By Katherine Wang
“TODAY WE MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!”
President Donald Trump’s tweet celebrating his victory on Election Day is now a trending hashtag used by his avid supporters. While some may cringe at the familiarity of this slogan, one fact remains true: it is undoubtedly one of Trump’s many tactics to continuously remind the media of his presence.
Presidential communication has long been regarded as vital to establishing trust between a government and its citizens. Naturally, many presidents have developed ingenious methods to communicate with their citizens, such as Franklin Roosevelt’s “fireside chats” or Dwight Eisenhower’s use of TV commercials. However, since his first campaign announcement in 2015 to his ongoing presidential term, President Trump has used an unconventional medium to engage with the public: social media, specifically Twitter.
Today, President Trump’s Twitter has 36.7 million followers and more than 35,000 tweets. Just one look at this account can reveal Trump’s remarks on current news and controversies prevalent throughout the US. It can also exhibit Trump’s popularity with other Twitter users, as well as his complaints towards certain individuals. Despite the seemingly unimportant cascade of news, Trump’s ability to navigate social media provides him with an invaluable asset in politics: the ability to converse with the public without any filters.
Trump’s Twitter conveys the idea of a politician who attempts to be transparent. In May, Trump posted his opposition to news outlets, tweeting, "The Fake News Media works hard at disparaging & demeaning my use of social media because they don't want America to hear the real story!” His firm belief against “Fake News Media”, including CNN and the New York Times, illustrates his desire to communicate with the American people without journalists crowding in his way. Essentially, Trump wants to give people the real, unaltered news without an in-between source.
In addition, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey defends Trump’s Twitter. While there have been many calls to ban Trump’s Twitter account, Dorsey believes that “it's really important to hold them [those in leadership] accountable… [I]t’s really important to have these conversations out in the open, rather than have them behind closed doors.” He brings up the alternative: “So if we're all to suddenly take these platforms away, where does it go? What happens? It goes in the dark. And I just don't think that's good for anyone.”
Trump’s tweets also hold accountability for his political actions. For instance, this June, Trump witnessed his own tweets being used to block his travel ban, with a US appeals court citing that his tweets are official statements that cannot be omitted or looked upon lightly. As a result, the court banned Trump’s order to prevent travelers from six Muslim countries from entering the US.
On the other hand, Twitter has also led to negative relations between the president and the people. According to CNN, about seven in 10 Americans believe that Trump’s tweeting habits are a precarious way to communicate, as they are often misunderstood. In fact, nearly half of Republicans believe that his tweets may be misleading to other world leaders. Furthermore, a Post-ABC poll records that more than two-thirds believe that his tweets can be insulting and inappropriate. Polls sometimes portray an accurate depiction of the public’s belief towards a certain event or action, and in this case, it is apparent that Trump’s tweets may not be effective in demonstrating proper etiquette for someone in a high position of leadership.
While Trump’s tweeting habits has its advantages (transparency and accountability) and disadvantages (improper behavior), it is certainly effective in establishing a relationship between the president and the public. However, whether that relationship is filled with trust or wariness differs among various individuals. Trump’s Twitter account serves as a reminder of FDR’s “fireside chats” -- a unique and innovative method in vocalizing his beliefs towards his citizens.
By: Injae Lee
In the weeks leading to the snap general election that she had called for, Prime Minister Theresa May of the Conservative Party promised that she would bring “strong and stable” leadership to Great Britain. The United Kingdom, having been rocked by two turbulent referendums in the last few years, seemed anything but united and was in sore need of the leadership that May promised. However, as the election neared, liberal newspapers oriented to the opposition Labour Party mocked May’s slogan and her party’s platform, and “strong and steady” became the meme that stole the election (along with a caped individual wearing a bucket who ran in May’s constituency). Then, the people went to the polls on June 8 and delivered a rejection of the Prime Minister and her campaign. In the stunning election result, the Conservatives lost 13 seats - and their solid majority - with Labour gaining an unforeseen 30 seats. The shocking election resulted in a hung Parliament - a parliament where no party controls the majority of seats and thus cannot form a majority government. With May’s “strong and stable” leadership more likely to now be “weak and wobbly,” the future of Britain, its government, and its status as a leading world power are more uncertain than ever before.
The most immediate question still unanswered by the election is the future of the British government. When the Prime Minister called for a snap election in 2017, the Conservatives were in power with a solid 330-out-of-650-seats majority, May enjoyed high approval ratings among the people, and Labour, the opposition party, seemed to be all but finished. The Labour Party, which had opposed Brexit, had lost much of its working-class voter base (which supported Leave) and was slumping in the polls, while its leader, Jeremy Corbyn, was widely regarded as incapable of leading his party to victory. All that changed after the election. May and the Conservatives remain in power but only in a severely weakened minority government. On the other hand, with 30 new seats, Corbyn and Labour have been completely revitalized, with the Leader of the Opposition growing in power and solidifying his position within the party. There have even been rumors that yet another general election may be called for, most likely as an attempt to form a new majority government - resulting in Corbyn becoming Prime Minister. To solidify her weak hold in Parliament, May has been forced to resort to dramatic measures. In late June, the Prime Minister announced that she had reached a deal with the Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland to form a de facto coalition government. Although the ten seats of the DUP will give her the majority in the Commons, May’s new coalition has proved highly controversial. The devolved administrations of Scotland and Wales have taken offense that the government promised an additional £1 billion (approximately $1.3 billion) to the Northern Irish government as part of the agreement and are now demanding that Parliament promise more funds to these countries as well. Many more are also outraged that the Conservatives have made a deal with the DUP, which is considered far-right and has adopted controversial stances, such as an anti-LGBTQ agenda. There are also rumors that factions in the Conservative Party, outraged by her handling of the election and her deal with the DUP, are considering ousting May from office. May’s removal would trigger a leadership contest and result in not only in a new leader, but a new Prime Minister. With the ongoing turmoil in the House of Commons, May and the Conservatives are on shaky ground, and another change of government will not surprise many in Britain.
The United Kingdom’s so-called “Brexit” negotiations have also been thrown into uncertainty by the general election. Theresa May’s stance on Brexit since her ascension to the office has been that “Brexit means Brexit.” This policy means that the United Kingdom will leave the European Union, as it voted to last summer, with no second referendum and with as little delay as possible. While both the Conservatives and the opposition Labour party follow this policy, their stances diverge on the type of Brexit that they advocate for: hard Brexit or soft Brexit. The Conservatives are working for a hard Brexit, where the United Kingdom would completely withdraw from the customs union and from the open-border European Single Market in order to have full control over its borders. Labour advocates for a soft Brexit, one in which the United Kingdom leaves the E.U. and its single market, but maintains some form of access to the market and continues to have important trading links in the E.U. - an arrangement with the Union similar to that of Norway’s (Norway has no say in E.U. affairs, but maintains access to the market). There are many people who support neither option, while the third-largest party in the U.K., the Liberal Democrats, simply want to stay in the E.U and cancel Brexit. Thus, it is unlikely that the United Kingdom will manage to pull off a complete, hard Brexit. May’s fragile alliance with the DUP and her minority government means that she will have to assume a more moderate stance on many policies regarding Brexit to appease the opposition. However, the opposition itself hasn’t made things any easier for May. When she invited them in July to engage in two-party talks to create policies for Brexit, Labour quickly rebuffed her offer, leading to wide ridicule of May in the press and a further slip in her approval ratings. The government’s weakened stance and its faltering momentum also has not gone unnoticed in the European Union. As talks commence in Brussels, former Foreign Office diplomat and chief of staff for the European Trade Commissioner Simon Fraser has stated that May’s negotiations are failing to work in her favor and that Brussels holds most of the cards on the table. Unless May has an ace up her sleeve - which seems ever more unlikely - it seems that the United Kingdom’s Brexit negotiations will hardly go in the direction desired by the Britons who had voted Leave in the first place.
Theresa May may have campaigned for a “strong and stable” government, but if anything, the British government seems more “weak and wobbly” than ever. With the United Kingdom’s government in gridlock, its negotiations with the European Union faltering and its leader in a precarious situation, it seems that the future of Great Britain is anything but great.
By: Meghan Mangini
In the wake of this unprecedented and controversial presidency, the independence of the Federal Bureau of Investigation has never been more crucial.
Regardless of any current matters, the FBI’s independence has been preached since its establishment. Following its founding in 1908, the sole purpose of this branch has been to protect the law and justice of America. As seen with J. Edgar Hoover, to favor a political leader or oneself over the needs of the United States citizens would mean jeopardizing the system of checks and balances America was founded upon. Hoover, one of the first FBI directors, was known to advocate for specific people or causes in efforts to build up his own political strength and he allegedly blackmailed numerous victims including John Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. His actions discredited and undermined those they were directed towards and corrupted some the FBI’s endeavors during that time. Thus, after Hoover led the FBI for almost half a century, all the government decided all directors are issued a ten year sentence to ensure that his or her judgment remains independent from any one president. However, following the shocking decision to cut Comey’s ten year duty short, the rectitude of the FBI grew into a pressing national issue.
In addition to the age-old fundamentals of the FBI, the present political situation has further asserted their core values. Particularly, the importance of the FBI’s autonomy lies in its ability to decipher whether Trump (or any other politician), allowed or encouraged Russian interference with the 2016 presidential election. Being that Trump is now in charge of appointing a new director, many worry his judgement will be skewed by allegations against the Republican Party of Russian collusion. If any official of this agency becomes swayed by the present turbulence in Washington, the priority and credibility of this investigation will be lost. In turn, not only will the rudimentary American principles of democratic freedom be shattered, but Putin will use this to ease Western tensions, relieve sanctions, and thus be recognized as a world power who cannot be suppressed by Europe.
James Comey’s recent testimony on June 8 shed light on this topic and hence commenced its dispute. In both the testimony and previous interviews, he has been quoted emphasizing the importance of the FBI’s independence, saying, “I believe that Americans should be deeply skeptical of government power, you cannot trust people in power, the founders knew that...It [FBI] has to maintain a sense of independence from the political forces”.
Aside from the former FBI director James Comey, several other politicians have voiced their opinions on this highly-disputed topic. For instance, Texas Senator John Cornyn dropped out of the running for the vacant FBI director position, stating that “Now more than ever the country needs a well-credentialed, independent FBI director. I’ve informed the administration that I’m committed to helping them find such an individual, and that the best way I can serve is continuing to fight for a conservative agenda in the U.S. Senate.” Similarly, Obama has been quoted as saying an FBI official “has to be someone who is competent and independent to protect this institution,”. Both Obama and Corydon add credibility to Comey’s desires and consequently justify the need for an apolitical FBI director.
With the overall confusion concerning the White House and Russia, the American people deserve the truth. The derivative of this necessary clarification lies in the credibility of arguably the most powerful investigation agency in the world, the FBI. Thus, given the foundation of the FBI, the prevailing governmental investigations, and the plausible insight of Comey, Corydon and Obama, the urgency for an independent FBI has never been more prevalent. America was built upon freedom and justice. And by maintaining the virtue of these crucial concepts, United States citizens can rest assured that the prosperity of their nation will only manifest itself for future generations to enjoy.
By: Mason Krohn
On October 27, 1987, Donald J. Trump paid a lofty $94,801 to display an ad in the New York Times, Washington Post, and Boston Globe. While this price was just a drop in the bucket of Trump’s wealth, it portrayed a clear indication of his stance on Saudi Arabia. Within the newspapers, Trump described the Persian Gulf as, “an area of only marginal significance to the United States”. Furthermore, he claimed, “the world is laughing at America's politicians as we protect ships we don't own, carrying oil we don't need, destined for allies who won't help”. A lot has changed since 1987, because a month ago, Trump made his first trip out of the United States when Air Force One landed in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, otherwise known as “an area of only marginal significance”. Ironically, when asked if his 1987 full-page advertisement pointed towards political aspirations, Trump’s spokesman stated, “Right now Donald Trump has no ambition to seek political office of any kind.” However, in 2017, Donald Trump holds the future of Saudi-American relations in his hands through his presidential actions and it appears that the kingdom is more significant to Mr. Trump than ever before.
One of the most paramount outcomes of Trump’s visit to the Middle Eastern nation was the creation of a massive arms deal pledging $110 billion in weapons to the kingdom. Prior to Trump taking office, President Obama sold $112 billion in weapons over eight years to Saudi Arabia. The majority of these arms were sold in 2012 in a deal negotiated by former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. Saudi Arabia signs away these agreements because they are in need of advanced weaponry that the kingdom cannot manufacture. The arms not only uplift their hegemony, but assist Saudi Arabia in their campaign against the Houthi rebel group in Yemen whom the Saudi Arabian government believes gains support from Iran. However, despite their historical purchases, according to the Brookings Institution, there is no deal. In actuality, there are a group of letters of intent in the place of contracts. The Defense Security Cooperation Agency, the Pentagon’s arms sales wing, refers to these unofficial agreements as “intended sales” because nothing has been notified to the Senate for review. Moreover, the kingdom is unlikely to have the capability to follow through with the intended sales due to the heavy drop in oil prices which remains the most significant source of capital for Saudi Arabia.
Whether the deal holds true or not, Trump’s sudden willingness to hand American weapons to a nation like Saudi Arabia reveals a few of his motives and priorities in the Middle East. First off, Trump’s stated purpose for creating the arms deal was to boost economic growth for the United States. During his trip he stated, “We made and saved billions of dollars and millions of jobs.” Yet, an analysis by the New York Times found that his figures were quite overexaggerated. Assuming the arms deals were to go through, by the time they become formal agreements, the values are destined to drop. While Obama was in office, offers standing at $115 billion to the Saudis were knocked down to $57 billion after contracts were written out. On top of that, Saudi Arabia maintains a policy that half of its military purchases will be local which means defense contractors are incentivized to relocate jobs inside of the kingdom. In support of this policy, Raytheon has not promised the creation of any domestic employment, but instead announced the formation of a unit named Raytheon Arabia which would aid the Saudi economy. Therefore, the arms deal is stirring growth for Saudi Arabians more than anything else rather than providing Americans with opportunities.
Notably, this deal was signed amidst uproar from human rights advocates against previous weapon usage by the kingdom. The Saudi Arabian military has a bad track record of protecting civilians given that they have used American drones to take out groups of innocent Yemeni people who are unaffiliated with the Houthi movement. In 2016, more than 140 Yemeni citizens lost their lives when airstrikes targeted a funeral. What was a ceremony for the death of one man quickly turned into a national tragedy. Nonetheless, the Saudi-led coalition has continued to relentlessly bomb hospitals, markets, schools, and homes contributing to a death toll of 10,000 while infrastructure is demolished into rubble. Trump has committed himself into a value system for Middle Eastern policy that places human rights on the backburner. Beyond opening relations with a country notorious for its mistreatment of women, Trump is handing over the tools Saudi Arabia needs to bring countless atrocities into fruition.
Even more worrisome for Americans is the impacts of dropping American-labeled bombs on the starving and angered Yemeni populace. Anti-American sentiment has swept through the region due to our past arms deals. For instance, in Sanaa, the capital of Yemen, a billboard reads, “America is killing the Yemeni people. They are feeding on our blood.” Keep on driving, and another sign displays, “The American companies enter a country to steal its wealth and humiliate its people.” All the violence within Yemen that America condones is only further radicalizing its citizens. The hatred of the Yemeni people falls back on the United States because we supply the weapons used for killing. But with Trump increasing our distribution of bombs, drones, and military aircraft to the Saudi kingdom, we give the people of Yemen even more reason to band together in their animosity against Americans.
The “$110 billion arms deal” may be merely symbolic and ineffective, but for the people of Yemen and even America, such a proposal can be frightening. Nevertheless, the whole world watched as Trump planted his foot on the side of Middle Eastern politics he wishes to align with: a side of apathy for human rights in favor of the falsehood of economic opportunity. For the sake of Yemeni civilians and even the American people, one can only hope for the return of 1987, non-interventionist Trump.