TRUMP’S FIRST YEAR
In late September, Twitter announced it was testing a new 280 character limit for tweets. Twitterati may regard this as good news. Those who have to endure Donald Trump may not…
The omens were bad from the start and they proved right. It’s been wild, and not in a good way. Many a US President has been accompanied by a whiff of sulphur. Many have been less than smart too. And some, perhaps many, have been sexist, racist, incompetent, rude, abrupt and ignorant and surrounded by individuals who are any or all of these things. But it’s rare to find one who seems to combine them all in one fell swoop. Or even in what many journalists and presenters miscall one foul swoop.
This is a man so small of mind and soul he could turn up in Puerto Rico after a devastating hurricane and complain to the islanders that they had blown his budget plans. This is a man so shorn of morals he could praise Duterte of the Philippines for doing “an unbelievable job on the drug problem”. He never mentioned that extrajudicial executions were involved…
This is the guy who responded to the Nazi chants and regalia of white supremacists in Charlottesville and the death of a peaceful anti-discrimination demonstrator with the weasel words “there are very fine people on both sides”.
The contrast with his predecessor couldn’t be greater: his weird dystopian inaugural speech, his attempted ban on Muslim immigrants, his childish jeering match with
Kim Jong-un that could launch a thousand missiles, his chaotic administration. Then there’s his bizarre twists and turns, so quixotic and irrational that nobody knows what the fuck he’s at – including, it seems, himself. Is chaos an actual strategy?
It may be good news for some – the very rich are certainly getting even richer – but it isn’t good news for most. America is divided every which way. Racial tension is higher than it has been for at least a generation.
The beautiful and bountiful US landscape, even its extraordinary National Parks, is under increasing threat from climate change, loggers and would-be ranchers and oilers. The drugs he denounced are still encroaching on rust-belt communities.
Trump has undermined a wide range of policies, plans and relationships around the world, notably on climate change and trade, while cultivating friendly relations with various strongmen, most of whom seem well able to outwit him.
It’s all business to him, one transaction after another. And bluster. Lots of bluster. Like PT Barnum. He seems to find it hard to stick to the facts or the policy and is always apt to fly off message and off the handle. He likes to shake hands and uses that as a way of dominating his guest. It didn’t work on Canada’s Trudeau and France’s Macron, though.
Some have likened the scheming and rivalries in Trump’s cabinet to Shakespearean drama or Game Of Thrones, but it’s much more harum-scarum than that, with its revolving doors and musical chairs and cast of chumps and schemers. More farce than fierce, we think. Remember Scaramucci? Ten days of foul-mouthed turmoil before he did the fandango.
The inquiry into Russian connections is getting closer to his team and family and to Trump himself. He fired former FBI Director James Comey, who had done him the signal favour during the election of leaking news of Hillary Clinton’s emails. Comey repaid Trump in spades for the slight. And it didn’t let up when another former FBI chief took over the investigation: Robert Mueller. He’s a bloodhound, he’s on the trail and he’s getting close. Next year will be interesting.
Trump is unhappy with it all, tweeting in May, “This is the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history”. But it isn’t. There is real meat to the allegations. Indeed, the former British spy Christopher Steele maintains that the Russians were cultivating Trump for at least five years before the election campaign got under way.
For all the bumph and bluster Trump doesn’t twig that Putin is playing him for a dunce, that Kim Jong-un is playing him like a gayageum, that he’s dancing to the music of the Saudis over Iran and that he’s a stoolpigeon for some of the ugliest Americans on the planet.
And then there’s China. It’s the oldest empire on earth and the biggest. President Xi’s ambition is that China will be the paramount world power by 2040 or before and it looks a likely bet. It may well be that Trump’s isolationism will mark the definitive end of the American century and the cession of primacy to China.