Just when you thought the circus surrounding the Donald Trump presidency couldn’t get any stranger, you discover you are wrong, David Frum, dinner keynote speaker told the attendees at the 5th annual CADA Summit.
Frum, a Senior Editor at the Atlantic, and one of North America’s top political analysts, joked that he often gets asked to speak to business audiences in Canada about Donald Trump. He says every speech has fresh material due to the whirlwind of scandals and developments. “In the past 12 months I have not been able to reuse any of my materials,” says Frum. “You think it’s the wildest thing ever, and the next thing is wilder.”
Frum expressed his concerns about the latest scandals breaking from Washington, including allegations that people involved with Trump’s campaign might have been talking with Russian officials during the election campaign.
Frum says if the Russians were simply helping Trump for their own purposes and reasons, that is one story. But is it possible that anyone from the Trump campaign called the Russians back? “If that were true, that would be a very different story,” says Frum.
If that were the case, he says it would be the biggest political story since Watergate. “That is today’s story. It’s a whirlwind,” says Frum, adding that these types of scandals are consuming America’s attention.
But a distracted President might not be entirely a bad thing for Canada, he says. “An inattentive Donald Trump is a safe Donald Trump.”
The dealers in the audience listened intently, and were keen to hear about the possible impact of the disruptions they witness nightly on their TV screens on their own business interests.
Frum laid out the good, the bad and the ugly impacts of the Trump presidency.
Starting with the positives, tax cuts and investment spending could have a stimulus effect on the U.S. economy.
Frum also expects the rollback on some of the environmental regulations, and more restrictive immigration policies could contribute to growth and higher wages. “Things look pretty bullish,” says Frum.
Frum says there are also some “bad” things associated with the Trump presidency.
He says he worries that the Trump administration has a commitment to a high fiscal stimulus relying on deficits.
He says the administration’s highly-protectionist approach to trade is also a concern. “There is a real risk of all kinds of trade friction and trade wars. Not just with China and Mexico but with all sorts of countries,” he says.
Trump’s mercurial personality is also a concern. “Another thing I worry about a great deal is the breakdown of relationships with allies,” says Frum.
With traditional diplomacy, governments can expect relations to be consistent and predictable with long-term goals. Not so with Trump. “You don’t get into a screaming match on the phone with your most powerful military ally in the region as in Australia,” says Frum. “America is powerful not because America is so strong, but because it’s a benign power and is able to mobilize large partnerships.”
By far, the largest portion of Frum’s talk dealt with the “ugly” downside of the Trump administration and its potential impact on Canadians.
“This is an administration that will be rocked by scandals,” says Frum. He says the typical national security advisor serves 2.5 years. “This guy made it 25 days,” says Frum, referring to Trump’s former National Security Advisory General Michael Flynn who resigned this week.
Trump’s personal and business interests are also a big concern for Frum. “This is not someone that ran for President with a strong vision for the country. This is someone who has a strong vision for himself,” says Frum.
There are also other by-products of the current instability.
Frum says the unprecedented leaks from intelligent agencies and law enforcement agencies, in an apparent bid to fetter some of the actions of the President, are also a big concern. “It’s incredibly dangerous,” says Frum. “The people trying to protect the country from Donald Trump are doing things that are as dangerous as Donald Trump.”
He says the FBI, for example, is supposed to “keep its mouth shut” until they bring charges against an individual. “Because Donald Trump is so unprecedented,” says Frum. “Intelligence agencies and law enforcement agencies are also doing things that are also unprecedented.”
In introducing the dinner keynote, Gino Cozza, Vice President of Sales, Distribution and OEM Relationships with TD Auto Finance, told the audience that we live in interesting times. We do indeed.