Donald Trump

Photo Credit: Joshua Guerra | Daily Texan Staff

Citing anti-Israel bias, the Trump administration announced last week its decision to withdraw from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization at the end of 2018.

Art history associate professor Stephennie Mulder said regardless of its issues, such as sometimes being overly political, the work UNESCO does is too important to abandon.

“Despite some of the problems of UNESCO, it’s an organization that does really important work,” Mulder said. “It’s really the only (organization) that can coordinate international work to preserve cultural heritage sites around the world.”

UNESCO was first established in the 1940s to promote and preserve international education, communication and culture. The organization came under fire recently for criticizing Israeli occupation of the West Bank, a hotly contested area being fought over by Palestinians and the Israeli government.

One role of UNESCO is designating World Heritage Sites — important cultural or historical areas. Within the West Bank, there is one World Heritage Site called Hebron that houses shrines to the biblical figure Abraham and his wife. Mulder said Hebron is revered by all three major monotheistic
religions, Judaism, Islam and Christianity, but that the Israeli government is preventing Palestinians from accessing the area.

UNESCO condemned Israel’s actions in the area in a resolution passed in July.

“(UNESCO) deplores the ongoing Israeli excavations, works, construction of private roads for settlers and of a wall inside the Old City of Al-Khalil/Hebron which are illegal under international law and harmfully affect the authenticity and integrity of the site, and the subsequent denial of freedom of movement and freedom of access to places of worship,” the resolution said.

Rachel Mitchell, president of the student group Texans for Israel, said her organization represents a wide variety of opinions on the issues regarding Israel and Palestine, but as a whole they want to reduce anti-Israel bias within the UN.

“As an organization, we do look to the international community to address pretty blatant anti-Israel bias at the UN,” Mitchell said. “We’re hoping that the body will work toward a (solution) that is very desperately needs.”

Over two decades ago, the U.S. government passed a law barring funding to any United Nations organization that accepts Palestine as a member. In 2011, when UNESCO accepted Palestine as a member, the U.S. immediately stopped providing funding and now owes $550 million to the organization.

Mulder said the U.S. will lose much of its “soft power,” diplomatic achievements that the U.S. can use to boost its reputation and influence other countries. Mulder calls it a “tremendous lost opportunity.”

“It’s a way for the U.S. to be visible doing good around the world,” Mulder said. “If a U.S. team sponsored by UNESCO … comes to your country and starts to assist in rebuilding monuments, that’s very good for the local country. It’s also good for the U.S.’ reputation.”

State department representative Heather Nauert announced the decision regarding UNESCO but said it was not set in stone.

“If UNESCO wants to get back and wants to reform itself and get back to a place where they’re truly promoting culture and education and all of that, perhaps we could take another look at this, but we haven’t seen that taking place,” Nauert said.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Richard Burkhauser | Daily Texan Staff

UT faculty member Richard Burkhauser officially began work this month as a member of President Donald Trump’s Council of Economic Advisers, CEA.

A representative from the Trump administration reached out to Burkhauser about the position over the summer, and Burkhauser was officially appointed to the CEA early last month. To take the position, Burkhauser had to leave UT — forcing him to abandon a class he had planned to teach here — and head to Washington D.C.

Burkhauser said the CEA gives guidance to the president regarding the state of the economy and how certain policies could affect it.

“I’ve kind of been an ivy-tower public policy guy, telling people inside the beltway how to change their policies, so now I have the chance to be inside the beltway and work on some public policy issues,” Burkhauser said.

Burkhauser said the new job brings his career in public policy full circle. Fresh out of the University of Chicago Ph.D. program, Burkhauser went to work for the federal government in the Office of the Secretary of Health and Human Services over 30 years ago during the Carter administration.

“(My) first job was here, so it’s great to think of this as symmetry in my career,” Burkhauser said. “I started my career spending a year in Washington, and I’ll probably end my career spending a year or two here.”

Before the Bureau of Labor Statistics publicly releases data — even to the president — about the growth or decline in the number of American jobs, the CEA receives a report and analyzes any changes.

When a report released last week showed that 33,000 jobs were lost in September — the first decline in American jobs in seven years — the CEA took the data and studied what happened to cause the decline. Burkhauser said the week the survey was done, Hurricane Irma struck Florida, preventing the issuance of thousands of checks, as many had fled the state for safety. Because employment is measured by whether someone receives a check each month, the data was skewed.

Public affairs professor Sheila Olmstead just finished her time as the senior economist for energy and the environment at the CEA.

“The CEA’s job is to provide objective economic analysis to the president no matter who is in that office,” Olmstead said. “I have a deep interest — as do most people in the profession — in making sure good folks are on the CEA staff, and Dr. Burkhauser certainly fits that bill.”

Burkhauser said he hopes to return to UT at some point to teach the class he had to leave behind, which focuses on putting social security in the context of economic analysis. For now, Burkhauser said he is excited to start work at the CEA because of the younger people working there.

“As I’ve become more senior, it’s become more and more fun to work with younger people who have tremendous energy,” Burkhauser said.

Angela Evans, dean of the LBJ School of Public Affairs, said she has known Burkhauser for decades and jumped at the chance to bring him to UT a year and a half ago. Now, Evans said, she is sad to lose such a professional and seasoned researcher.

“I’m going to miss him, but I think this is going to be really good for the country, really good for the administration (and) really good for Congress to have someone like that,” Evans said.

NEW YORK — A rule change that would allow transgender women to participate in the Miss Universe beauty pageant next year is a step forward for equality, advocates said Tuesday after pageant officials announced the policy shift.

Pageant officials said they are working on the language of the official rule policy change but expected final word to come soon. The rules will have to be approved by Donald Trump, who runs the Miss Universe Organization, and NBC.

Trump and NBC co-own the contest.

The announcement of the policy change comes a week after the organization decided to allow Jenna Talackova to compete for Canada’s spot in the Miss Universe pageant this year

Talackova, a Vancouver resident, underwent a sex change four years ago after being born a male. The advocacy group GLAAD called on the Miss Universe Organization to review her case, as well as open the competition to transgender women, after she was disqualified from competing in the Miss Universe Canada contest next month.

“We want to give credit where credit is due, and the decision to include transgender women in our beauty competitions is a result of our ongoing discussions with GLAAD,” said Paula Shugart, president of the Miss Universe Organization.

“We have a long history of supporting equality for all women, and this was something we took very seriously.”

LOS ANGELES — A would-be Canadian Miss Universe contestant who was born male said Tuesday that a rule requiring contestants to be born as women should be dropped, whether or not she gets a chance to compete.

“I do not want any other woman to suffer the discrimination that I have endured,” said Jenna Talackova, who underwent a sex change four years ago.

Her attorney, Gloria Allred, displayed a copy of Talackova’s passport, which lists her as female, as do her birth certificate and driver’s license.

“I am a woman,” Talackova said. “I was devastated and I felt that excluding me for the reason that they gave was unjust. I have never asked for any special consideration. I only wanted to compete.”

Talackova, 23, of Vancouver was born male. Her sex change led organizers in Canada to disqualify her from the 61st Miss Universe Canada pageant in May.

The pageant’s New York based parent group, the Miss Universe Organization, run by Donald Trump, said in a statement Monday that Talackova can compete “provided she meets the legal gender recognition requirements of Canada, and the standards established by other international competitions.”

The statement did not provide specifics.

Talackova and Allred called the statement confusing and urged Trump to definitely state that she will be allowed to compete and to represent Canada in the Miss Universe contest if she wins. They also called on him to eliminate the rule.

“She did not ask Mr. Trump to prove that he is a naturally born man or to see the photos of his birth to view his anatomy to prove that he was male,” Allred said.

The lawyer did not permit Talackova to go beyond her statement or say whether she would compete if granted permission to do so while the rule remains in force.

Allred also said that legal teams have been formed in Canada, New York and California to consider Talackova’s legal options.

Commentary

Donald Trump — mega-millionaire, star of “The Apprentice” and pre-eminent comb-over guru — is making headlines for his announced exploratory committee into a potential presidential run in 2012 on the Republican ticket.

Trump is hardly the first celebrity to run for public office, and his ample war chest stands to keep his name in the mix through the election season. But how likely is he to be successful? By examining his fellow celebrity politicians, it might be possible to distinguish where exactly Trump falls on the presidential spectrum.

Trump, and perhaps all ambitious celebrity pols, yearns for the kind of esteem Ronald Reagan held. Reagan is better known for his defining presidency of conservative politics, his supply-side “Reaganomics,” ending the Cold War and the Iran-Contra affair than his acting career. Reagan’s presidential prowess so overcame his initial celebrity status that it’s often remembered as an afterthought.

But few non-celebrity politicians have reached the success of Reagan. The only other presidential celebrity examples for Trump to potentially follow would be Obama and Kennedy — neither exactly in his wheelhouse. Though he could follow the lead of Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Over his two terms as California governor, The Terminator gained serious political respect as a moderate Republican whose magnetism endured despite the drooping approval ratings suffered by lame-duck incumbents. And now that he’s done working in politics? He’s returning to showbiz, launching a comic book and animated series aptly titled “The Governator” with Marvel head honcho Stan Lee.

Arnold is a less polarizing figure than Trump, and based on some of Trump’s on-air flubs — notably for not knowing Roe v. Wade’s precedent as a right to privacy — he’s facing an uphill battle even if he wasn’t better known for his on-air persona. The failures of some celebrities running for office hold salient cautionary tales.

Comedian Stephen Colbert also famously “ran” for president in 2008, attempting to be on both the Democratic and Republican ballots. A spectacular failure, the whole endeavor seemed like a grand gesture for ripe material for his show, “The Colbert Report.”

While Trump hasn’t made a name for himself as a comedian like Colbert, it’s difficult to know just how serious he is about running. The Democratic Party wasn’t amused with Colbert in 2008 and refused to accept his bid. If by some bizarre sequence of events Trump clinches the nomination, will the Republican Party be willing to validate it?

The White House may be too drastic a real estate change for Trump — and he should know, with his millions made from his real estate ventures. Like most non-celebrity politicians, the best way to hold a higher office is to work your way up the ladder.

Sonny Bono, fresh from leaving Cher, enjoyed a successful political career as the mayor of Palm Springs and later as a U.S. Representative of California. Former “Saturday Night Live” star Al Franken, who first gained attention for his progressive politicking through a talk radio show and a series of bestselling books, won the extremely close Minnesota senate race in 2008.

But Trump has never been marked by modesty; his “go big or go home” attitude would seemingly preclude him from taking stepping stones such as a senate run to eventually get him to D.C. So finally, there’s the celebrity politician perhaps closest to Trump’s own personality: Howard Stern.

The radio shock jock won the Libertarian Party nomination for his 1994 run for governor of New York, but when a law requiring him to disclose his address and financial records reared its head, he withdrew. It raises the question as to what exactly Stern’s motivations were for running: Was he a legitimate politician or an oversize personality caught up political theater? Trump appears to be leaning toward the latter.