WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump has been making the United States "less respected, less secure," and proving himself -- as Democrats and possibly some Republicans feared -- temperamentally unfit to serve as commander-in-chief, according to an aide to 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.
Criticizing Trump as lacking "fundamental decency," Jake Sullivan, who served as a senior policy adviser to Clinton during her White House campaign, expressed concern that the GOP president "would take the country in a very bad direction."
"He is not able to advance an agenda that helps the American people, and he's engaging in divisive, disruptive actions and statements on a weekly basis," Sullivan said in a recent interview. "And I think in that way he is making our country less respected, less secure, and over time less fair and just."
The 40-year-old, however, hailed Trump's relationship with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, saying Trump's handling of ties with Tokyo has been "quite sound" and "one of the bright spots" in his administration.
"For a person who had a lot of negative things to say about Japan over the years, he learned quickly how important the U.S.-Japan relationship is, not just on North Korea but more generally," said Sullivan, a visiting lecturer at Yale Law School who many believe would have assumed a key post in a Clinton administration.
But he cited Trump's "unpredictability" as a source of concern about bilateral relations, especially with the businessman-turned-president having pledged to reduce U.S. trade deficits with China, Japan and other surplus-generating countries under his "America First" mantra.
"I do worry that Trump at any point could decide, on the trade and economics side or otherwise, that he's unhappy with Japanese policy, and then we could be 'off to the races,'" Sullivan said. "So Japan can't get comfortable."
The Clinton aide also rebuked Trump's Twitter posts, saying they, particularly those on foreign policy such as relations with North Korea and China, take away one of Washington's most important assets -- clarity, consistency and strength.
"It makes it much harder, from my perspective, for our allies to be able to rely on us and for our adversaries to heed us, fear us," he said. "(Defense) Secretary (Jim) Mattis will say one thing and then Trump will tweet something else. And you cannot run a foreign policy, in any country, let alone try to carry the mantle of the leader of the free world, if you're acting like that."
Sullivan continued, "The combination of watching what Trump is doing and then thinking about the ways in which we might have avoided that, from time to time it definitely still keeps me up at night."
Sullivan, however, said he has "bounced back" from Clinton's defeat in the November election. He is "actively teaching" at Yale while spending "a lot of time" on Capitol Hill working with members of Congress on foreign policy and other issues.
"People like me can't just sit there and complain," he said. "We've got to think hard about how we respond to this effectively, and that means how we do well in the midterm elections in 2018, but it also means how we try to build a bipartisan consensus around America's role in the world, around a more fair economy, around people understanding one another across racial and cultural divides in this country."
"And I have some optimism, actually, that Trump will provide a wakeup call to a strong majority of Americans that together we need to chart a better and stronger course for America."
Sullivan attributed Clinton's defeat to factors such as the controversy over her handling of classified information in her use of a private email server while she was secretary of state, the fact that she was running for a third term of Democratic presidency and the Republicans' drive to damage her standing and attack her personally -- all of which made it difficult for her to get her messages out.
"We entered election day with Donald Trump having very low favorable ratings, but Hillary Clinton also having very low favorable ratings," he said. "And when that happens, the voters typically will end up going with the candidate who represents change rather than continuity. So they went with Donald Trump."