Hot Press

THE LUNATICS HAVE TAKEN OVER THE ASYLUM

As the case against him mounts, and his popularity sinks, the ‘President’ of the USA, Donald Trump, is getting increasing­ly desperate and prone to errors. The last refuge of this particular scoundrel may be to start a war with North Korea. Is there anythi

- Niall Stokes Editor of the Year

Iremember when we decided to put Dave Fanning, Gerry Ryan and Mark Cagney on the cover of Hot Press together. They were young guns, at the time, who had brought something modern and different to the world of broadcasti­ng in Ireland. All three were in their pomp on RTÉ2fm. The future, if they knew how to grasp it, was theirs.

Our cover headline felt like it was one for the annals: “The Lunatics,” we declared about the triumvirat­e, “Have Taken Over The Asylum.” We meant it as a compliment. Broadcaste­rs on RTÉ were generally a laughably rigid breed. Now – just as Hot Press had acted as a game-changer in print – Dave, Gerry and Mark were re-writing the rules on how to conduct yourself on legal radio here.

And we, in turn, were doffing our caps to them.

DISASTROUS DISAPPROVA­L RATINGS

The phrase, it turns out, was originally coined by the Head of Metro Pictures, Richard A Rowland, in 1919, when movie stars Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford opened the film company United Artists, to protect their work and control their careers. Rowland, of course, meant it literally.

Well, the thought occurred to me again, when

I sat down to write The Message, for this, the Christmas issue of Hot Press, and it felt like a blow to the solar plexus.

I was thinking about how best to describe what has been happening with Donald Trump in the US, and the increasing­ly addled freak-show which he has constructe­d around himself in Washington. And I remembered the line: the lunatics have taken over the asylum. Well, this time, they really have.

The level and extent of dysfunctio­nality within the Trump administra­tion since he acceded to power in January 2017 has been mind-melting. And yet the ‘President’ sails on regardless. The man is a pathologic­al liar, who keeps screaming FAKE NEWS in an attempt to deflect the impact of the onrushing tide of defections, and damaging revelation­s alike.

How many people appointed to key Government positions have resigned, or been fired, since Trump entered the White House? It is difficult to keep track. Some of the names are familiar: Sean Spicer (Press Secretary), Steve Bannon (Chief Strategist), Anthony Scaramucci (Communicat­ions Director), Reince Priebus (Chief of Staff), Michael Dubke (also Communicat­ions Director), James Comey (Director of the FBI), Sally Yates (Deputy Attorney General)...

And, of course, there’s more. In February, for example, the National Security Adviser, Lieutenant-General Michael Flynn, was sacked. Last weekend, Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russia during the transition period before the President took office in January. His guilty plea – inspired by a plea-bargaining agreement – has been entered, Flynn said, for the good of his family, and of the country.

That last phrase might have made Trump’s blood run cold if he weren’t already equipped with so many reptilian characteri­stics. But this was no fellow-snake, slithering into view, but rather more likely an over-sized chicken coming home to roost. Flynn also said that he was ready to co-operate with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigat­ion into Trump’s links with Russia. And that he was prepared to testify against Trump.

The ‘President’ responded immediatel­y in a tweet, claiming that he knew that Flynn had lied to the FBI when he fired him. This revelation was not smart. It succeeded in implicatin­g Trump further, specifical­ly in a plot to obstruct the course of justice. The then-head of the FBI James Comey has already given evidence that Trump asked him to drop the Bureau’s investigat­ion into Mike Flynn. If the ‘President’ did so knowing that Flynn had lied, then he surely was an accessory to that crime.

When this was pointed out, Trump claimed that he had not been in charge of his Twitter feed at the time of the offending post. White House lawyer John Dowd came forward to say that he had drafted the tweet and sent it to the Trump team’s Social Media Manager, a man by the name of Dan “the scavenger” Scavino, who was responsibl­e for uploading the incriminat­ing tweet.

Truly, if you’d made this stuff up a few years ago, in a work of fiction, or a TV drama like House Of Cards, you’d have been told it was just too farfetched to be credible. Okay, I did just invent the “scavenger” nickname. But otherwise, these are real life events, playing out in real time.

I really don’t think it is an exaggerati­on to say that, almost every day, new confirmati­on is provided that the ‘President’ of the United States really is a lunatic, probably certifiabl­e, and certainly extremely dangerous. There is a growing sense that some Americans have begun to realise just how potentiall­y catastroph­ic the situation really is. According to the website Five Thirty Eight, Trump has the most disastrous disapprova­l ratings of any President since opinion polling began, with only the bumbling ‘70s Republican, Gerald Ford, coming close. In August, Trump’s approval rating, averaged across all of the main polling companies fell as low as 36.9%. His disapprova­l rating was 57.4%.

From which we can safely conclude that 36.9% of Americans are also certifiabl­y mad.

There is no knowing what sort of a stunt Trump might try to pull, to distract attention, as the legal noose inevitably tightens even further. Trump is fighting for his political life – and his money. Everyone knows that war is good for ratings. And unfortunat­ely, the North Korean leader, Kim Jongun, has given Trump a very large stick with which to beat him – and potentiall­y the rest of the world too.

GET READY FOR THE EXPLOSION

The investigat­ion into the Trump campaign’s links with Russia, led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, will likely get to Trump and his closest aides eventually. But before it does, the ‘President’ may go for what the IRA used to call a spectacula­r. With his back right up against the wall, as it will be soon, Trump is perfectly capable of triggering World War III.

Where will the last refuge of this depraved scoundrel be? The most likely scenario is an invasion of North Korea, or a nuclear strike on Pyongyang, which would aim to destroy dictator Kim Jong-un’s weaponry and as many of the NK army as the Americans can easily take out – as well as the man himself.

If Trump does press the button, it will be on the basis that a President on war footing is far harder to dislodge. To impeach the President in the middle of a war would be an act to treason. It could well be his best chance of surviving.

Do the mechanisms exist to prevent the ‘President’ from behaving so recklessly? How many in the military and intelligen­ce community are prepared to refuse, or challenge, an order to go to war? The answer is that no one knows. But the desperate truth is that I am not being alarmist. This can happen. And there is a real danger that it will. When he was elected I said in this column that the US was a tinderbox in the making. Looking back, I may have underestim­ated the risks:

The reins of power have been handed to a clique of bigoted, racist, misogynist­ic, powercraze­d thugs, who have no respect for the constituti­on – and even less for a huge number of US citizens. And like a posse of crazed vigilantes, they are riding into battle, their guns cocked. Things could get really evil.

That much was true. But it is not just about the US now. This guy could go nuclear. And if he does, people all over the world need to get ready for the explosion.

Have a happy Christmas. It might just be your last...

 ??  ?? Kim Jong-un: are he and Donald Trump heading for war?
Kim Jong-un: are he and Donald Trump heading for war?
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