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Trump signs order making classical architecture the preferred style for federal buildings

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trump aug 8 executive orders

President Donald Trump signed an executive order declaring the classical style of architecture as the preferred style for federal buildings in the nation’s capital, a White House official said on Monday, Bloomberg reports.

Instead of outright mandating that all newly constructed federal buildings are built in the classical style, the order states rather simply that they must be “beautiful.”

The other specific architectural styles allowed, as mentioned in an emailed statement from the office of the White House press secretary, are the Neoclassical, Georgian, Federal, Greek Revival, Beaux-Arts, and Art Deco styles. On the other hand, styles akin to brutalism and modernism, which became popular during the mid-20th Century, will not be preferred.

In accordance with the order, a “Council for Improving Federal Civic Architecture” will be created to recommend updates to the General Services Administration’s (GSA) architectural guidelines.

For months, the administration has been drafting this executive order, according to Bloomberg. On top of that, an early version that would have prohibited modernist design triggered a strong rebuke from the American Institute of Architects and the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

“Architecture should be designed for the specific communities that it serves, reflecting our rich nation’s diverse places, thought, culture and climates,” the AIA said in a statement. “Architects are committed to honoring our past as well as reflecting our future progress, protecting the freedom of thought and expression that are essential to democracy.”

In spite of this rebuke, the White House official said that polling revealed a vast majority of Americans prefer traditional designs and said some modern structures weren’t easily identifiable as public buildings, according to Bloomberg. New construction should command respect by the general public and not just architectural elites, the official said.

The GSA, before selecting a design, will also be required by the executive order to seek design input from the general public and future staff of federal buildings.

There are some Democrats, though, who have bashed the White House’s measure to enforce a unified and classic architectural design across federal buildings, with Rep. Dina Titus (D-Nev.) introducing legislation that would prohibit the GSA from blocking modernist designs.

“Imposing a preferred architectural style for federal facilities runs counter to our nation’s democratic traditions,” Titus wrote in a letter to GSA Administrator Emily Murphy. “Attempting to implement this misguided mandate from Washington, D.C., by circumventing Congress and gutting decades of GSA policy and practice without any public notice or hearing is even worse.”

With 30 days until Trump leaves the White House, he and his team have been trying to solidify a legacy that will outlive him. This rather small but consequential executive order will likely impact the way Washington, DC and other places are adorned with grand federal buildings in the coming years.

You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.

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EXCLUSIVE: Former Trump appointee explains an ‘America First Strategy’ in the ME

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Photo: Israeli Government

The author interviewed Ellie Cohanim, one of the authors of the new book: “An America First Approach to US National Security.” Ellie is the former U.S. Deputy Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism under the Trump administration. She is currently a Senior Fellow with the Independent Women’s Forum focusing on Iran, Israel, and global antisemitism, and is a national security contributor for the Christian Broadcasting Network. In 2021, Ellie launched and hosted for Jewish News Syndicate 30 plus episodes of the show “Global Perspectives with Ellie Cohanim.” Ellie spent 15 years in media and NGO management before serving in the public sector. How would you define an “America First” strategy in the Middle East?

Cohanim: An America First strategy in the Middle East would seek to advance American national security interests in that region, while maintaining our status as THE global superpower. To do that, the US would ensure that our principal allies in the region, countries like Saudi Arabia and Israel, are economically and militarily strong, and that our adversaries in the region are deterred.

Postal: How has the United States’ standing in the Middle East differed between the Trump and Biden administrations?

Cohanim: Under President Trump, for four years we had peace, stability and prosperity in the Middle East/North Africa (MENA) region. Under President Biden, in just three tumultuous years there has been war in the region, which holds the potential for becoming a regional conflict and even a nuclear confrontation. Meanwhile, the US’ status in the region and the world has diminished due to Biden’s disastrous mishandling of the Afghanistan withdrawal, his emboldening of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and his weak response to Iranian attacks on our personnel and assets in the region. 

 

Postal: Do you think the United States and Israel are/were in a stronger position to deter Iran’s nuclear and territorial ambitions in Biden or Trump’s administration?

Cohanim: America’s position of strength has not changed under either administration vis-à-vis the Islamic Republic of Iran. What has changed is our Iran policy. Under President Trump’s administration, the US contained and constrained Tehran. Trump applied a “Maximum Pressure” sanctions campaign which left the Iranian Regime with only $4 billion in accessible foreign currency reserves by the end of his term, giving the Iranians less cash and less ability to fund their terror proxies and their nuclear program, and Trump eliminated Qassem Soleimani. While all President Biden needed to do was to continue implementing such successful policies, his administration instead did the exact opposite.  Under the Biden administration, Israel, our leading ally in the region, was attacked for the first time directly from Iranian soil. This was an unprecedented escalatory attack by the Iranian regime, and could only happen under the Biden administration.

Postal: In your chapter of the book, you discuss the weakening of US relations with Israel and Saudi Arabia under the Biden administration. How has the Biden administration affected the likelihood of future normalization between Israel and Saudi Arabia, and deals between Israel and other Muslim countries (i.e., new Abraham Accords)?

Cohanim: The good news is that the Abraham Accords have withstood the test of multiple Hamas provocations against Israel, and now the current war. Despite numerous claims from the Biden administration regarding “successful” efforts to normalize ties between Saudi Arabia and Israel, I do not think that the Biden administration will be able to clinch such a deal. In the Middle East, people have a long memory. Saudi Arabia’s de-facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) has not forgotten President Biden’s snub when he first came into office, and Biden’s incredibly poorly advised behavior towards the Crown Prince when he made his first visit to the Kingdom as president. The last thing the Crown Prince wants is to hand Biden his first foreign policy success with a Rose Garden peace deal ceremony. So, I do not believe President Biden can broker Saudi/Israeli normalization.

However, I am also convinced that it is a matter of “when” and not “if” such a peace deal will happen between those two countries, as it serves both of their interests to make such a deal. The Saudis understand better than anyone that it is the Islamic Republic of Iran that threatens the Kingdom’s security and stability, not Israel.

Postal: What do you think of the Biden administration’s latest statements withholding arms to Israel?

Cohanim: President Biden will go down in history for his abject moral failure in not standing by Israel while she fights a five-front war. Biden has shown his despicable personality for trying to keep his anti-Israel arms embargo concealed until he could first deliver a speech on the Holocaust. Biden’s behavior is despicable on so many levels.

Ultimately, Biden is betraying the American people. He came into office presenting himself as a “centrist Democrat,” but has proven repeatedly to be beholden to the radical, extremist, pro-Hamas wing of his party.

Postal: How does the Biden administration’s support of a Palestinian state differ from the Trump administration’s support of a Palestinian state under its Peace to Prosperity framework?

Cohanim: The Biden administration stated that they will “unilaterally recognize” a Palestinian state. What the borders of that state are and who would lead it, nobody knows. 

The Trump administration’s “Peace to Prosperity” was a detailed plan that was premised on the realities on the ground in Israel. The plan required that the Palestinians reach benchmarks proving a real desire to live in peace with their Israeli neighbors. It included over $50 billion in investment in the region, which would have been a road to prosperity for all. Perhaps most significantly, the Palestinian state envisioned under the Trump plan would have been demilitarized, the wisdom of which could not be more clear following the October 7 massacre and attack.

The author would like to thank Ellie Cohanim for participating in this interview.

 

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