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Global Concerns Regarding American Foreign-Policy Before Trump’s Speech

he United States must use all of its economic and political tools to continue supporting the restoration of democracy in Venezuela," New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez, the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee.

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The U.S. Capitol Building as seen Nov., 19, 2011. VOA

From Russia to Venezuela, U.S. lawmakers highlighted weighty global concerns and American foreign-policy challenges on the eve of President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address to Congress.

A top Democrat on Monday savaged Trump’s handing of matters on the world stage.

“Tomorrow, the president will say, predictably, that the state of our union is strong,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York said. “But the truth is … the state of the president’s foreign policy is incoherent, inconsistent, cynical in the extreme, and has undermined American power and our national interest.”

Schumer added, “Russia, China, North Korea — three of the worst and least democratic countries on Earth, the countries that pose the greatest threat to America — they are treated with kid gloves, while our allies, like those in NATO, get harsh words from this president. It’s inside-out, it’s topsy-turvy.”

Not so, according to Nebraska Republican Sen. Deb Fischer, who pointed to the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw the United States from the 1980s-era Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with the former Soviet Union, calling it a “tough but correct” decision.

FILE - Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill, April 8, 2014.
Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill, April 8, 2014.

“The administration is right to leave the agreement, and responsibility for the failure of the INF Treaty lies squarely with Russia,” Fischer said. “The United States must now take additional steps to ensure that Russia derives no military advantage from its blatant violation of this accord. We must impose costs on Russia. Again, they are building banned weapons systems. We are not.”

Trump’s decision, which he is likely to highlight in the foreign policy portion of Tuesday’s address, has sparked grave concerns from Democrats.

“I have no doubt that Russia is in violation of the INF Treaty,” Democratic Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware said in a statement. “I am concerned, though, that the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw from the treaty without a clear plan for bringing Russia back into compliance will lead to a new arms race and endanger the people of the United States and Europe.”

Troops in Syria

Trump is preparing his speech weeks after announcing a planned U.S. troop withdrawal from Syria, hailing progress in the fight against Islamic State.

On Monday, the Senate continued to debate a Middle East policy bill, including a Republican amendment expressing concern over precipitous military withdrawals from Syria and Afghanistan.

“We simply cannot afford to leave a vacuum in places where terrorists … can lodge, grow, train, and then export their terrorist attacks,” Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn said, urging the administration “not to take our foot off the gas pedal” in the fight against violent extremists.

FILE - Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, takes questions during a TV news interview on Capitol Hill in Washington, April 26, 2018.
Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, takes questions during a TV news interview on Capitol Hill in Washington, April 26, 2018. VOA

But another Republican, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, applauded Trump’s announcement.

“We stand with you @realDonaldTrump! Time to declare victory, end these wars and focus on rebuilding our own homeland. Don’t listen to the naysayers in the swamp, you are making the right decision!” Paul tweeted.

Democrat Chris Murphy also opposes the amendment, but for very different reasons. On Twitter, the Connecticut senator urged his colleagues to “read every word of the amendment,” adding that he fears open-ended troop commitments in the Islamic world will lay the groundwork “for an unauthorized war with Iran.”

Venezuela crisis

Turmoil in Venezuela is also on lawmakers’ minds, with members of both parties broadly standing behind the Trump administration’s embrace of opposition leader Juan Guaido.

Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio wants the administration to go further.

“(Thirteen) European nations now recognize Interim President @jguaido as legitimate leader of #Venezuela. Next logical steps: – seize #MaduroRegime assets in their respective countries & place at the disposal of the legitimate govt; and – contribute to intl humanitarian relief efforts,” Rubio tweeted.

Many Democrats are satisfied with Trump’s steps regarding Venezuela, but add a note of caution.

FILE - Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., speaks to members of the media on Capitol Hill in Washington, Nov. 28, 2018.
Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., speaks to members of the media on Capitol Hill in Washington, Nov. 28, 2018. VOA
Also Read: Magnetic North Pole Is Moving Towards Russia! Crosses The International Date Line In 2017 And Is Leaving The Canadian Arctic On Its Way To Siberia

“The United States must use all of its economic and political tools to continue supporting the restoration of democracy in Venezuela,” New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez, the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, wrote in an opinion piece for the Miami Herald newspaper. “However, it would be a huge mistake for the Trump administration to miscalculate in any way, leading to a military intervention involving U.S. troops.”

Menendez added, “Such a move, while Trumpesque in its fire and fury, would be a death blow to the very credibility of Venezuela’s burgeoning democratic movement. The freedom of the Venezuelan people can only come from their own hands.” (VOA)

Next Story

Economy to Overcome Other Issues in 2020, says Trump

President Donald Trump is hoping that simple message in 2020 will help foil his eventual Democratic Party challenger. 

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President Donald Trump
U.S. President Donald Trump attends a Keep America Great Rally at the Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky, U.S. VOA

“It’s the economy, stupid” has been a catchphrase of U.S. presidential politics since the 1992 campaign, when Bill Clinton unseated incumbent George H.W. Bush. Nearly three decades later, U.S. President Donald Trump is hoping that simple message in 2020 will help foil his eventual Democratic Party challenger.

Trump — in tweets, at political rallies and in remarks to reporters — constantly emphasizes the performance of the U.S. economy, stock market surges, low unemployment rates and his tax cuts to boast he is doing a great job as president.

Economists and political analysts are divided on whether that message will enable the incumbent to stay in office beyond January 2021.

Culture war, partisan split

Ever since Clinton, “we’ve all kind of assumed that should be true. And I think for the most part, it is,” said Ryan McMaken, senior editor and economist at the Mises Institute, a politics and economics research group in Alabama. He cautioned, though, that Trump finds himself on one side of a culture war that his predecessors did not have to confront, as well as a deep partisan divide on consumer confidence.

Walmart Supercentre
Balo Balogun labels items in preparation for a holiday sale at a Walmart Supercenter, in Las Vegas. Black Friday once again kicks off the start of the holiday shopping season. But it will be the shortest season since 2013 because of Thanksgiving falling on the fourth Thursday in November, the latest possible date it can be. VOA

Policy analyst James Pethokoukis at the Washington-based American Enterprise Institute, a public policy research group, also is cautious about the economy prevailing over all other issues.

“Just having a strong economy is not going to guarantee you re-election,” he said. “People often point back to the 2000 election, which occurred after a decade of tremendous economic growth any way you want to measure it — gross domestic product, jobs and wage growth. And yet, [Clinton’s vice president] Al Gore still lost that election to George W. Bush.”

McMaken questioned whether voters in key swing states — such as Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Ohio — who cast ballots for Trump in 2016 were experiencing enough of the touted economic performance to vote again for the president.

Overall, however, “it’s not a bad economy to run on if you’re Donald Trump,” said Pethokoukis.

Trump, said to have concerns about the direction of the economy ahead of next November’s election, will likely push for more tax cuts, passage of a renegotiated North American trade pact and continued pressure on the country’s central banking system, the Federal Reserve, to lower interest rates.

A LB Steel LLC's employee manufactures a component
A LB Steel LLC’s employee manufactures a component for new Amtrak Acela trains built in partnership with Alstom in Harvey, Illinois, U.S. VOA

Trouble ahead?

There are rumblings of economic storm clouds on the horizon. The impact can be seen in Trump’s trade war with China, which has hurt U.S. farmers and raised prices for consumer goods. It’s also reflected in the Institute for Supply Management’s Manufacturing Index, an underperforming U.S. Private Sector Job Quality Index and a ballooning record national debt, in addition to the worrying level of money owed to creditors by middle-class Americans.

“We’ve actually been in a sort of a manufacturing recession, seen a shrinkage of factory jobs, the exact kinds of jobs that I’m sure that people voting for the president thought would be a lot better now,” said Pethokoukis.

So far, none of this has prompted a major stock market correction.

“There seems to be a lot of adaptations in the markets to Trump’s America. That may work to his advantage,” said the Mises Institute’s McMaken.

Analysts note a lack of emphasis on economic platforms so far by the leading Democratic U.S. presidential candidates seeking to oust Trump next year.

But such a platform is likely to be touted when the opposition party holds its convention next July in Milwaukee and picks its campaign ticket. Pethokoukis suggested the Democratic Party should devise a plan with a goal to boost American worker productivity, which has flatlined for years.

The great divide

McMaken pointed out that the widening chasm between the well-off and those struggling economically in the United States makes Trump vulnerable — something emphasized by left-leaning Democratic presidential contenders such as Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

Donald Trump says the economy isn't doing well
Tents and tarps erected by homeless people are shown along sidewalks and streets in the skid row area of downtown Los Angeles, California, U.S. VOA

“On the ground level, I would say just in general, the economy isn’t doing as well,” concluded McMaken.

ALSO READ: Greed For Power May Demolish The Democracy

Amid an impeachment drive by the Democrats, Trump is repeatedly hammering on a specific message to those questioning his suitability for office while being impressed with the performance of their pension accounts during his presidency.

“Love me or hate me, you’ve got to vote for me,” Trump said at a rally in New Hampshire in August, warning that Americans’ investments portfolios would go “down the tubes” if he lost next year’s election. (VOA)