Looking ahead to the Trump presidency with an open mind

Now that we’re halfway between election day and inauguration day, it’s a good time to focus on the serious issues that we’ll face during the Donald Trump presidency.

First and foremost is national security. This concern goes beyond our own country and affects that of our allies, including Israel, which should be a serious matter for the Jewish community.

A good starting point is Iran and the wholly inadequate nuclear deal that President Barack Obama is leaving for his successor.  While it may delay the advent of a nuclear-armed Iran, this conclusion is tentative since the deal lacks the intrusive inspection regime required to assure Iranian compliance.

The provisions for the inspection of undeclared sites begin with a series of cross communications to resolve any issue, after which there is a 24-day waiting period prior to actual inspection of the site in question. Over the longer term, the deal’s numerous sunset clauses will, in the absence of fundamental change in the nature of the regime, assure a nuclear-armed Iran.

Mr. Trump’s appointment of Congressman Mike Pompeo from Kansas as CIA director is good. In 2015, he and Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas visited International Atomic Energy Agency headquarters in Vienna and found that there were secret side-deals that Congress had not been informed of at the time of the vote.

Secretary of State John Kerry later claimed not to have read these separate arrangements.  These facts speak to the deal’s inadequacy and the incompetence, if not cynicism, of the administration that negotiated it.

I’m hoping that as CIA director, Mr. Pompeo and the other members of a tough national security team hopefully will assist President Trump in countering the growing threat of this aggressive theocratic regime.

However, Mr. Trump’s seemingly benign view of Vladimir Putin is worrisome when considering our relations with Russia.

History here is not hopeful. From President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s advances to Joseph Stalin through Henry Kissinger’s détente and President Obama’s and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s Russian reset, the reliance on personal relationship as a basis of policy with Russia has always failed.

I’m hoping the more realistic perspective of Defense Secretary Gen. James Mattis will help to craft a more balanced policy to better assure that our national security interests are met.

A healthy and growing economy is also essential to the welfare of the American people. President Bill Clinton once said, “The most important family policy, urban policy, labor policy, minority policy, and foreign policy America can have is an expanding entrepreneurial economy of high-wage, high-skilled jobs.” This should be our goal.

Mr. Trump’s proposed tax cuts and the reduction of President Obama’s onerous over-regulation are hopeful. Similar policies brought periods of prosperity under Presidents Calvin Coolidge, John F. Kennedy/Lyndon B. Johnson and Ronald Reagan.

Unfortunately, his penchant for protectionism resonates with the memory of the 1929 Hawley-Smoot Tariff and the ensuing trade war that contributed to the Great Depression. And his failure to emphasize the reduction of the enormous national debt accrued under President Obama is also concerning.

Illegal immigration is yet another issue that the Trump administration will face. The campaign rhetoric of the mass deportations of millions was no more practical than it was palatable.  However, many Americans do find the mass compromise of both our borders and our laws offensive. These feelings are legitimate and should be recognized as such.

Fortunately, since the election, Mr. Trump has articulated a more centrist, nuanced position. For one, he promises to control entry at the borders. There is no point in trying to do anything about those who are already here illegally without being able prevent additional unlawful entry.

He also promises to focus on those illegal aliens who are involved in serious criminal activity. This emphasis on criminal predators should be a point of consensus, not contention.

Following that, he says, we’ll figure out what to do with the others.  For me that will ideally mean allowing those who have been here for a reasonable period of time, perhaps five years, without serious criminal involvement to have a path toward legal status. I’m hoping we can bring these elements together and find a solution to this vexing national and human dilemma.

Finally there is the question of how we as Jews should approach these and the many other issues before us. Our traditions give us guidance. In several months we’ll read in Parashat Kedoshim about the meaning of holiness, which is at the center of the Torah: “Do not stand idly by thy brother’s blood” (Lev. 19:16) and “When a stranger resides in your land, do not mistreat him … for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Lev. 19:33).

We should support the protective functions of government while trying to respect the humanity of all.

Stephen M. Astrachan lives in Pleasant Hill. He is active in the Jewish community and an avid writer of J. letters to the editor.