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Washington Diary: Royal Turf War between Donald Trump and President Barack Obama

"Stay strong Israel, January 20th is fast approaching!" wrote Trump. "As to the UN, things will be different after Jan. 20th"

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Donald Trump and Barack Obama at White House. VOA

Washington, December 31, 2016: One country, one flag and one President. Then there is the President-elect. One thinks “Yes, we (still) can.” The other can’t wait to undo it before his date with destiny — January 20.

Twenty days before Donald Trump gets the keys of the White House, sparks are flying in a right royal turf war between him and its first black tenant, Barack Obama.

Call it a desire to save his legacy or pique over the stunning defeat of his chosen successor, Hillary Clinton, Obama is trying to erect “roadblocks”, as the mogul sees them, on issues ranging from environment to ties with Israel and Russia.

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To “punish” Russia in what American spooks branded operation “Grizzly Steppe” to help Trump in the presidential poll, Obama expelled 35 Russian “spies” and closed two Russian recreation compounds.

For their “malicious cyber activity,” and phishing expeditions, Russians allegedly used several outlandish secret code names like “Seadaddy,” “Hammertoss,” “Energetic Bear,” “Fancy Bear and “Carberp.”

Ever sceptical of the spooks’ finding that the Russians had hacked into Democratic Party and the rival Clinton campaign chief’s emails, Trump was not impressed. The country needs to “move on to bigger and better things,” he responded with atypical restraint.

“Nevertheless, in the interest of our country and its great people,” Trump agreed to meet with leaders of the intelligence community next week “to be updated about the facts of this situation.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin too did not take the bait. Declining “to create problems for American diplomats” in a deft political move, he instead invited children of US diplomats to celebrate the New Year and Russian Orthodox Christmas at the Kremlin.

Breaking rank with his own Republican Party leaders, Trump, who wants to mend fences with Moscow called Putin “very smart!” for his “great move on delay” in responding to the ‘lame duck’ Obama administration’s provocation.

Earlier, as the US abstained on a UN resolution condemning Israel for Jewish settlements in the West Bank, a livid Trump tweeted: “We cannot continue to let Israel be treated with such total disdain and disrespect.”

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“Stay strong Israel, January 20th is fast approaching!” wrote Trump. “As to the UN, things will be different after Jan. 20th.”

“Doing my best to disregard the many inflammatory President O statements and roadblocks. Thought it was going to be a smooth transition – NOT!” Trump complained in another tweet.

But what really got the mogul’s goat was Obama’s claim that he would have defeated Trump if he was allowed to run for a third term.

“President Obama said that he thinks he would have won against me. He should say that but I say NO WAY!” Trump responded though Obama’s criticism appeared directed more at Clinton.

“Hillary Clinton performed wonderfully,” but sure of victory, she “played it safe,” and missed opportunities to present a narrative that would have appealed to voters, Obama suggested.

But loathe to give up a good fight, Trump doubled down saying, “Obama campaigned hard (and personally) in the very important swing states, and lost. The voters wanted to MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!””The world was gloomy before I won – there was no hope. Now the market is up nearly 10 percent and Christmas spending is over a trillion dollars!” he tweeted.

Taking yet another jab at Obama, the mogul thanked himself as “the US Consumer Confidence Index surged. to its HIGHEST LEVEL IN MORE THAN 15 YEARS! Thanks Donald!”

Obama may or may not have won in a presidential contest against Trump, but he bested the billionaire 22 percent to 15 percent in a Gallup poll to retain his title as America’s most admired man for the ninth year.

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And Hillary Clinton might have lost the race for the White House, but for the 15th year in a row, she was America’s most admired woman – a title she has won a record 21 times.

Another AP-Times Square Alliance poll found that Democrats were more likely to say 2016 was worse for them with a Miami University professor using just three words to explain why: “Trump, Trump, Trump.”

But having won the poll that mattered, Trump did not fire a tweet to contest either poll or call them rigged as winners and losers of 2016 mulled what it could be and what 2017 would be. (IANS)

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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)