I know what you are thinking: Stop the presses; Ray Mariano thinks President Trump has done something right! This must be fake news.
I understand why you would think that. To be clear, I think Donald Trump is the worst president in my lifetime and probably in American history. I think he is a pathological liar, crude, abusive and boorish. And, in my opinion, he is unequivocally a racist.
Beyond his wonderful personal qualities, I think his government policies have endangered the air that we breathe, the water that we drink, and our planet as a whole. He has contributed to an explosion of the national debt and the largest redistribution of wealth to the rich in American history.
And his abhorrent behavior and language in recent weeks only magnifies my belief that Trump is truly unfit to hold the highest elected office in the land.
Nevertheless, I do not think that every Trump policy is wrong. Sometimes it is hard to see past his deplorable personal behavior to see the value in a Trump policy. But, even though there are only a few, there are some instances where I think President Trump is right.
Trump is right that the United Nations needs reform
In a tweet, Trump has referred to the United Nations as a “club for people to get together, talk and have a good time. So sad!” On more than one occasion, he has pointed out the squandered potential of the international body.
While I do not agree with the Trump administration’s threat to link America’s financial support of the U.N. with compliance or adherence by individual member countries to American positions, I do agree that the U.N. is in need of major reform.
Created after World War II, the United Nations has indeed become a toothless tiger. Beyond that, in the opinion of some, it has become an international bully pulpit for those who disagree with America.
In 2016-17, the United States paid $1.2 billion, equal to 22 percent of the overall U.N. operating budget. During the same period, the United States also paid $2.25 billion, or 28.6 percent of a separate U.N. peacekeeping operations budget. That is serious money.
Recently, U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley cited America’s role in achieving more than $285 million in cuts from the two-year 2018-19 U.N. operating budget. Those cuts and the efficiencies tied to them are long overdue. Even U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres has admitted that some parts of the organization must become more efficient.
This past June, the peacekeeping budget was reduced by $500 million. Secretary Haley also took credit for pushing those cuts.
Haley said that in future budget negotiations, “You can be sure we’ll continue to look at ways to increase the U.N.’s efficiency while protecting our interests.”
President Trump should continue to push for increased efficiencies and reform at the U.N.
Trump is right that we should stop paying billions of dollars to countries that spit in our face and support terrorism
In 2012, America spent $37.68 billion supporting about 140 countries around the world. In 2015, the amount was approximately $35 billion. Approximately 76 percent of the world receives some form of economic assistance from the United States.
Included in this funding is money to support national security concerns, counterterrorism efforts, and commercial and humanitarian interests. While this amount equals only about 1 percent of the total U.S. budget, it is nonetheless significant. No other country in the world comes even close in terms of providing monetary aid to other countries.
In 2016, one estimate has the United States spending $2.93 million in foreign aid every hour. This of course is in addition to the cost of military spending in places like Afghanistan and Iraq.
About a third of our foreign aid goes toward health issues. Of that amount the biggest categories were HIV/AIDS, maternal and child health, and malaria. This money should not be subject to political considerations. Savings lives should come first.
However, money for economic development, national security and other discretionary funding should not be provided to countries that go out of their way to criticize us or cuddle up to terrorists.
For example, since 2002 Pakistan has received about $2 billion annually in aid from the United States – including both economic and security-related assistance. Yet, while they profess to serve as a military partner of the United States, Pakistan has strong ties to terrorism. Given their obvious double-dealing, why should we lavish them with billions of American tax dollars?
Recently, the Trump administration has withheld $255 million in military aid, saying that Pakistan has not done enough to fight terrorism. That is the right decision.
In a June 2015 speech announcing his candidacy, Trump said the United States should “stop sending foreign aid to countries that hate us.” While his words oversimplify a very complex topic, I believe that we need to demand more for our money.
Certainly, countries should be allowed to disagree with us. Recently, $65 million in aid to Palestinian refugees was withheld by the Trump administration shortly after Palestinians pushed for a U.N. resolution condemning the United States for recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. That was a mistake and the act of a bully.
But those countries that clearly support terrorists, those that take every opportunity to criticize America and fan the flames of hatred toward our country should not benefit from tax dollars provided by citizens of our country.
But Trump should keep his fingers off of Twitter and allow members of the State Department to explain whenever our policy has changed.
Trump was right to draw a red line on the use of nerve gas
In April, when Syrian President Bashar al-Assad used sarin gas against civilian targets in his own country, killing more than 80 people, President Trump responded. Trump called the attack an “affront to humanity.” American warships launched 59 cruise missiles at a Syrian military airfield. Assad has not used chemical weapons since.
Yes, I realize that the Trump administration told the Russians that we would be bombing the airfield in advance, and steps were made to minimize some of the impact of the bombing. And most observers would say that, at best, President Trump’s policy in Syria is unclear. Nevertheless, what is clear is that the use of chemical weapons crosses a red line.
I certainly agree.
Trump is right to arm Ukraine with anti-tank missiles
As Ukraine battles pro-Russian separatists in Crimea, President Trump has authorized the sale of Javelin anti-tank missiles to the Ukrainian military. The $47 million sale was subject to a 30-day review period in Congress. Trump’s decision also allows the commercial sale of sniper rifles.
Providing the Ukraine military with defensive weapons makes sense. In responding to criticism from those who call the sale a provocation in the region, Defense Secretary James Mattis said, “Defensive weapons are not provocative unless you’re an aggressor, and clearly, Ukraine is not an aggressor, since it’s their own territory where the fighting is happening.”
If you ask Trump supporters about a policy, regulation or law instituted during the Obama administration, most of them would tell you how that policy or law would lead to the end of civilization as we know it. Oftentimes, their reason for opposing the policy is based almost solely on the fact that they dislike (hate) Obama.
Unfortunately, too many of us support or oppose a policy based on our like or dislike (hate) of the person proposing it. Such an approach is not in the best interests of our country. It makes no sense to oppose a policy that is in our nation’s best interests just because we think the president is a bad person or has proposed bad policies in another area.
I do not take that approach. I think Donald Trump has been a terrible president – the worst in my lifetime. As much as I would like to see Trump removed from office, I do not hesitate, on those few occasions, when I think that one of his proposals has merit.
The best interests of America come first.
Raymond V. Mariano is a Worcester Sun columnist. He comments on his hometown and global issues that impact it every week in the Worcester Sun. His column appears weekly in the Sun’s print edition, on newsstands Saturdays.