean War, which had been in a state of cease-fire since the 1950s. Had President Obama achieved results even approaching these, schools would’ve been closed in celebration, and work would have already begun to carve his face over President Washington’s on Mt. Rushmore. People (like him) have won Nobel Prizes for far less than what Trump just accomplished.
Come to think of it, perhaps the Nobel Prize should be like the Stanley Cup, where you only get to keep it for a little while before handing it off. How great would it be to see President Obama have to relinquish it to Donald Trump and Dennis Rodman?
But, who are we kidding? We all know there’s no way the Left would ever allow Trump to win a Nobel Peace Prize. Donald Trump could single-handedly repel an invasion from Mars with nothing more than a rolled up magazine, and the Left would complain he’s racist against Martians.
It’s sad that so many Democrats openly wish for this President to fail, and if you knew nothing about the Singapore trip other than that the Establishment Left is nearly apoplectic about it and uniformly condemning it as a failure, you would know that it must have been a success. This is quite a regrettable state of affairs.
There is a custom among presidents exiting office to leave to their successor a note of goodwill and bonhomie. I am reminded of the one that George H.W. Bush left to Bill Clinton, in which he wrote “You will be our President when you read this note… Your success is now our country’s success. I am rooting for you.” It is rather lamentable that today’s Democrats see Trump’s successes as a threat to our country, or at least to themselves, so they root for him to fail, which makes about as much sense as hoping that the pilot of a plane that we’re all on will fly us into the ground. Playing politics is one thing, but advancing peace in place of a nuclear showdown should be something that even Democrats can celebrate.
And this success did not happen by accident. Trump expertly – I can’t believe I’m using that word in reference to a man who has about as much nuance as a rhinoceros – balanced his escalation of a military threat to North Korea (from non-existent to credible and unpredictable) with the possibility of a thaw in the relationship that could lead to mutual prosperity. Given the two choices, the North Koreans simply decided they’d rather explore peace with a wealthy and powerful friend, than risk war with a mercurial president with something to prove, who bragged about the size of his nuclear button while positioning his military forces in forward attack positions. And who wouldn’t?
For as much criticism as Trump received for this “madman” approach to diplomacy, it seems to have worked. Maybe that’s the way to deal with madmen. Maybe the best diplomacy is not always diplomatic. Maybe, as Al Capone said, you get further with a kind word and a gun than with just a kind word. At least when dealing with a despot. And that sounds terrible, but all the contrary assumptions advanced by the people who got us nowhere seem to have been wrong.
We were warned that escalating tensions would bring war, but it only resulted in a war of words, as Kim reportedly called Trump a “dotard,” — which translates as “old lunatic,” but somehow actually sounds better as “dotard” — and Trump retaliated, calling him “short and fat” by saying “I would never call him short and fat,” which is, admittedly, a rather immature and dotarded thing to do. But even that tweet ended with Trump declaring his desire that the two would become friends, thereby signaling his willingness to seek mutually beneficial arrangements with his adversary.
One can dispute whether more traditional methods of discourse would have been more successful, but it cannot be disputed that those methods had not been successful up to this point. One can dispute whether anyone other than Trump could have pulled this off, but it cannot be disputed that he is the only one who actually did pull it off. Besides, could you imagine Kim Jong Un sitting across a negotiating table from President Hillary Clinton? Could you imagine the diplomatic crisis if they were both wearing the same pantsuit?
Trump achieved what others said could not be done and did not do, and considering that those are the same people whose idea of model diplomacy is the Iran Nuclear (Empowerment) Deal, Trump was wise not to listen to them, and to see possibility where they only saw quagmire. So congratulations President Trump, on what is a great first step in what will undoubtedly be a long process, which we should all hope ultimately succeeds.
But to “make America great again,” Trump needs to refocus his attention at home, and send a message to those Americans who are the most vulnerable that he is here for them. Protectionist tariffs might appeal to a few people in specific industries (to the detriment of the greater economy), but there are entire populations at risk who need to see that the President cares.
He can start in Flint, Michigan, where there’s been a water crisis for four years, as the drinking water was compromised by, among other things, high lead content. The situation was so bad that the residents were forced to drink only bottled water until as recently as April, when government officials declared that the lead content is now at a safe level. But that just means it is below the maximum level at which public health action is legally required to be taken. And testing done as recently as February found “28 water samples in elementary schools that registered above the federal limit of 15 parts per billion,” so even if the average is below the legal limit, there still seem to be areas where it is not. Further, according to the EPA, there is no safe level of lead content above absolute zero, “because lead is a toxic metal that can be harmful to human health even at low exposure levels.” So the mayor of Flint has threatened to sue the state for ending the bottled water program, while Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, the physician who demonstrated the increased lead levels in Flint children resulting from this water, are continuing to urge the use of bottled water until all the lead pipes in Flint are replaced. But the pipes will not be entirely replaced until 2020 at the earliest.
This crisis screams for presidential intervention.
It bears noting that Michigan was an important part of the Rust Belt Revolution that put Trump in office. Michigan that had voted for a Democratic president in six straight elections, from 1992 through 2012, and Flint is a majority African-American city. If Trump wants to make progress with African-Americans he needs to do more than pardon Jack Johnson, the black boxer who died eighty years ago who nobody today knows anything about, or Kim Kardashian’s friend, whose name I can’t even remember even though this was a week ago. Those gestures are all well and good, but that doesn’t send the message to the average African-American family that Trump has their back, and it does little to dispel the stereotype of Republicans as irredeemably wealthy, white, and uncaring for others.
President Trump should schedule a trip Flint immediately, call it an “emergency trip,” and publicly declare that efforts to remediate the water have been inadequate, that he will not settle for anything less than water that is absolutely safe to drink, and that the present schedule that will not have all the lead pipes replaced for another few years must be dramatically accelerated.
Trump might even consider appointing a special master to oversee the process, like former New Jersey governor Chris Christie, who is looking for work and becomes a human wrecking ball when dealing with disasters and bureaucratic red tape. Christie loves press conferences and embarrassing slow-moving bureaucrats into action, and like him or not he does get results. This could present the opportunity he needs to redeem himself.
And it’s an opportunity for President Trump to demonstrate that he cares about all Americans, not just those who are most likely to vote for him. That he’s the guy to get things done for the little guy. That he is our President, and that his successes are all of our successes. Let the Democrats root against that.
The Democrats don’t have a lot to teach President Trump when it comes to negotiating foreign trade deals, or with despots, or developing tax policy, or any number of other things. But when it comes to domestic politics they understand something that Trump still does not, which is that you should never let a good crisis go to waste.
North Korea was probably President Trump’s greatest achievement to date. But his legacy should be that he made our cities great again.