Just because Donald Trump is a shoot from the hip president, doesn't mean we should fall into the same trap

As a personality I find nothing attractive about Donald Trump - he is, frankly, a pig of a man. But we need to avoid being overtaken by emotion when unpicking the state of the world, which is why in my previous column I tried to make the case for balance and moderation as we react to events.

So let's have a crack at putting this moderate approach into action. For a start, it seems fair to say that Trump's foreign policy already looks to be in trouble.

The president is such a shoot-from-the-hip unguided missile. The modus operandi in dealing with foreign leaders – and regular citizens for that matter – should include politeness and tact. We've seen hints of this with Shinzo Abe and, overnight, Justin Trudeau. Firm positions are fine, but spoken without rancour and belligerency.

Trump's call with Australia's prime minister was heated, with Trump telling the Malcolm Turnbull that the Manus Island refugee deal he struck up last year with the Obama administration " the worst deal ever" and their conversation was "the worst call by far." Reports on a recent call between Trump and the president of Mexico place it at various levels of tension, with one report saying Trump threatened to send military forces to Mexico to "take care of" crime and drug problems.

Adding to that, Michael Flynn -- the preisdent's hard line hawk national security advisor, whose role is now being 'evaluated' thanks to conflicting reports over whether he discussed sanctions with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the transition - has said that Iran was "on notice" for its "destabilizing behaviour across the entire Middle East."

In the end the Trump administration has added some minor sanctions which aren't such a big deal, but that “putting on notice” language sounds ominous.

Furthermore, the Courts have put a block on his four month block on immigration from seven overwhelmingly Muslim countries and the permanent ban on refugees from Syria alone. The policy has been introduced supposedly to brake what Trump describes as “radical Islamic terrorism”. I cannot see it achieving that; it may even make matters worse.

Anyone who is capable of believing that cutting immigration and refugee flows from those seven countries will end terrorism in America is capable of believing anything – polls taken since the decision show that about half the American population do think that, which is a worry. Terrorism is such a random thing. Reality says that shocking terror events will still occur from time to time, out of the blue, and anywhere, although more likely in the bigger countries and centres than in a smaller under-the-radar country like ours (not impossible of course; witness Sydney).

Many attacks have been by locals living legitimately where the attack happened (witness London and South Carolina). Some are sourced nearby; the Paris bombers were from next door Belgium, again living there legitimately. Some terrorists may, I suppose, come from the Trump selected countries and kill, but they haven't for the past 40 years, according to the CATO institute. Many will not. This will not “make America secure again “.

I mentioned the Court constraining the Trump travel ban. I was pleased to see the UK Supreme Court determine that Parliament must pass specific authorising legislation before the UK Government could trigger Article 50 and begin the formal process of withdrawing from Europe. I just hope the US Supreme Court keeps the present Executive Branch within its constitutional bounds as Executive Orders tumble down like confetti.

The nomination of Neil Gorsuch to fill the long vacant seat on the US Supreme Court has been big news. America being what it is, no doubt there will be an unholy partisan stoush on his confirmation. Yet subject to Senate approval (almost certain) Judge Gorsuch will become Supreme Court Justice Gorsuch. Whether he has any personal foibles that should count against him will come out during the Senate hearings, but according to what I can read now, Gorsuch believes the law should not be interpreted beyond the words used to write it. Known as a "judicial originalist," Gorsuch’s view is that in our legal order it is for the elected representatives of the people (in the US that is the Congress) and not the courts and unelected judges to write new laws. I agree.

Quite right too. I agree with voluntary euthanasia, for example, and supported Lucretia Seales. But Justice Collins got it right last year when he found that “the complex legal, philosophical, moral and clinical issues raised by Ms Seales' proceedings can only be addressed by parliament passing legislation to amend the effect of the Crimes Act."

That puts the responsibility for making the law where it rightly belongs; with the elected representatives of the people.

Comments (6)

by Moz on February 14, 2017

Gorsuch’s view is that in our legal order it is for the elected representatives of the people and not the courts and unelected judges to write new laws. I agree.

Note that many judges in the US are directly elected. Do you think they should make law, or are they also helpless in the face of legislative overreach or oversight?

I do wonder why you want to have judges at all, since with no power to do more than implement regulations as written the task could be done by magistrates or even local council staff. Any uncertainty would presumably go back to parliament for clarification. Even unto the finest of fine print? Look at the court of appeal cases... it's often about the minutae of litigants disagreeing about court processes.

That is when it's not about ministers blatantly refusing to obey the law. Should I assume that in those cases the minister should prevail without question? Arthur Allen Thomas should still be in jail? Prisoners raped due to orders of Judith Collins should have no recourse against the minister?

by Charlie on February 14, 2017

I agre with you: He is indeed a pig of a man.

But he was still the better candidate...  ;-)




by Dennis Horne on February 14, 2017
Dennis Horne

Donald Drumpf is a pig-ignorant narcissistic megalomaniac and habitual liar. His "pussy-grabbing" locker-room banter is the least dangerous and abnormal thing about him.

He has surrounded himself with psychopaths and loonies.

I just hope China does not misjudge just how mad America is at the moment. A nuclear winter would entirely disrupt our grand experiment to cook the planet by puffing insulation into the atmosphere. 

At my age I don't have time for this.

by Andrew Geddis on February 16, 2017
Andrew Geddis

Known as a "judicial originalist," Gorsuch’s view is that in our legal order it is for the elected representatives of the people (in the US that is the Congress) and not the courts and unelected judges to write new laws. I agree.

Sort of.

Gorsuch still believes in constitutionalism - that is, the idea that the US constitution places constraints on what Congress can say through its laws. So, for instance, he'd undoubtedly strike down a law that says candidates for Congress can only spend $5 million on their campaigns as being an abridgment of the 1st Amendment guarantee of freedom of expression - even if every single member of Congress voted for it.

However, as an originalist, he claims that those constitutional limits on elected actors should be interpreted as intended by the people who first wrote them. In other words, judges shouldn't read into those limits what they think is "right" according to today's standards/beliefs ... rather, they should continue to apply the limits as they were meant to apply some 220 years ago. If those limits are out of date/inappropriate, then it is for the US polity to amend them (through the process set out in the Constitution).

Given that the originalist version of the Constitution is more limited/restrained (in most areas, anyway) than other methods of interpretation, the consequence is to open up more space for elected actors to operate. Which, as you note, meshes rather well with our New Zealand fondness for parliamentary supremacy.

by John Boon on February 18, 2017
John Boon

"But he was still the better candidate...  ;-)"  better than whom?  Bernie? :-)

I couldn't quite believe the Russian golden shower leaked inteligence rumour, until I put two and two together and realised it's how Donald keeps his hair orange :-)

by Charlie on February 18, 2017

John: Oh yes!  Bernie is the Jeremy Corbyn of the USA. Unelectable.

At least Hillary stood half a chance but she carried an enormous amount of corrupt baggage with her.

With hindsight the Republicans could have put up a racoon as a candidate and won. They could have done so much better than Trump. I was a Carly Fiorina myself.

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