Like a bowling pin that hits the others and causes them to wobble or fall, President Donald Trump is hammering arrangements that have benefited our security. These involve both international security and the security Americans have grown to expect from our systems of social insurance.
Trump’s damaging foreign trip ended just before Memorial Day in timing both poignant and meaningful. Over 400,000 Americans fought and died to win World War II, a war that took the lives of 60 million people worldwide. After the war, the United States was the indispensable nation that led in establishing policies and international arrangements to keep the peace.
Under President Harry S. Truman and Secretary of State George Marshall, the U.S. embarked on efforts to rebuild Europe and its economy. As the State Department’s Office of the Historian notes, “The resulting European Recovery Program, or Marshall Plan, not only facilitated European economic integration but promoted the idea of shared interests and cooperation between the United States and Europe.”
Truman also formed the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to counter the expansionist Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Article V, which calls for NATO states to come to each other’s defense, has only been invoked once – on behalf of the United States after the September 11 terrorist attacks.
NATO has long had bipartisan support and has been based not only on military security but also on a set of values. In 1957, speaking at the opening of NATO meetings in Paris, President Dwight Eisenhower proclaimed, “The peace we do seek is an expanding state of justice and understanding. It is a peace within which men and women can freely exercise their inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. In it mankind can produce freely, trade freely, travel freely, think freely, pray freely. The peace we seek is a creative and dynamic state of flourishing institutions, of prosperous economies, of deeper spiritual insight for all nations and all men.”
Now Trump has undermined all that, making the international system more wobbly. By leaking secrets to Russians, our closest allies no longer wish to share intelligence with us. Trump’s lecturing of European allies (after praising autocratic rulers, including the Saudis) betrayed a misunderstanding of how NATO is financed and turned away from Americans’ value commitments. Now German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who leads the nation with the largest economy in Europe, has stated that Europe “really must take our fate into our own hands.”
Trump also faces an expanding set of investigations into ties between his inner circle and Russia. Trump’s son-in-law and advisor Jared Kushner asked Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the U.S., for a communications channel with Russia that couldn’t be monitored by the U.S. intelligence community. In contrast, French President Emmanuel Macron criticized Russian media as “organs of influence and propaganda.”
Giving up American influence and undermining European unity hurts our security while furthering Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s aims.
At home Trump’s policies are making Americans less able to pursue their goals and less secure.
The version of Trumpcare passed earlier this month by the House of Representatives with the vote of Rep. Bruce Poliquin would lead to 23 million people losing health coverage nationally. The majority of Mainers losing coverage live in Poliquin’s district and rural Mainers would be the most hurt. The Trump budget includes more health care cuts and cuts education by over 13 percent.
Behind these statistics are children with special needs losing services that would help them become independent, young adults who won’t be able to get ahead through college or vocational training or will face education debt that holds them back in reaching their dreams, men and women who wielded saws and hammers to build homes who now need surgery and physical therapy, seniors whose nursing home care is paid by Medicaid, and veterans losing coverage who were getting health coverage through an exchange because the closest Veterans’ Administration facility was too far away.
All of this has sparked a wave of activism as Americans strive to preserve and extend security in the world, our nation and our lives. Fearless journalists continue to do their job despite Trump calling them “the enemy” and facing violence against them. A key question is what the Senate will do prevent our carefully built systems from wobbling and tumbling down.