Thursday, June 15, 2017

Another British Surprise Election

Conservative British Prime Ministers should stop calling elections. The Brexit referendum cost Prime Minister Cameron his position and this latest snap parliamentary election has ended Theresa May’s political clout, although she may remain in office for now.

Once again, the British polls missed the full late surge of Labour, although they captured the race closing. In my blog of June 7, British ElectionDraws Closer, I cited what most British pundits now agree were the major causes of the upset:
  •  May’s poor campaign performance, Corbyn’s new style and anti-austerity proposals
  •  Conservative election platform problems, Conservatives lost control of the narrative
  •   A still divided electorate and anti-establishment attitudes
Post-election polling data and results refine those general observations with the following:
  •  The youth vote, which failed to show up in the Brexit vote, came out in strength for Labour. They were mostly anti-Brexit and Labour offered a soft Brexit position (keep as many ties as possible, less harsh on immigration). May offered a hard exit from the EU. They also liked Labour’s anti-austerity positions.
  •  The Brexit fight may be over in terms of leaving the EU, but the disagreements on how to do it are just beginning.




Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Three Reasons Trump had Two Different Trips

Both the optics and the reaction to President Donald Trump’s nine-day trip to the Middle East and Europe highlight that there was, in fact, two very distinct outings. Even Trump made clear how much he enjoyed the Riyadh and Jerusalem visits and was bored and uncomfortable in Brussels and Taormina.

The trip’s dissimilarities corresponded to Trump’s different values, preferences and approaches.

Un-Obama and Obama 
World leaders at the G-7 summit | Reuters
As described in a previous blog, Staging the First 100 Days from The White House, much of what Trump does is to reverse Barack Obama’s policies, rhetoric and actions. The Middle East was the perfect platform to be the “un-Obama.” Obama’s policies toward Iran, Syria and Israel were not liked by most of the major players in the region. Trump reversed them. In Europe, Obama was mostly appreciated, at least west of the Danube. Germany, France, Italy and Brussels shared Obama’s global and high-minded values and mostly supported his restrained policies. Trump’s hostility to the climate change agreement inverted Obama’s position and it won him no admiration.

Bilateral and Multilateral
Trump is a bilateral negotiator. He doesn’t do groups. NATO and the EU are complex and collaborative. He likes the simple single-party deal. The Saudis and Israelis were generous hosts, and he brought arms to the Saudis and anti-Iranian rhetoric and much symbolism from sword dances to wailing walls. In Europe, he was only one of many following in a golf cart.

Autocrats and Democrats
Trump is more comfortable with kings, dictators and leaders with very secure majorities who operate autocratically. The politicians of Europe often depend on coalitions to govern and regularly attend to democratic politics. Trump prefers the royals.

President Trump holds a sword and says with traditional dancers during
 welcome ceremony in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, May 20, 2017 | Evan Vucci/AP
As a nationalist, Trump has some support in Eastern Europe, but little in the West. His emphasis on sovereignty and lack of interest in human rights fits well with the Middle Eastern states’ preferences, but his hostility to established alliances and regional governance was an anathema in Brussels.

Like a royal, Trump dislikes press conferences. It’s harder and more obvious to avoid the press among peer presidents, chancellors and prime ministers than it is among kings and autocrats. This was nine days with the press at bay and an unprecedented trip without a conference.

The Beer Hall Awakening

Angela Merkel has finally had enough of Donald Trump and “America First.” After two generally hostile meetings with Trump and especially his worst behavior at Brussels and Taormina, she told her party stalwarts at a Munich beer hall rally that:
“Recent days have shown me that the times when we could rely completely on others are over to a certain extent,” Merkel said. “We also know that we Europeans must really take our fate into our own hands. . . . It became clear at the G7, when there was no agreement with the USA, how long and rocky this path would be. I think it was good not to gloss over the differences,” she added.


German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Bavarian premier Horst Seehofer
sit in a beer tent, May 28, 2017 | Sven Hoppe/AFP via Getty Images
Most of her colleagues west of the Danube would agree. In fact, new French President Emmanuel Macron practically armed wrestled the always aggressive Trump and later declared:
"Donald Trump, the Turkish president or the Russian president see relationships in terms of balance of power. That doesn't bother me. I don't believe in diplomacy by public abuse, but in my bilateral dialogues. I won't let anything pass.
He said that a leader must show that they will not ‘make small concessions, even symbolic ones’ or over publicize their achievements."
President Donald Trump shakes hands with French President Emmanuel
 Macron during a meeting in Brussels, May 25, 2017 | Evan Vucci/AP
Chancellor Merkel is campaigning. Trump is highly disliked by the German public and its elites. Her opponent, a social democrat, makes attacking Trump one of his main campaign strategies. Trump is seen as somewhere between dangerous or a buffoon in the capitals of Europe. Of course, like in America, there are blocs of nationalist leaders and publics that identify with his views. But, they are not dominant in the West.

The upshot of this awakening is that American foreign policy objectives that even slightly misalign with European interests could come in for condemnation, including in the U.N. Security Council. Also, expect Europe, especially Germany, as Merkel articulated, to start thinking seriously about an independent defense – indeed Trump is helping make NATO obsolete.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Korbel School Sponsors Second Session on Trump Presidency – The First 100 Days

Dean Christopher Hill and Crossley Center Director, Floyd Ciruli, teamed up to present an assessment and discussion on the First 100 Days of the Trump administration. A record crowd of 280 filled Maglione Hall on May 1 for the two hour session.


The talk was the second sponsored by the Korbel School since the extraordinary election of Donald Trump. On November 9, the day after the election, Hill and Ciruli presented an early deconstructed what happened and offered some initial predictions.

In this latest talk, the high and low points of Donald Trump’s first 100 days in office were assessed, especially as related to foreign policy.

Several blogs on the main topics discussed have been posted on the Crossley Center site:

Election Dashboard, 6-1
How About the French Transition, 5-24
The EU Get a Boost. Next Up: England, Germany and Italy, 5-24
French Nationalism Now the Main European Opposition to Globalism, 5-24
Lavrov and Trump Meeting as Comey Fired, 5-15
Four Reasons Trump Fired Comey, 5-15
French Nationalism Hits a Wall: Not Good News for Putin and Trump, 5-15
Obamacare Repeal Passes, But Fight Over Replacement Just Begins, 5-9
Flip-Flop or Flexible? Trump First 100 Days, 5-15
Staging the First 100 Days From the White House, 5-12
Pre-100-Day Polls in on Trump: Not Good, 5-12

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Election Dashboard

Although it is more than a year and a half until the next congressional elections, Washington, D.C. is watching the calendar early, mostly due to the chaos of Trump administration’s start-up. House Republicans are worried about holding their majority and Democrats are busy recruiting candidates.

Democrats need 24 House seats and 3 in the Senate. Both goals appeared unlikely after the November elections, but the beginning of Donald Trump’s second 100 days brings early speculation that Democrat could take both houses.

We will begin regularly publishing the 2018 political Dashboard to quantify and comment on the status of the congressional races, which are likely to be the most watched and analyzed in recent history. Control of Congress, especially the House, will not just decide the Trump and Republican legislative agenda, it may decide Trump’s survival as president. Bills of impeachment are in drafting, with many of the particular charges already identified. It is no doubt premature, but it reflects the President’s vulnerability and the Democrats’ passion.

The elements of the Dashboard are: presidential approval, congressional approval, the generic congressional ballot test, direction of the country, and the number of seats Democrats and Republicans need or enjoy respectively for a majority.


The President’s approval is at a record-low for this early in a term. There are more than 500 days until the November 2018 elections, but now is the time for recruitment and fundraising. Democrats have been benefiting from post-election activism and Obamacare rage. Now, of course, the White House and Trump’s performance are energizing them.

The RealClearPolitics presidential average rating is 40 percent approval and 54 percent disapproval, a 14-percent negative spread. And, the polls of the last few days have uniformly been below 40 percent.


The campaign for the House has already begun with heated town hall meetings for Republican incumbents and Democratic support organizations buying ads in 23 House Republican districts where Hillary Clinton won last year, including Colorado’s Mike Coffman’s 6th district. He won in November by 7 points, while Clinton was carrying the district by 9 points. Coffman voted against the Republican AHCA repeal and replacement legislation.

Democrats also need to defend 12 seats that Trump won, but with Trump’s low approval and the Republicans’ AHCA legislation having only a 25 percent public approval, it’s Republicans who are the most concerned.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

How About the French Transition?

German Chancellor Angela Merkel (R)
greets visiting French President
Emmanuel Macron in Berlin 
on May 15, 2017 | Xinhua/Shan Yuqi
The first round of the French presidential election was April 23, the second round 14 days later on May 7 and the transition completed on Sunday, May 14. It was a simple ceremony at the Élysée Palace, a speech by the new president and the brief ride down Avenue des Champs-Élysées in a military vehicle. A wreath was laid and President Macron went to work.

One day later, he was in Berlin building an essential relationship with German Chancellor Merkel. Nice transition – less money spent and time wasted and no arguments about crowd size.

New French President Emmanuel Macron waves from a military vehicle as 
he rides on Avenue des Champs-Élysées towards the Arc de Triomphe
in Paris, France, May 14, 2017 | AP Photo/Michel Euler, POOL

The EU Gets a Boost. Next Up: England, Germany and Italy.

With the victory of Emmanuel Macron, the EU gets a moment to reconfigure its future. It would be wise not to waste time. European electorates are in considerable stress with far-right and far-left movements adopting nationalist, anti-EU positions to compete with old center parties.

The next European elections are as important as Brexit, Trump and Macron. Prime Minister Theresa May wants to strengthen a governing majority in Great Britain for EU negotiations. Chancellor Angela Merkel must renew her five-year mandate. She represents the dean of world globalists, and with the new French president, the essential partner in preserving the EU. And finally, the most troubled Mediterranean EU member, Italy, will likely have an election in 2018. It could put an anti-EU populist party in control. Italy’s parliamentary election isn’t set yet. It’s likely to be in mid-2018 and the Eurosceptic Five Star Movement could be the largest party.


Nationalists and Eurosceptics continue to have clout. They control the Polish government and are a force in Britain, France, Austria and various parts of Eastern Europe. In fact, a snap election has been called in Austria due to the instability of old governing coalitions and politicians.

Although Ms. Merkel’s party appears well-positioned to be the dominant player in the September 24 election, this will continue a government that has lasted 12 years, a very long run in current European politics. Her challenge comes from the center-left more than the far-right.

French Nationalism Now the Main European Opposition to Globalism

Although the National Front, the main French party representing anti-immigrant, anti-EU sentiments, lost the presidential run-off; the anti-global position in France continues to grow. Marine Le Pen received 21% of the vote in April’s French first round election, but the total of right and left anti-global parties equaled nearly half the total vote (49%).

She increased her vote share 13 percent in the second round run-off to 34 percent. Hence, a third of the French electorate supports an extreme nationalist party, a steady increase from 2002 when the party’s founder, Jean-Marie Le Pen, received just 18 percent.


The party (which may be renamed) is also now the leading opposition to Emmanuel Macron’s globalist position. Will nationalist elements of weakened left and right parties join it or can the Republican, Socialist and Communist parties reconstitute into viable alternatives?

The National Front post-election strategy is likely to affect the next steps in development of French
Marine Le Pen | Michel Euler/AP
nationalism. But, the new government will also shape the party’s development. If Macron fails to build a working parliamentary majority or if his solutions disappoint, the National Front and its allies will likely benefit.

Even in losing, the National Front has repositioned French politics from a left-right continuum to a nationalist-globalist framework, although ideologues are more flexible than fixed today. As the second largest party in the second most populated country and largest economy in Western Europe after Germany, the National Front is now the vanguard of the continent’s nationalistic movement.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Lavrov and Trump Meeting as Comey Fired

Just as Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak conferenced with the President at the White House, the Russian cyber-attack investigation was dominating the airwaves with the FBI Director Comey firing.

Good news for the Russians in short term. The President reaffirms his commitment to build a relationship with Russia in spite of the Russian hacking investigation of the U.S. election. In longer-term, the firing will keep the issue in the news and in political turmoil. Vladimir Putin’s strategy here and in France is producing considerable blowback. It’s empowering political enemies and making it difficult for friends.

Putin personally requested a photo shoot between Trump and the Russian team. In fact, it was only covered by Russian media, which Trump allowed as he kept U.S. media at bay. In other words, in spite of Putin’s hostile intervention in the U.S. election, he managed to self-extol on Russian TV. What a master strategist he is!

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, President Donald Trump and
Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak meet in the
Oval Office, May 10, 2017 | Alexander Shcherbak/TASS via Getty

Four Reasons Trump Fired Comey

Four reasons stand out for President Trump’s May 9 firing of FBI Director James Comey. These are based on Trump’s words, previous behavior and the logic of the timing.
  1. Trump was angry Comey didn’t exonerate him of his ties to the Russians related to the 2016 campaign. In fact, Comey refused to answer the questions and cited an ongoing investigation. Trump believes the ongoing investigation is a hoax and waste of resources. Tellingly in the firing letter, Trump claims he was told on three occasions there was no connection between him and the Russian investigation. If true, probably a violation of FBI procedures, but at least confirming evidence Trump is most concerned about the investigation.
  2. Trump was angry that Comey didn’t back up his claim that the Obama administration wire tapped him. Trump would have accepted most any vague statement as validation, but Comey was definitive that there was no spying on Trump by Barack Obama.
  3. Comey failed to focus sufficient attention on what Trump believes is the greatest threat to the nation – leaks. Trump made clear leaks should be the FBI’s priority, not Russia.
  4. Comey was high-profile and on the Hill much too high. As Steve Bannon can attest, don’t get more famous than the boss. Comey’s position was excessively useful for ambitious Senate and Hill members that wanted good hearing news coverage. Better to bring in someone with less history or knowledge of the Russian issue.
 Notice Hillary Clinton is not a reason.

President Trump shakes hands with former FBI Director James Comey | Getty
 

French Nationalism Hits a Wall: Not Good News for Putin and Trump.

Emmanuel Macron’s two-to-one victory over Marine Le Pen (66.1% vs. 33.9%) is a major defeat for Le Pen’s international supporters.

She and her party, the National Front, have long- and well-established ties with Vladimir Putin. They have received loans from Russian banks, she opposed Russian sanctions and she was pictured with Putin in a highly public visit in February. Macron repeatedly claimed Russia’s propaganda and anti-democratic machine was trying to damage his campaign. They are suspected to be responsible for the final hack of Macron’s campaign communications.
 
 
Ms. Le Pen at a conference in January in Germany joined her fellow nationalists to celebrate Donald Trump’s victory and his Steve Bannon-inspired Inaugural address. Most recently, she expressed reservations about Trump’s policies in Syria (interventionist, anti-Russia), but Trump was clear in his preference with his unsolicited tweets.
 

Behind the scenes, Bannon has been a fan of Le Pen and strongly supports the nationalism movement across the continent. Trump has been strongly pro-Brexit, predicted more withdrawals from the EU and hails as his good friend Nigel Farage, the Brexit leader, in Great Britain.

Ironically, Trump’s poor international image and “America First” pronouncement and policy are damaging his goal to help nationalist allies. In fact, Trump’s “America First” and generally anti-EU, anti-NATO rhetoric and behavior, which is as heavily reported on in the continent as here, contributed to the consolidation and support for center left, pro-EU candidates.

Russian elites, at some point, may conclude Putin’s strategy of cyber and propaganda warfare with the West is counterproductive.

Is Maduro Near the End?

Hunger is widespread, children are suffering from starvation, and hundreds have died in street protests. Statutes of Hugo Chávez are being torn down. Music icon, Gustavo Dudamel, says “enough is enough.” The urban and rural poor finally joined the protests.

The Bolivarian Revolution is collapsing and the army will soon have to decide: Does it continue to defend President Nicolás Maduro and fight the population or is change near – a coup or otherwise. The recent Latin American history of military officers escaping prosecution for crimes against their own population is not good.

The likelihood Maduro will die peacefully in the Presidential Palace or relaxing at a Venezuelan coastal resort seems remote.

Options for leaders who are about to leave office under duress:
Exile – Escape into exile with friends in Cuba or Nicaragua, sort of a reverse Batista and Somoza.
Arrest – Arrest like Slobodan Milošević or Hosni Mubarak.
Death – The streets can be dangerous as Muammar Gaddafi can attest. Nicolae Ceauşescu and Benito Mussolini were attempting escapes, but didn’t make it.

Venezuela's President Nicolás Maduro dances with first lady Cilia Flores
during a rally to support the closing of the Colombian border, in
Caracas, Venezuela,  Friday, Aug. 28, 2015 | Ariana Cubillos/AP

Flip-Flop or Flexible; Trump First 100 Days

President Trump has run into checks and balances, not just the constitutional restraints built into the system, but the full-range of limitations on executive actions that are part of the American political culture. From the Judiciary (9th Circuit), to Congress (Freedom Caucus), to his cabinet contradicting with him and the permanent bureaucracy leaking, to our foreign allies disagreeing him, the media’s intense coverage and even polls.

Donald Trump appears to realize how much more difficult the political system is compared to what he’s used to when he told Reuters last week, “I thought it would be easier.” And the AP, “I didn’t realize how big it was…every decision is made harder than you normally make.” Not quite the same as commercial real estate.

The President has come to see how complicated many policies are. He has referenced the complexity of health care and the Korean stalemate after listening to President Xi’s description of China’s relationship and history with North Korea.

One typical reaction of most politicians is to blame the rules. And Trump has called congressional rules “archaic,” and in his view, the filibuster needs to go. The White House is floating breaking up the 9th Circuit and changing liable laws.

But another reaction is to adjust. And so NATO is no longer obsolete; China is not a currency manipulator. Janet Yellen is beloved and respected and NAFTA should be negotiated not terminated.


We do not know the back story of many of these shifts. Some may just be reversals of Trump’s penchant for not well-thought-out declarations. But many reflect advice and experiences that show a White House and President dealing with very complex problems in a not always friendly world. His critics call them flip-flops, he calls it flexibility.

Most of the shifts are good news.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Staging the First 100 Days from the White House

Donald Trump staged the first 100 days from the White House, except for a few trips to his winter retreat at Mar-a-Lago and campaign style forays. After 100 days, the Trump White House operates much as it did in its earliest days. Some describe it as a family-run commercial real estate firm. The distinctive features of the first weeks are captured in an early picture of the President signing the Executive Order to proceed on the XL and Dakota Access pipelines. The days were filled with drama, much of it around the Resolute Desk and, although there was a variety of participants in the room, there was always a cameraman, and initially the early photos were dominated by the campaign team hovering in the background.


The major features of early White House decision-making highlighted by the Resolute Desk stage:

Flat decision process. There is no chain of command. Trump is the star, he decides. Chief of Staff Preibus has some staff, but clearly he doesn’t control access or the agenda.

Centers of conflict. There are numerous power centers defending turf and viewpoints. Competition between nationalist Steve Bannon vs. globalist Jared Kushner is the highest profile conflict, but Preibus has his turf, Kellyanne Conway has hers.

Stay close to the desk. Trump is a mercurial man who tends toward the provocative and the impulsive. If you want to defend a position, an initiative or a space, stay close to his desk. The last person who talks to him often has the most influence.

Keeping the promises. Keeping campaign promises is an obsession with the Trump team. Bannon is in charge and has the list on his wall; he checks off accomplishments, or at least some action. That means that some of the most divisive and least popular campaign promises are high on the White House agenda, such as the wall and travel ban. But, it also means the campaign, with all its bad attitude and mean rhetoric, has moved to the White House.

In addition, the campaign for 2020 has started. The Pennsylvania rally had placards that said “Promises Made, Promises Kept” and TV advertising extolling the 100 days is starting.

‘Un’Obama. Finally, much White House activity is driven by being the ‘un’Obama. From the Inaugural argument over crowd size, to staging a picture of the national security team watching the Tomahawk Missile strike on Syria outdoing Barack Obama’s Bin Laden picture, this White House spends considerable time contrasting itself to Obama. But it also means that Obama is blamed for the need for or the failure of every action. “Obamacare is a disaster; look at the mess I inherited; this is the worst deal in history.” From Syria, to Iran, to the travel ban, to General Flynn’s security clearance, Obama was at fault.

Of course, all presidents do it to some extent. Herbert Hoover was a Democratic punching bag for four decades. Obama mentioned George W. Bush repeatedly as he reversed various foreign policy initiatives, but the volume and repetitiveness of it was minor compared to the barrage of criticism today.

The first 100 days have had some success, but it has mostly been characterized by a lack of preparation, acting precipitously and disorder. Will the second 100 days be the same as the first? Clearly the White House is improving its operations. The leaks are down and there appears more calm, but Donald Trump is the star and the decider, so it’s very much going to be based on his personality and preferences. We shall see.

Pre-100-Day Polls in on Trump: Not Good

President Donald Trump | Getty
ABC/Washington Post, NBC/Wall Street Journal and Gallup released polls over the weekend that showed President Trump has failed to improve his poor approval rating during the first 100 days. In fact, his ratings declined after a weak start and remain in the cellar.

Although Trump cherry picked a couple of positive numbers, he declared, in general, they were “fake news.”

Unfortunately for the poll sensitive President heading into his 100-day report card, more than half the public disapproves of his performance, and his approval at slightly more than 40 percent is below even the weak general election vote he received (46%). Of the biggest concern among national Republican leaders is the flat trend line, even with a White House receiving saturation coverage and a few popular items being accomplished, including the Neil Gorsuch confirmation and the missile strike against President Assad in Syria.



Although Trump holds his core base of voters, they are less than a third of the total electorate. His other advantage at this point is the Democrats are even less popular than Trump and Republicans.


Nonetheless, he is still described by the public as seriously lacking the judgement (41% yes has judgement, 56% no), and personality and temperament to be president (38% yes has temperament, 59% no) (ABC/WP). In terms of the first 100 days, most people say Trump was “off to a poor start (45%) or a “fair start” (19%). Only one-third of the public (35%) said he was “off to a “good or great start” (NBC/WSJ).

See:
Politico: Trump blasts recent approval rating polls as “fake news”

French Pollsters Nail It

First round of French elections Sunday produced a result predicted for several weeks by French pollsters, even though the last few days of polls showed a very close race.

Emmanuel Macron led with 24 percent and the final poll showed 23 percent. Marine Le Pen grabbed second with 21 percent and the final polls had her at 22 percent. The remaining three candidates’ results were within a point of final polls.

The run-off election is May 7, and pre-election polls show any of the top three candidates would beat Le Pen. Macron was the strongest at about 60 percent and 40 percent for Le Pen. French pollsters published their final pre-election polls on Friday, April 21. They then release a final poll on Election Day.


The five candidates represented 91 percent of the vote.

Although the pollsters nailed it, France’s politics is wide open. Le Pen’s campaign may have stalled from its showing earlier in the year (28%), but the anti-EU populist candidates still attracted nearly half of the vote. And the two major parties – the Socialists and Republicans – are in collapse. Hence, French politics is dominated by outsiders without identified governing majorities creating possibilities for significant change or massive gridlock.

Like recent elections in most Western democracies, there was significant division between the urban and more rural vote. Le Pen received about 5 percent of the vote in Paris and Macron 35 percent. Contrary to Donald Trump’s view, the final terrorist attack did not surge votes to his favorite candidate, Le Pen.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Hill and Ciruli: President Trump’s First 100 Days

On May 1, Dean Christopher Hill and pollster Floyd Ciruli will present an analysis of President Donald Trump’s first 100 days at the University of Denver’s Korbel School.

The White House’s successes, failures, the polling results and where American foreign policy is headed are the topics. The White House may deny the historical standard is important, but they are rushing to put points up the final week. But, most importantly, it is useful to pause after the intense 14 weeks of the Trump administration and examine what’s been accomplished and what’s next. Hill and Ciruli will especially focus on foreign policy and what can be expected in Europe, the Middle East and the Pacific.

Will it be the best 100 days in history or the worst, is the White House a well-oiled machine or chaos center, and is the foreign policy unpredictable or incoherent?


Register for the event here

Trump Trying to Put Points on the Board

Donald Trump, who lives for ratings and is hypersensitive about crowd size, claims he’s no longer interested in the “first 100-day” standard. In fact, the White House has been obsessed about it for weeks, holding branding meetings and claiming that “no administration has accomplished more in the first 90 days.” Most recently, President Trump has made clear he needs “points on the board” by April 29 and is trying to revive health care.

For the Korbel School and Crossley Center, the historical standard is a useful measure. On May 1, join them for an assessment of Trump’s first 100 days.

Read:
Politico:  Trumpscoffs at 100-day mark as ‘ridiculous standard’
CNBC: Trump calls first 100 days as ‘ridiculous standard’ –even though he set it as a standard

Will it be the best 100 days in history or the worst, is the White House a well-oiled machine or chaos center, and is the foreign policy unpredictable or incoherent?


Wednesday, April 19, 2017

French Elections: Four Top Candidates in Margin of Error

Less than one week out, four candidates in the French election (April 23) are within the margin of error of making the first round. Since early March, the two frontrunners have been Marine Le Pen (22%) and Emmanuel Macron (23%). They remain locked in a tight race (see French Election-First Round Tie, April 10, 2017).

But ex-communist, nationalist candidate (both anti-German and anti-EU), Jean-Luc Mélenchon, has moved into a tie for third with François Fillon, the right of center candidate burdened with an unfolding family patronage scandal. Both are only four points behind the frontrunners. More than 30 percent of the electorate may not vote or was undecided on April 19, two days before published polling must cease.

Two weeks after the Sunday vote, May 7, a runoff will take place with most polls showing that in hypothetical face-off Le Pen loses to whoever joins her after the first round.


Tuesday, April 18, 2017

ABC News Interview with Dean Hill on North Korea

Christopher Hill, dean of Josef Korbel School of International Studies at DU and former U.S. ambassador to the Republic of Korea, told ABC News “This Week” with Martha Raddatz that he thinks President Trump’s rhetoric toward North Korea over its nuclear program “makes people nervous.” However, he believes the some of the administration's actions in response to the North Korean threat are positive.
“[Working with the Chinese] seemed to be an elusive concept at a certain point in time and, yet that, I think, is very much happening.” Hill said.
Watch entire interview here.


Monday, April 17, 2017

DU Sponsors “The First 100 Days” of Trump

On May 1, the Korbel School and the Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research at DU will sponsor a discussion of President Trump’s first 100 days in office.

Was it the best 100 days in history or the worst, is the White House a well-oiled machine or chaos center, and is the foreign policy unpredictable or incoherent?

Join the discussion with Korbel School Dean Christopher Hill and Crossley Center Director Floyd Ciruli to examine the first 100 days and discuss what’s next.

This session is a follow-up on the November 9, 2016 presentation when Hill and Ciruli deconstructed the election results and discussed what could be expected. Surprise has been the constant, from the Trump Tower transition, to the inaugural and first few weeks, to the latest foreign affairs crisis. “The First 100 Days” of Trump discussion will be stimulating and educational.

Join us.


Friday, April 14, 2017

Supercarrier Strike Force Carl Vinson Changes Course and Returns to Korea

Looking for new options now that “strategic patience” has ended, the Trump administration ordered the Navy Third Fleet supercarrier, USS Carl Vinson, and its compliment of destroyers and cruisers back to Korea, cutting short a port stay in Singapore and diverting it from planned exercises and leave in Australia. The Carl Vinson had just participated with South Korea in naval exercises in March.

U.S. warship on its way to Korean Peninsula | Getty
The order to change course came from Admiral Harry Harris, commander of the Pacific Command in Hawaii. The high-profile announcement signals that the decision is a show of force as the administration attempts to increase pressure on the North Korean regime of Kim Jong-un. The fleet move is receiving top Navy leaderships’ attention. Rear Admiral James Kilby is aboard the Carl Vinson and leading the strike group. Overall command is led by the Navy’s Third Fleet commander Vice Admiral Nora Tyson from her headquarters in San Diego.

Secretary of State Tillerson’s and President Trump’s recent statements indicate North Korea has moved to a top priority and strategic threat that policy is changing and some type of military action is possible, although still not likely.

Trump 
North Korea just stated that it is in the final stage of developing a nuclear weapon capable of reaching parts of the United States. It won’t happen. (January)

North Korea is behaving very badly. They have been “playing” the US for years. China has done little to help! (March)

If China is not going to solve North Korea, we will. That is all that I am telling you. (April)

North Korea is looking for trouble. If China decides to help, that would be great. If not, we will solve the problem without them. (April)

Tillerson 
Policy of “strategic patience” is over (March)

U.S. military action against North Korea is “an option on the table.” North Korea’s threat on the South would be met with “an appropriate response.” Twenty years of diplomatic and other efforts have failed. (March)

North Korea launched yet another intermediate range ballistic missile. The United States has spoken enough about North Korea. We have no further comment. (April)

H.R. McMaster  
The denuclearization of the Korean peninsula must happen. The President asked us to give him a full range of options to remove this threat to the American people and our allies and partners in the region. (April)

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Sisi Scores a Victory

General Sisi was warmly welcomed to the White House, a coup for the Egyptian government to legitimize its rule and move it above its rank in American public opinion.

Egypt has a mid-level image among Americans, with a 52 percent favorable rating. But Sisi joined a group of American allies at the top of the opinion tree and his welcome was certainly warmer than Chancellor Merkel’s (Germany has an 82% favorable rating).


Sisi does have some assets in Middle East politics for the administration. He has stabilized Egypt and aimed its security resources at Islamic terrorists. President Trump and especially former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn believe the Muslim Brotherhood is a terrorist organization – so does President Sisi.

Egypt’s strategic position makes it important to Israel’s security and Libya’s western orientation. Also, as the largest country in the region, if it gets its economy moving, it could be a major player in the anti-Iran strategy of the administration.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Trump Sees a Line, a Red Line

Donald Trump’s quick action on the tragedy in Syria produced significant political benefits for him and the U.S. when Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, believing himself secure, decided to use chemical weapons again. It allowed Trump to frame himself as the world leader for the protection of innocent victims of a brutal, heartless dictator.


·       Trump can remind everyone of the near universal condemnation of President Obama’s feckless Syrian foreign policy, especially his walking away from his own Red Line in August 2013.
·       He demonstrated to President Xi and his North Korean associates that “bad things” can happen very quickly. It also rebukes Russia at a nice point to distract the endless Russian investigation and boost his anti-Kremlin credibility.
·       Europe likes it and has been calling for U.S. leadership. Even Merkel has a kind word. Our Middle East allies – Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and others – never forgave Obama’s weakness or, in their view, disloyalty. It also rebukes Iran, always positive with Sunni allies.
·       Dictators of the world took notice. Russia, China, Turkey and North Korea just saw that nationalism of the campaign does not mean isolationism. That there are other influences surveilling around the White House, pulling for a more robust national security policy.
·       The action will quiet momentarily Trump’s critics in the Republican national security establishment. McCain, Graham and Rubio were withering in their condemnation of Trump’s and Tillerson’s Syria statements that Assad’s future is up to the Syrian people as a free pass for Assad’s bad behavior. After the chemical attack, they more or less blamed Trump for it. Now, they are praising his action.
·       Numerous liberals and Democrats have grudgingly given Trump some praise. Removing Assad was the diplomatic goal of Obama and Secretary Kerry (leading to endless lunches in Geneva) and held by most liberal Middle East analysts, scholars and advocates.

See my blog: The Red Line: A decision that leveled a foreign policy

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Democracy in the US: Robust or Brittle? World Poll Conference in Portugal

Democracy worldwide is on the defensive. Attacks are reported daily on independent judiciary, on a free press and on access to political space by opposition political groups. Even American democracy, which is old and its political institution mature, appears to be vulnerable to the anti-democratic trends sweeping Western European nations.

In a panel at the World Association for Public Opinion Research (WAPOR) conference in Lisbon, Portugal, researchers from around the world will present on the Health of Politics. Floyd Ciruli, director of the Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research in the Korbel School at the University of Denver will present a paper titled: Democracy in the U.S.: Robust or Brittle?

Presentation description:

This presentation will review the literature on democratic stability and more recent 2016 election description of vulnerabilities and flaws. These attributes will be tested in U.S. and state-level surveys to highlight possible fractures in public opinion that support or oppose the theory that U.S. democracy is becoming brittle and unstable. Trust in government, party polarization and the desire for change are factors that will be examined.

The willingness of partisans of both parties to ignore their evaluations of the fitness of office of the candidates and vote for them anyway is one variable that will be measured against trust, desire for change and partisanship. A second factor to test with the variables is the statement that the other candidate’s victory will be illegitimate.

Key question: Is the 2016 election and its result the culmination of a long period of dissatisfaction and support for the regime and its democratic process, which will rebound, or is this the beginning of a more profound weakening in democratic culture?

Race and Police Practices in US: Law & Order Meets Black Lives Matter, World Polling Conference in Portugal

The World Association for Public Opinion Research (WAPOR) will assemble in Lisbon, Portugal, in July to share research among the world public opinion researchers. Some of the most interesting papers are on major public opinion trends that are impacting public policy in the nations around the world.

Physical security in a nation and a community is, along with economic prosperity and government legitimacy, among the top factors of importance to the public.

The intersection of the need to impose social controls, the desire for liberty, and concern for fair and accountable police practices is a universal source of conflict in public opinion. In the U.S., the conflict has been exposed recently in a series of violent incidents between police and suspects, often minorities, and attacks on police by assailants, sometimes as specific targets of assassination.

The issue was most recently framed in the 2016 presidential election as a conflict between Law and Order vs. Black Lives Matter.

In a panel at the WAPOR conference titled, Racial, Cultural and Ethnic Issues, Floyd Ciruli, director of the Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research in the Korbel School at the University of Denver, will present a paper on the topic.

Race and Police Practices in U.S.: Law and Order Meets Black Lives Matter

Use of force by police and their being victims of assassination were among the biggest news stories in the U.S. in 2016. This presentation explores the public opinion gap between the U.S. public, police and the African American community on police practices, especially use of force. The data sources are surveys conducted in Denver, Colorado, and Chicago, Illinois, on police practices and community relations and Pew Research’s 2016 national polls of the public and police personnel on race and policing.

French Elections – First Round Tie

The first round of the French elections with 11 candidates will be held April 23. The run-off is May 7, 2017 if there is no majority candidate in the first round. As of April 7, two weeks out, Marine Le Pen (24%) of the right and Emmanuel Macron (24%) of the center-left are the frontrunners and tied. The remaining 52 percent of the voters are scattered among the other nine candidates and undecided. All eleven candidates just debated (April 4) for three and a half hours, an endurance test.

Candidates in French presidential election take part in debate on April 4 | CNN

Polling a run-off between the two evenly matched candidates has Macron winning about 60 percent to 40 percent. The far right position has increased 6 points since the last presidential election (2012, Le Pen 18%) to nearly two-fifths of the electorate in a run-off, but it is still not in position to take over the French government.


Le Pen is not the only candidate advancing an anti-EU position, but she is the favorite of the Trump administration (Steve Bannon’s position) and Russia (Marine Le Pen just visited Vladimir Putin). The anti-EU nationalists are powerful, but not yet dominant in France.

Candidates
Le Pen (48 years old) has been head of the National Front Party since 2011 and came in third in the 2012 presidential election with 18 percent of the vote behind the winners François Hollande (who won) and Nicolas Sarkozy (the former president). She has attempted to reposition the party away from its far right roots, but ride anti-refugee/immigrant sentiment.

Macron (39 years old) began his own party, En Marche! (Forward! or On the Move!), in 2016. A former investment banker and member of the Socialist Party who was in the current socialist government for two years as the economic minister. He resigned in 2016 to run for president. He represents much of the establishment from a center-left position, but claims to be independent with new thinking.

Polling
There has been some shifting among the top five candidates the last two weeks. Macron became the second-place candidate in late January 2017 and tied Le Pen about March 20. Le Pen has gained no ground since January when she held 27 percent of the vote.

Macron took second place after the collapse of François Fillon (The Republican Party – center-right) due to a scandal concerning his family on government payroll. A battle for fourth place shifted position in late March when Jean-Luc Mélenchon (Left Party and “Unsubmissive France”) moved into fourth displacing Benoît Hamon (Socialist Party).

Run-off
In the second round of voting, polling indicated that Le Pen would increase her position to about 40 percent, but lose to Macron, who would win with 60 percent. Fillon would beat her by a similar amount, if somewhat less (55% to 45%).

Hence, unless Mr. Trump’s fake news and rigged polls are at work, the favored candidate of Vladimir Putin and Steve Bannon represents a quarter to two-fifths of the French electorate and will lose the May run-off. There is still a month of campaigning, but it appears France’s two-tier electoral system is moving toward a business-oriented socialist as president.

See:
CNN: French election debate: Macron marches on as Le Pen loses out
Politico: 5 takeaways from France’s chaotic presidential debate
The Buzz: Outsiders take France – April 23

Monday, April 10, 2017

American Views on Trump’s Foreign Visitors

As President Trump familiarizes himself with world leaders and begins developing policies, it’s useful to examine public opinion concerning the countries’ favorability with Americans. Opinion tends to be fairly stable. The public’s views are affected by reported events and the positions of American leaders. Most of the public are only mildly interested in foreign affairs and don’t directly interact with foreign nations beyond periodic trips.

Gallup recently asked Americans to rate the favorability of 21 countries. At the top of the list were Canada and Great Britain with more than 90 percent of the public having a favorable view. In the 80 percent range was Japan, France and Germany. At the bottom were North Korea, Iran, Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq (ranging from 11 percent for North Korea to 19 percent for Iraq). In the middle range of 50 percent were China, Cuba and Egypt.

Some comments:
  • President Trump has met with leaders from the most popular countries, which all correspond to our strongest allies. Each country had some trepidation in the new relations related to trade and security issues. German Chancellor Merkel probably had the most difficult visit.
  • The least favored countries are causing the President his earliest challenges: North Korea (11%), Iran (12%), Syria (17%), Afghanistan (17%) and Iraq (19%). Relations with them have military implications, some with American boots on the ground. North Korea has managed to become a major power pariah, which it apparently believes is an effective strategy to secure its survival and win concessions. President Assad must have felt invulnerable with his allies, Russia and Iran, and America just focused on ISIS and not regime change. A few Tomahawks have likely changed his thinking.
  • The President is attempting to change American policy and perceptions for some of the nations near the middle of the favorability pack. Egypt’s president has just had a successful visit. Cuba moved up the favorability rating due to the rapprochement. It’s not clear U.S. policy will change. Americans are ambivalent about China. They are competitors, could be a threat, but may be a partner.
Check out my blog: America’s views on world leaders

Donald Trump Is Losing Power

Donald Trump is a well-seasoned practitioner of the photo opportunity. He has built a valuable worldwide brand by mastering the urges and vagaries of modern media. And, while he may not have much experience or knowledge of government, he has applied his media talent with a vengeance to the presidency. From the transition parade into Trump Tower, to use of the “Winter White House,” to the endless signing ceremonies around the Resolute Desk, to the early start of 2020 campaign, Trump has controlled news cycles and become the number one topic in the world.

Usually non-stop coverage of a media savvy White House should accompany an uptick in approval ratings of the president’s job performance. But a host of polls, especially presidential approval, which has been collected since Harry Truman, show Trump’s record-low rating, starting at the inauguration, has slipped to even lower territory during Trump’s first ten weeks.

President Trump signs executive order halting immigrants from
some Muslim-majority countries from entering U.S. | Olivier
Douliery-Pool/Getty Images
Historically, low approval ratings weigh a president down and damage his agenda. They drain legislative support, can undermine investor and consumer confidence and, of course, hurt a party’s candidate’s recruitment and fundraising. If ratings in the low 40 percent level continue, it will start a panic in the Republican Party later in 2017 over the possible loss of the House in 2018.

The President’s biggest problem is that the media strategy can’t replace the failure to accomplish some of the most high-profile goals. The current book-ends are the travel ban roll-out on February 27 and the Obamacare defeat on March 24. The two failures, combined with his Twitter posts, press altercations and fights with his own party, reinforce the impression of an administration not in control.

Importantly, the Peggy Noonan problem is a recurring drag on his approval. The country’s moderate to conservative establishment, including independents, supports many of Trump’s policies, but struggle with his style and tone.
“Near the end of the campaign I wrote a column called ‘Imagine a Sane Donald Trump,’ lamenting that I believed he was crazy, and too bad. Too bad because his broad policy assertions, or impulses, suggested he understood that 2008 and the years just after (the crash and the weak recovery) had changed everything in America, and that the country was going to choose, in coming decades, one of two paths – a moderate populism or socialism – and that the former was vastly to be preferred.”
Trump’s performance reinforces these doubts about his fitness for office however it’s labeled: temperament, judgment and character.

As of April 4, Trump’s approval rating is 40 percent and disapproval 53 percent in the RealClearPolitics average. Because it is a rolling average, Trump’s numbers are better than some recent polls that give him 35 percent (Quinnipiac) and 39 percent (Gallup).

Read:
The Buzz: Trump starts at record low
Gallup: Trump’s approval rating unusually low, unusually early
FiveThirtyEight: Trump is beating previous presidents at being unpopular

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Trump Could Use Immigration Reform for a Reset

Peggy Noonan, an indefatigable optimist, continues to hope that Donald Trump is going to “pivot” and get a bipartisan deal on health care. She lacks realism. Democrats won’t help Trump or Republicans pass “repeal and replace.” Trump doesn’t appear to have “pivot” in him. But, does another disastrous week lead Trump and his team to look for some action that shifts attention from tweets, Russians and health care?

Recently, we discussed immigration reform, an issue that would disarm critics, attract moderate Republicans and Democrats, and reduce deportations that will produce bad press for years. The latest CNN (ORC poll) confirms that there is a considerable upside for finding a solution to the status of undocumented residents. The public agrees with the President in deporting criminals, but rejects deporting all illegal citizens. Ninety percent of the public suggests illegal immigrants gain citizenship if they meet strict conditions.


Friday, March 31, 2017

Will the U.S. Legalize Marijuana? Panel at National Polling Conference

The 2016 election was good for the legalization of marijuana. Four more states, including California, legalized recreational marijuana. The American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) May national conference will host a panel of leading national pollsters to examine the evolution of public opinion toward marijuana legalization. The change in opinion during the last few decades has been rapid, but there are still groups within the public highly resistant to the spread of legalization. I will chair a panel offering a series of papers describing the depth of that change nationally and within the key states of California, Colorado, Oregon and Washington.

Panel Description: Marijuana and Public Opinion Change

Recreational marijuana is on the move around the country. It was approved in four states in 2016 by mostly narrow votes and now is legal in states with more than 60 million people, or about 20 percent of the country. Pollsters will describe the shift in opinion favoring legalization, some of the future opportunities and road blocks it may face, and status of public opinion in states that approved it in 2012.

After Legalization, It’s Time to Change the Question
Floyd Ciruli, Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research

A substantial majority of Colorado voters remain steadfast in their support for the legalization of recreational marijuana. But, there are numerous signs of stress and public resistance to its spread across communities and through the commercial process of manufacture to sale. Polling to capture the stress and in communities resisting its spread recommends different questions from those developed pre-legislation.

Other Panelists and Presentations:

Evolution of Opinion About Marijuana Legalization in the Northwest, Stuart Elway, Elway Research

Legalize it! Examining the Predictors of Support for Marijuana Legalization in California, Lunna Lopes, Public Policy Institute of California

Trends in U.S. Marijuana Attitudes and Use, 1969-2016, Zac Auter and Jeff Jones, Gallup

Which States are Next to Legalize Marijuana – 50 State Survey, Sarah Cho, SurveyMonkey

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Did the Polls Get It Right? National Polling Conference Review the 2016 Election.

The American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) national conference will assemble some of the nation’s leading pollsters to review the accuracy and reporting of polls in the 2016 presidential elections.

President Trump now regularly attacks polls he does not like, along with the media outlets that report them as fake and rigged. His patented riffs to delegitimize polls is to claim “the election polls were a WAY OFF disaster,” as he tweeted most recently attacking CNN. In fact, the poll reported was a Gallup Research poll showing Trump’s approval rating had sank to 37% after starting at 45% shortly after the inauguration.

So, were the polls inaccurate November 8? Even if they were within the margin of acceptable error, were they misreported? Clearly, the nation’s political establishment and citizens were shocked by the result.

A four-day conference in New Orleans on May 18-21 will deconstruct the 2016 election polling and reporting and propose improvements.

The theme for AAPOR’s 2017 Annual Conference is: Embracing Change and Diversity in Public Opinion and Social Science Research.

Among the panels featured are:

  • A polling post-mortem and related papers spawned by the extraordinary 2016 election.
  • Latest research on survey methods, including non-response, question wording, questionnaire design, interviewers and interviewing, and sampling.
  • Diversity: Public opinion and research on racial, ethnic, religious, gender and sexual orientation issues.
  • Public opinion in shaping policy and debate on pivotal topics, like healthcare, immigration, income equality, marijuana and gun control. The Crossley Center will chair a panel on marijuana and public opinion change.

Public opinion and survey researchers are working in a time of unprecedented change, challenge and opportunity. AAPOR’s annual conference is the premier event for researchers, practitioners and consumers of social data to present the latest materials and learn from one another.

Monday, March 27, 2017

European Populism Not Dead. It has Powerful Friends in America.

Although the European establishment and the EU bureaucracy feels more secure after the Netherlands vote, the attraction of populism and nationalism remains strong in many European countries. It will next be tested in France.

The EU establishment cites recent polls that show EU favoring candidates in France and Germany have been surging into tight leads. But, if one conclusion came out of the recent Donald Trump and Angela Merkel summit, it is that the Trump administration is pro-populist, pro-nationalist and anti-EU. Their meeting highlighted no consensus exists on trade or EU’s open borders.

U.S. populist and nationalist money and online campaigning was spotted in the Netherlands. Expect behind-the-scenes support in France. Because Trump and his policies are an easy target for the European left, low-key campaigning will be the tactic.

In terms of Germany, although Trump and his team would prefer a party of the right, Merkel is such an object of resistance that they would likely prefer any chancellor but Merkel, even a socialist.

The sense of confidence for the European establishment or Brussels bureaucracy should be tempered by the challenges they face and the forces arrayed against them. And then there is, of course, the disinformation and aggressive campaigning of Russia.

Read:
The Buzz: Populism dominates 2017 European politics
The Buzz: European nationalists cheer Trump
The Buzz: Germany vs. U.S. – Policy and political battleground
Crossley Center: Netherlands moves right on immigration, but rejects the chaos of fringe nationalism

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Germany vs. U.S. – Policy and Political Battleground

The Trump-Merkel Oval Office visit was frigid. No handshake and no consensus on the mission and scope of the Atlantic alliance. Donald Trump and his “America First” team are more interested in a Cold War with Germany and Western Europe’s establishments than with Russia.

President Donald Trump meets German Chancellor Angela Merkel in the Oval Office on March 17, 2016 | Evan Vucci/AP
The difference in core issues and values were significant: immigration, NATO, trade and the EU.

Immigration

Merkel
Migration, immigration, integration has to be worked on, obviously. Traffickers have to be stopped. But this has to be done while looking at the refugees as well, giving them opportunities to shape their own lives where they are; help countries who right now are not in an ability to do so -- sometimes because they have civil war.  I think that’s the right way of going about it.

Trump
We also recognize that immigration security is national security. We must protect our citizens from those who seek to spread terrorism, extremism and violence inside our borders. Immigration is a privilege, not a right, and the safety of our citizens must always come first, without question.

Trade and EU

Merkel
Well, I believe that the President has clearly set out his philosophy as to what trade agreements have to bring about for the American side as well. I personally don’t think that Germany needs to negotiate and not the European Union.

But the question is, will it be of benefit to both countries or not, and let me be very honest, very candid -- a free trade agreement with the United States of America has not always been all that popular in Germany either.

Trump
First of all, I don't believe in an isolationist policy, but I also believe a policy of trade should be a fair policy. And the United States has been treated very, very unfairly by many countries over the years. And that's going to stop.

On trade with Germany, I think we’re going to do fantastically well. Right now, I would say that the negotiators for Germany have done a far better job than the negotiators for the United States. But hopefully we can even it out. We don’t want victory, we want fairness.

NATO

Merkel
...obviously, defense and security has a lot of different assets and facets to it. One the one hand, it’s supporting missions in Africa, for example. It’s also promoting development assistance, but it’s also helping mission in Africa, for example, in trying to stand up for their own safety and security. 

We continue to be in conversation. What was important for us today was that we were able to talk about Afghanistan, talk about, as the President quite rightly said, the continuing mission of Germany in Afghanistan.

Trump
I reiterated to Chancellor Merkel my strong support for NATO, as well as the need for our NATO allies to pay their fair share for the cost of defense. Many nations owe vast sums of money from past years, and it is very unfair to the United States. These nations must pay what they owe. 

But the problem Trump has with Merkel is more political than policy. Merkel represents everything Trump doesn’t like, and he often says so.

She is the senior European leader in power since 2005. She was close to Barack Obama; she leads Europe’s best economy with its most stable government. She is conservative, yet a globalist and the leading advocate of the EU’s conventions on open borders and a European position on trade.

For Trump, what’s to like?

But it’s even more personal. She got a Time Person of the Year recognition when he felt he should have received it. She was just labeled “leader of the free world,” not surprising since he only aspires to lead “America First.”

And, during the campaign, he specifically used her as a rally shout out. In fact, she and Hillary Clinton were interchangeable. And, of course, his raison d'être issue, immigration, should sink her. Trump asks, why is she in my office?

Trump

October 2015
“I always thought Merkel was, like, this great leader,” he said…about her decision to allow more than a million refugees into the country. “What she’s done in Germany is insane,” he added and predicted: “They’re going to have riots in Germany.”

December 2015
After Time magazine made Merkel its Person of the Year, Trump took to Twitter to declare that the outlet picked the person “who is ruining Germany.”

March 2016
Referring to the Cologne New Year’s Eve assaults on hundreds of women, Trump, during a rally in Iowa, again predicted unrest in Germany and lashed out against Merkel. “The German people are going to riot. The German people are going to end up overthrowing this woman [Angela Merkel]. I don’t know what the hell she is thinking.”

“Germany’s being destroyed. I have friends, I just left people from Germany and they don’t even want to go back. Germany’s being destroyed by Merkel’s naiveté or worse.”

October 2016
“Hillary Clinton wants to be America’s Angela Merkel, and you know what a disaster this massive immigration has been to Germany and the people of Germany. Crime has risen to levels that no one thought would they would ever see.” Trump said.

“We have enough problems in our country, we don’t need another one,” the candidate said.

Neither the Atlantic alliance nor the German-American relations were helped by this summit. But, Merkel’s reelection may receive a boost. Trump is not popular with much of the European public. In fact, Merkel’s main German opponent, Martin Schulz of the center-left Social Democratic Party, has received considerable attention for his criticism of Trump and “America First.”

However, neither Merkel nor the EU establishment should have any illusions. Trump represents a direct challenge to them and their vision.