It is easy to get so caught up in the latest head-snapping Donald Trump headline, that good news and legitimate policy debates can quickly be overshadowed. Here are several such items:
▪ Nearly every member of Congress voted to sanction Russia as retaliation for its interference in the 2016 election. Trump, knowing Congress could easily override a veto, reluctantly signed the bill. But he complained that Congress had over-stepped its boundaries by making it difficult for him to implement the law the way his administration sees fit.
That’s a legitimate concern. It’s understandable why Congress chose the route it did, given questions about Russia swirling around this administration, but Trump is right to question if Congress went too far. It’s also fair to wonder if the urgency Congress felt to punish Russia and rein in Trump set a precedent that might hamstring future presidents.
▪ The Trump administration’s proposed Raise Act on legal immigration was quickly dismissed, but some of the underlying issues it attempted to confront are worth discussing.
Yes, critics were right to wonder why it proposed cutting legal immigration in half. Immigration has helped keep our economy strong even as our birth rate has slowed. Cutting legal immigration so severely would undercut one of our greatest economic assets.
But the plan also proposed a re-thinking of immigration priorities, from family reunification to one more merit-based. With the changing global economy – and the reality that millions of jobs have gone unfilled because there have not been enough skilled workers – debating immigration priorities seems prudent.
▪ The Justice Department contends that its new foray into affirmative action is simply about taking a look at a 2015 complaint from dozens of Asian-American groups. If so, that’s a legitimate policy debate.
How colleges and universities factor race into their admissions processes is not well understood by much of the public. A debate that can help eradicate harmful myths and help determine what weight standardized tests should have – Asian-American groups say they are being discriminated against because they generally have the highest scores – can do a world of good in a country that will be majority-minority in a few decades.
▪ On the economy, Trump has been right; there has been a lot of genuinely good news recently. There have been more than one million jobs created during his time in office; the jobless rate has dropped to a 16-year-low and consumer confidence has climbed to a 16-year-high. The stock market has set several record highs the past few months, with the Dow topping 22,000 points for the first time.
Granted, it might be hard for some to hear Trump tout such news. He spent the presidential campaign ignoring or denying clear economic progress. He was handed an economy already on the nation’s longest-ever monthly job creation streak; the Dow had more than doubled and the S&P 500 nearly tripled during the Obama era.
▪ And finally, while it was deeply disturbing to hear Trump talk this week about raining “fire and fury” on North Korea when a calm, steady hand is needed, the Trump administration was previously able to help secure a unanimous vote in the U.N. to sanction North Korea over its recent provocations.
We have a lot of sensitive and disturbing issues with which to grapple. That doesn’t mean we should forget to acknowledge when things are going well or more debate can make us better.