Florida prof compares Trump to ‘Mafia boss’ in Erdogan letter review

The University of Miami published an analysis by a political science professor seeking to help students make sense of the letter President Donald Trump recently sent to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Political science professor Gregory Koger's analysis consists of alleging a "breakdown" and "dismantling" of the policy process within the Trump White House, as well as a criticism of Trump’s "ill-informed" rhetoric.

The University of Miami published an analysis Thursday of President Donald Trump's recent letter to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, with the authoring professor claiming that the correspondence indicates a larger "breakdown" of procedures and tradition in the Trump White House which "may severely harm American foreign policy."

Authored by political science professor Gregory Koger, the analysis characterizes Trump's letter as "undiplomatic and unprofessional," calling it indicative of "a complete breakdown of the policy-making process" within the Trump White House.

Koger acknowledges that he has "not seen any inside accounts of how the Erdoğan letter was written," but nevertheless includes in his analysis that "it is fair to guess that Trump dictated this letter himself and sent it without showing it to professional diplomats—or at least no one who would candidly assess its message." The professor goes on to assert that if his "guess" is true, Trump's behavior is "an example of a broader pattern" of disrespect for standard process within the Trump administration.

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Koger laments that the Trump White House has "demolished" the model of careful "deliberation and consensus-building" that exists during “normal times” before any presidential action or communication. He points to Trump and former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon's  "deep distrust of the 'Deep State,' of policy expertise, and following established routine." The professor warns that Trump "resists advisors who seek to restraining [sic] his tweeting, his impulsive policy decisions, and his willingness to break laws."

"After two and a half years, most of the staff and executive officials willing to stand up to Trump have been fired or otherwise replaced, and the president is free to follow his impulses," writes Koger, who goes on to claim that the "dismantling of the White House policy process" has allowed for acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and Trump to "run a possibly-illegal foreign policy toward Ukraine" and has enabled the "broader Syria crisis."

Koger breaks down his qualms into three categories: "words matter," "process matters," and "reality matters." His expressed concerns about "reality" hinge on his assertion that "Trump believes the letter makes him look good," despite the supposed fact that "Erdoğan clearly ignored it."

"Words matter," the professor says, because "generally speaking, Americans expect their presidents to speak well." He compares the characteristics of both George W. Bush and Barack Obama’s speech patterns to "Trump’s broader pattern of casual, ill-informed, and bombastic rhetoric," which he says "may severely harm American foreign policy."

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“The willingness of Trump to erase red lines, reinscribe them with threatening rhetoric reminiscent of a Mafia boss and then erase them again may damage [the] reputation” created by the Justice and Treasury departments.

In a statement to Campus Reform, Koger expanded on his concern for preserving “ordinary policy process,” claiming that it “institutionalizes the accumulation of expertise.”

“Most contemporary policy problems--especially foreign policy--are so complex that no one person can fully understand all their nuances,” he continued, adding that adhering to traditional processes also “minimizes the role of idiosyncratic bias.”

“A single advisor may be able to convince a President of a policy view that is not in the nation's interest, but it would be much more difficult to persuade a President to follow bad advice if several other experts and advisors have an opportunity to refute bad arguments,” he explained.

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Koger also suggests that Trump’s conduct prevents agencies from coordinating with one another. 

“In the case of Syria, the Department of Defense was clearly surprised by the President's action,” he told Campus Reform. “If the DOD had advance notice, it could have made plans to remove its Special Forces troops and supplies before the Turkish incursion, instead of literally having to blow them up.”

He also emphasized the importance of adhering to established processes because “it promotes policy stability, so that once a decision is made the nation and its government are prepared to stand by it.” 

“It is fair for politicians and advocates to say that there is too much policy stability on some issues, but particularly in the area of foreign policy it can be bad for the reputation of the United States to make hasty decisions and then retract them, to speak quickly and then regret it, to make and unbreak alliances without considering the long-term implications,” he added.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @celinedryan