Issue 92
December 20, 2020
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On Monday, December 14, electors in all 50 states cemented Joe Biden’s victory; there were no “faithless electors” (see notes below). A final procedural requirement before Mr. Biden is inaugurated will take place on January 6. Vice President Mike Pence will oversee a joint session of Congress; electoral totals from each state will be tallied and a result announced.

Despite Donald Trump’s unsubstantiated claims that the election “was stolen,” in an interview with the Associated Press, former Attorney General Bill Barr (he resigned this past Monday) made it known that “to date, we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have affected a different outcome in the election.”

Monday’s vote, Mr. Barr’s findings (or lack thereof), and dozens of unsuccessful legal challenges by Trump & Co. – this past week SCOTUS rejected cases in Wisconsin & Texas – have catalyzed most republicans that had not already done so to recognize Joe Biden as the victor. Said Senator John Thune (R-SD), “At some point, you have to face the music.” Argued Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA), “Like it or not…the process is what it is and the Constitution will be followed.” Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) congratulated Mr. Biden as did foreign leaders including Vladimir Putin, Andrés Manuel López Obrador & Jair Bolsonaro.

Before President-elect Biden and his wife Jill move into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, let us reflect upon Donald Trump’s four years in the oval office. To that end, we will begin with a brief, top-down assessment of his performance, followed by bullet points framing specific policies we supported, and rejected.

Trump Stamp

The President of the United States must hold himself to standards that are materially above those expected of an ordinary citizen, irrespective of circumstances. Donald Trump certainly has not adhered to the higher level of personal conduct that is a non-negotiable precondition to serve as Chief Executive of the United States. In fact, he has denigrated the office of the president and further polluted the very swamp he promised to clean up; an impressive feat given the long lineage of ethically challenged men and women who have served in both chambers of congress.

Regrettably, too often, even when Donald Trump accomplished something substantively positive and or did the “right thing,” he diluted his own achievement with antagonistic, impulsive remarks that did little but divert the public’s attention away from his actions and onto his words. That was certainly a shame. Because in our view, more than a few of Donald Trump’s policies, were ones we agree(d) with, including but not limited to:

• Cut the corporate tax rate from 35% to 21%.

The average global corporate tax rate is ~24%. The previous U.S. corporate tax rate of 35% was simply not competitive. It encouraged tax arbitrage across jurisdictions that increased the cost of commerce and ultimately reduced the Treasury Department's corporate tax receipts. Trump was correct to reduce the corporate tax rate 21%. Consequently, America is now a more economical place to conduct business.

• Engaged the leaders of Historically Black Colleges & University (HBCU), increased federal funding for HBCU’s and forgave loans to HBCU’s in precarious financial positions.

Trump has “been beating the drum on HBCU’s as a cornerstone of his education platform from month one of his time in office…These seeds have been sprinkled under him” - M. Christopher Brown, president of Kentucky State.

“The action and the money don’t lie.” - Harry Williams, head of the Thurgood Marshall Fund.

“He did some substantive things.” - Jarrett Carter, HBCU Digest.

• Withdrew from Iran deal & imposed harsh economic sanctions.

• Confronted and punished China over intellectual property (IP) theft & flouting of WTO Rules.

It has been well documented via exhaustive research that has yielded indisputable hard evidence that Chinese companies have pilfered U.S. intellectual property to the tune of tens of billions of dollars. Effectively, this is tantamount to U.S. corporations unfairly subsidizing their Chinese competitors while losing out on income streams from licensing, and clearly, a violation of the basic tenets of WTO rules. Additionally, to coerce foreign companies into entering joint ventures and/or to compel them to transfer technology to Chinese partners runs counter to the rules and spirit of the WTO. At TQC, we are not making a judgment about Trump’s actions regarding the use of punitive tariffs to force the Chinese to the negotiating table; his approach was certainly debatable. However, he was correct to bring attention to, and confront China over these serious issues.

• Implored NATO members to contribute their fair share on defense.

Trump took our NATO allies to task for not spending 2% of their GDP on defense. This was a sum promised to us by our European partners in 2014. A cornerstone behind the creation of NATO was to pool resources for common security objectives. Trump was correct to argue – though again, his approach was uncouth - that the U.S. taxpayer was subsidizing our allies’ defense. And that members should be held to their pledges and not free-ride on U.S. military outlays. As a result of Trump’s actions, NATO members have materially boosted outlays.

• Secured the release of three hostages in North Korea.

Donald Trump successfully negotiated the release of three hostages (Kim Dong-Chul, Kim Sang-Duk, and Kim Hak-Song) from North Korea. Two of these three men were detained well before Trump took office. Unsurprisingly, Trump’s other “negotiations” with Kim Jong-il did not bear fruit. Still, we cannot dismiss the fact that he was effective in securing the release of these three men.

• Signed The First Step Act.

The First Step Act, is a bi-partisan prison reform bill. Among other things, this piece of legislation rectified some of the injustices that were the product of federal drug laws enacted in the late 1980s. Those laws were unjust because of blatant inconsistencies between longer penalties recommended for crack-cocaine offenses, a drug often associated with inner-city minorities than for powdered-cocaine wrongdoings, a drug of choice amongst Caucasians. Additionally, this sensible bill provided a pathway for certain non-violent drug offenders to exit prison and become productive members of society. Trump deserves credit for The First Step Act.

• Ordered a drone strike that killed Iranian Major General Qassem Soleimani. Click HERE to learn more.

• Approved a U.S. Special Forces mission that resulted in the death of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and his underling, Abu Hasan al-Muhajir. Click HERE to learn more.

• Brokered peace agreements that resulted in the normalization of relations between the Jewish state of Israel and several predominantly Muslim nations including The United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, Morocco & Sudan.

At TQC, regarding policy and politics, just because we might object to a person in general, does not mean that certain policies he or she champions are not ones we agree with. While we generally oppose Trump on several issues, believe he is morally bankrupt and guilty of some of the detestable things in Washington that he campaigned against, the aforementioned represent a sampling of his policies that we support and that he deserves credit for.

The bullet points below are a sampling of Donald Trump’s polices and actions that we disapprove of:

• Lying.

All politicians lie; it is basically a prerequisite for the job. However, the degree to which Donald Trump lied during his tenure as president was destructive. As a result, trust between elected officials and their constituents has been eroded. This confidence will take time to rebuild.

• Handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Click HERE and HERE to learn more.

• Employed an isolationist stance that weakened global alliances.

America is (still) the most powerful nation in the world. However, we need our allies now more than ever to help maintain a bulwork against authoritarian nations that threaten democracy, human rights, and the current (though worryingly, crumbling) world order. Isolationism, a policy approach favored by Trump, is detrimental to healthy global alliances.

• An equivocal, oscillating attitude towards white supremacists.

Contrary to popular belief, Donald Trump has denounced white supremacists (click HERE to learn when.) However, his infamous “good people on both sides” comment after the fiasco in Charlottesville, VA was inexcusable and reinforced his image among many on the left that he is an unabashed racist. At TQC, we do not think Donald Trump is a racist. In our view, he is somebody that utilizes divisiveness tactics, often with racial undertones, to pander to the extreme part of his base. These sophomoric tactics are morally bankrupt and are doing a disservice to the GOP. Click HERE to learn more.

• Installing family members in positions of authority.

This is common…in kleptocracies, not in properly functioning democracies. Familial appointments to governmental positions that serve important functions are grossly inappropriate. Donald Trump was wrong for making these appointments.

• Usurping the democratic process challenging election results.

When hundreds of millions of people vote for anything, including a presidential election, it would be a statistical impossibility if there were not a few irregularities and even isolated instances of fraud. That said, to cherry-pick specific instances of malfeasance and claim its representative of the general election process undermines the integrity of our democracy. The SCOTUS, of which three justices (Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, Barrett) were appointed by Donald Trump himself, agrees.

• Fired a laundry list of competent (and incompetent) government officials (and publicly admonished many others) that would not fall in line and profess their loyalty. Click HERE to see who has been fired.

• Pardoned Rod Blagojevich

Rod Blagojevich was the 40th governor of Illinois. He served from 2003 until he was removed from office in 2009. Blagojevich’s most infamous act: attempting to sell the Senate seat vacated by Barack Obama after he was elected president. While serving as governor, Blagojevich also tried to shake down Children’s Memorial hospital in exchange for a $50,000 campaign contribution from its then CEO, Patrick Magoon. Blagojevich was impeached, removed from office by the Illinois state senate in a unanimous 59-0 vote, and ultimately found guilty on multiple counts of fraud. Blagojevich shows no remorse for his crimes. He consistently argues that he did nothing improper, that his actions were examples of politics as usual. (He is correct in the latter reference, at least as it relates to the state of Illinois). It is disgraceful that President Trump commuted the sentence of former Governor Blagojevich, an unremorseful, morally corrupt human being who rendered public trust in Illinois elected officials to an all-time low.

End Notes

Note: In thirty-three states, electors are required by law to cast their vote for the candidate that won their state. If they ignore the people’s will, their vote can be canceled and or they could be replaced. (State laws binding electors to cast their vote for the winning candidate were recently deemed constitutional by SCOTUS’s ruling in Chaiaflo v. Washington, on July 6 2020). In other states, electors are not legally bound to vote for the winner. However, instances of electors “breaking ranks” and voting against the people’s will (hence the term, “faithless elector”) are rare. As mentioned in the opening paragraph, there were no “faithless electors” in this year’s election; there were seven in 2016.

Note: It remains to be seen if Donald Trump will attend Joe Biden’s inauguration on January 20. For historical framework, in American history, only three incumbent presidents - John Adams, (his son) John Quincy Adams, and Andrew Johnson – declined to appear for a president-elect’s inauguration.