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Long IslandColumnistsDan Janison

The president gets attention by sounding alarms, often without results

President Donald Trump speaks to the media on

President Donald Trump speaks to the media on the South Lawn of the White House on Thursday. Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin

President Donald Trump keeps warning of dire consequences if something he can call a border wall isn't built. Last week he declared: "There is a growing humanitarian and security crisis at our southern border . . . How much more American blood must we shed before Congress does its job?”

Should Congress refuse to relent, he warned, he's willing to keep government agencies shut down for months or even years.

The relevant question is whether Trump's alarms and threats, based on crises real or contrived, achieve his goals.

So far, the results if any are sparse.

Last March he threatened to veto a $1.3 trillion spending bill over wall funding. Neither Democratic nor Republican leaders took him seriously. WIth his bluff called, Trump caved. He signed the bill with the rationale that it included military funding, as it would have in any instance.

When North Korea was rattling nuclear sabers, as it had in the past, Trump warned of "fire, fury and frankly power, the likes of which this world has never seen before.” Then he met with dictator Kim Jong Un and in Trump's words they, "fell in love."

Love him or hate him, Kim has agreed to nothing by way of containing, reducing, or eliminating North Korea's nuclear arsenal, which was supposed to be Trump's goal.

At one point Trump hinted he could withdraw troops protecting the border between North and South Korea if trade deals with the capitalist South didn't become more favorable to the United States.

This drew attention, but results? Last March, a few marginal changes were made to prior trade agreements with Seoul. “It’s kind of small potatoes,” said Claude Barfield, a trade expert at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank.

“If this is a major victory, one wonders what a small victory would be,” added Gary Hufbauer, a trade expert at the Peterson Institute for International Economics as quoted by The Hill.

Some Americans who worry about authoritarianism were rattled when he threatened prosecution against his 2016 electoral opponent, Hillary Clinton. At the same time, Trump railed at special counsel Robert Mueller as if he were conducting an unauthorized probe. 

For all Trump's fussing and fuming from the nation's highest post, Clinton remains a free citizen and his former campaign chairman, his former national security adviser and his former personal lawyer have been prosecuted. The Mueller probe appears to be reaching a conclusion uncontrolled by the White House.

Vague warnings of violence are a presidential habit. In August he said that if Democrats won the November midterms they “will overturn everything that we’ve done and they’ll do it quickly and violently." In this context he called the antifa, or anti-fascist groups, “violent people.”

During the 2016 campaign, Trump excited rallygoers by sharing his fantasies of hunting down families of terrorism suspects — grim talk of no consequence. Strangely, he accused Clinton and former President Barack Obama of being "founders of ISIS." Just as absurdly, he said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) supports MS-13.

These allegations have gone nowhere in the real world.

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