View from Glen Hill: Intended — or unintended — consequences

Reza is a very warm and thoughtful youth. If you met him during his stay in Wilton that is just ending, you would have been impressed with his calm demeanor and utter joyfulness at being here in America. He wants to study to be a doctor like the person he most admires in the States, and in his home country, Reza is a huge advocate for America.

Reza has cystic fibrosis. His brother died of that same disease two years ago; after that, Reza had given up on life. Then something happened that changed everything for him: he learned that he had been selected to go to America for three weeks of treatment at the world-renowned clinic of Columbia Medical School Professor Hossein Sadeghi, M.D., at the Tully Center of Stamford Hospital/Columbia Presbyterian. Long-time Wilton resident Dr. Sadeghi treats patients both from here in the U.S. and from around the world and does so not only in the U.S. but also in their home countries.

Reza is from Iran, and the current travel ban would have prevented his coming if his trip had been delayed by even a few weeks. Yet that would have meant the difference between life and death for Reza. Is this really what the Trump Administration has in mind, or did a blunt instrument, violative of the First Amendment’s anti-establishment-of-religion clause in any event, create a consequence that even Trump did not intend? If so, will Trump make an effort to try to fix it? Or does he simply not care? If the latter, what does it say about us around the world?

Last week, television-news commentator Lawrence Kudlow spoke at Wilton Library. His new co-authored book on John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan asserts that they shared a common supply-side-economics vision, one that Kudlow hopes, as a self-described informal adviser to Trump, to persuade Trump himself to adopt. Kudlow also describes himself as a strong free-trade advocate. Let’s see how that free-trade part of his economic plans for Trump plays out in a world where we close our borders.

You don’t have to look too far back in history to see how that worked the last time we tried it. As the Great Depression fell upon us, America closed its borders to immigrants, adopted the highly restrictive Smoot-Hawley Tariff of 1930 — with which other major trading nations quickly followed suit, shutting down world trade — and hunkered down for a long and devastatingly deep economic slump, exacerbated by those trade barriers, during which dictatorships arose promising to make their nation great again and in so doing destroyed the fabric of their countries and engulfed the world in World War II.

Military spending for that war propelled America out of the Great Depression much as President Reagan’s hugely ramped up military spending (in true Keynesian fashion, though he would, of course, never have acknowledged that to be so, any more than Kudlow does) did likewise four decades later. To that, Reagan also added a steriods’ strong dose of supply-side tax cuts, following, according to Kudlow, JFK’s example.

Professor John Tully of Central Connecticut State University also spoke here this past week, in his case at the opening session of the library’s and historical society’s annual American history series now in its 10th year. Kicking off this five-part series with an overview on America’s identity in the 20th century, he explained that part of his role as an historian is to ask what we do to the past in the present: how our memory of the past is formed and how we read into it our own present-day perspectives.

Tully explained that how we saw ourselves in the world changed markedly from America in the decade up to 1941 and Pearl Harbor, and the decades that followed: America first and only yielding to a national understanding that if America retreats from the world and its allies, it gives freer rein to those who would destroy America itself. Do we still believe that? As Prof. Tully would strongly affirm, time alone will tell.