On 10 May 2018, the Perth USAsia Centre hosted Speaker John Boehner, former Speaker of the United States House of Representatives and former Majority Staff Director of the Committee on Ways and Means, David B. Stewart at The University of Western Australia for an exclusive roundtable luncheon on US President Donald Trump and the potential for a trade war on the horizon between the United States (US) and China. The Centre also hosted a public event at Government House in the evening with the newly appointed Governor of Western Australia, Governor Kim Beazley. The event was attended by more than 100 people from business, academia, civil society and more.
American Politics Today
In the evening event at Government House, Speaker John Boehner discussed the complexity of the inner-workings of the US Government system, describing the system “impossible” and that the Founding Fathers of the US designed the government – by nature – to be limited in its effect and that the Congress is nothing more than a committee of 535 people. Not only is the US government system complex, Speaker Boehner touched on the new age of social media and how this has impacted the population’s thinking.
“The rise of social media has resulted in a deluge of information on American people… it tends to push or pull people in left or right camps, leaving fewer people in the middle” – Speaker John Boehner
Speaker Boehner elaborated on the rise of social media claiming that it has made governing more complicated than it was just decades ago, due to the impact, exposure and speed of information and misinformation.
The Honourable Kim Beazley AC, Governor of Western Australia, and Speaker John Boehner, former Speaker of the United States House of Representatives discuss foreign policy under President Trump.
Speaker Boehner described President Trump as “not a Republican, not a Democrat – he’s a Populist”. To the crowd, Speaker Boehner declared that he thought Hillary Clinton would have won the Presidential election and the first fifteen months of Trump’s administration resembled his political campaign – largely based on the idea that President Trump had no expectations to win the Presidential elections and that his efforts and resources were focused moreso on the campaign, rather than the Presidential transition.
“He’s been behind the eight ball in his first fifteen months” – Speaker John Boehner
On American Foreign Policy
Despite President Trump’s “chaotic” approach to the US Presidency and America’s foreign policy, Speaker Boehner expressed his belief that his style of pressure is more calculated than it seems and that President Trump's ambition to "cut a deal" is his characteristic approach to policy.
Speaker Boehner expressed that his utmost confidence in the relationship between Australia and the US and that the bonds between the two countries “could never be stronger” and that although President Trump’s approach to foreign policy is a “not traditional”, he believes America’s relations around the world and its commitments to uphold American leadership in the world remains strong. This is despite the uncertainty and signals the Trump administration has sent out, such as the withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, Paris Climate Agreements and the recent Iran Nuclear Deal.
“How can you keep a deal with the Devil if the Devil never keeps his word?” – Speaker John Boehner on the US withdrawal from the Iran Nuclear Deal
Speaker Boehner highlighted that President Trump stepped up the fight against the Islamic State. His efforts towards North Korea has also been surprising, in what Speaker Boehner describes President Trump “like a dog with a bone in his mouth”.
David B. Stewart, former Majority Staff Director of the Committee on Ways and Means, shares his perspective on the contemporary state of American politics.
On Trade and Economics
Speaker Boehner expanded on President Trump’s foreign policy game-plan stating that although he has made a lot of promises to the Chinese and South Koreans and despite feeling doubts, he personally feels the US is moving in the right direction. Speaker Boehner believes that despite the ‘noise’, we are not going to see big dislocations with America’s trade agreements and he believes that President Trump is merely interested in bringing countries to the negotiating table and cutting a deal. Speaker Boehner also highlighted that the US has seen the lowest unemployment in 20 years. Finishing up on his keynote addresss, he expressed that despite the uproar of President Trump, it is necessary to ‘peel back’ the noise and look at what is really happening.
You can view the full photo album here.
Exclusive Interview: Speaker John Boehner, 53rd Speaker of the United States House of Representatives
Exclusive Interview: David B. Stewart, Former Majority Staff Director on the Committee of Ways and Means