Anti-Trump ‘‘blue wave’’ barely causes a rip­ple RICHARD GRIF­FIN

Nelson Mail - - Front Page - Richard Grif­fin

The United States midterm elec­tion re­sult will leave a swathe of lib­eral ob­servers around the world po­lit­i­cally de­flated.

Even those Amer­i­can com­men­ta­tors close to the ac­tion ap­peared to be a tad out of sorts when it be­came clear that Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s eight weeks of po­lit­i­cal barn­storm­ing had been suc­cess­ful in en­sur­ing the pre­dicted ‘‘blue wave’’ of op­po­si­tion to his Repub­li­can poli­cies fal­tered well be­fore it hit the beach.

Repub­li­cans in­creased their grip on the Se­nate and, while the his­tor­i­cally pre­dictable swing away from the ad­min­is­tra­tion in the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives was sig­nif­i­cant, the sug­gested tsunami of op­po­si­tion to the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion failed to ma­te­ri­alise.

For a pres­i­dent who gives the im­pres­sion he re­gards him­self as a lat­ter-day man of destiny and, on oc­ca­sion, be­haves like a mod­ern­day Nero, the fact he will now be forced to bang heads with a Demo­crat ma­jor­ity in the House is likely to elicit even more bizarre be­hav­iour than has been the case to date.

Don­ald Trump ap­pears to revel in an en­vi­ron­ment of chal­lenge and con­tro­versy, so it has to be pre­sumed he will wel­come the op­por­tu­nity to strut in a more com­bat­ive play­ground.

His at­tempt to fig­u­ra­tively throw CNN’s Jim Acosta to the li­ons at the very first pres­i­den­tial news con­fer­ence af­ter the elec­tion is the stuff of slap­stick, but the im­pli­ca­tions are omi­nous. While few politi­cians have lost mo­men­tum by re­vil­ing po­lit­i­cal jour­nal­ists, the per­sonal in­vec­tive di­rected at el­e­ments of the news me­dia by the pres­i­dent is way be­yond the norm for the leader of a democ­racy. On the other hand, his ex­tra­or­di­nary pen­chant to turn feral at the drop of a hat and sav­age crit­ics and for­mer al­lies alike is breath­tak­ing, even from afar.

But then so, too, is his some­time em­brac­ing and some­time cold­shoul­der­ing of a range of world lead­ers – de­pend­ing, it seems, on the phases of the moon.

The record list of sack­ings, res­ig­na­tions and ap­point­ments of top ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials in gov­ern­ment and the White House is likely to now take on a new mo­men­tum, and the re­volv­ing door of en­trances and ex­its of ma­jor play­ers in the po­lit­i­cal game show is un­likely to abate.

How­ever, Don­ald Trump ap­pears to har­bour deep re­sent­ments, and for­mer friend­ships mean lit­tle to him, as the ha­rass­ing and fi­nal exit of At­tor­ney-Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions im­me­di­ately af­ter the polls closed il­lus­trates in high re­lief.

So, as ex­hil­a­rat­ing as it may be for po­lit­i­cal en­thu­si­asts to ar­gue, an­a­lyse and pre­dict the fu­ture di­rec­tion of Amer­i­can pol­i­tics, the ex­er­cise now ap­pears to de­pend on the com­plex­i­ties of read­ing the psy­che of a man whose most pro­found ex­pe­ri­ence of pub­lic de­ci­sion-mak­ing had its ges­ta­tion on a TV game show.

‘‘You’re fired!’’ res­onated around the world when Trump was at the helm of The Ap­pren­tice. The ex­tra­or­di­nary show­man­ship has not di­min­ished in high of­fice, and it seems that at­tempts to re­strain his be­hav­iour are dis­missed out of hand by the pres­i­dent.

It seems his pre­de­ces­sors did not un­der­stand that po­lit­i­cal ex­pe­ri­ence is a hand­i­cap to de­ci­sion-mak­ing, and they now re­alise they might have been bet­ter off tak­ing a course in crys­tal ball­gaz­ing rather than wrestling their way up the po­lit­i­cal lad­der be­fore tak­ing of­fice in the White House.

How­ever, crit­i­cisms aside, the US pres­i­dent has proved he can not just sur­vive but that he, and those clos­est to him, can soar above the skep­tics and put crit­ics to the sword.

He has proved to the world there is no trac­tion in pro­found hand­wring­ing, long-term in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions, or in­sight­ful un­der­stand­ing of the hu­man con­di­tion. In fact, given his pro­cliv­ity to con­stantly cam­paign on the back of cliche´ s and threats, there seems no rea­son to be­lieve he can­not go into the next pres­i­den­tial cam­paign as an odds-on win­ner.

Which makes po­lit­i­cal over­sight in our coun­try seem so mun­dane.

De­spite rel­a­tive in­ex­pe­ri­ence and some ex­traor­di­nar­ily in­ept be­hav­iour by one or two, or maybe even three, for­mer Labour op­po­si­tion MPs who some­how made the cut and found them­selves in Cab­i­net, the checks and bal­ances en­sured it was not go­ing to be a long-term com­mit­ment.

The prime min­is­ter re­luc­tantly but defini­tively cut the cord and moved on. Jacinda Ardern’s abil­ity to mea­sure the re­al­i­ties and re­luc­tantly take ac­tion when there is no al­ter­na­tive be­lies her rel­a­tive lack of ex­pe­ri­ence, and serves to en­hance her long-term rep­u­ta­tion.

Mean­while, the leader of the Op­po­si­tion, faced with the prospect of con­tain­ing a clearly dis­turbed and ma­nip­u­la­tive se­nior MP, man­aged to put the prime min­is­ter’s mea­sured, thought­ful and re­lent­lessly pos­i­tive lead­er­ship into high re­lief by col­lud­ing with his deputy to make Jami-Lee Ross dis­ap­pear.

Good in­ten­tions, maybe, but the ex­er­cise, no mat­ter what the in­tent, screamed col­lu­sion and cover-up – and the fact that Si­mon Bridges did not have the mea­sure of his man far ear­lier in the piece and, for what­ever rea­son, chose to ob­fus­cate rather than dis­as­so­ci­ate, raises ques­tions of lead­er­ship com­pe­tency.

Un­like Don­ald Trump, Bridges is a man of de­cency and com­pas­sion, but in the game of pol­i­tics that’s of­ten not enough.

The Na­tional leader’s de­ci­sion to turn a blind eye to Ross’s over­bear­ing be­hav­iour may have re­sulted in a much-needed les­son in hu­man be­hav­iour, or it may have kneecapped his own po­lit­i­cal ca­reer – and that would be a pity. Given the pro­cliv­ity of men like Trump to rule the world, we need all the good men and women we can muster.

AP AP

Don­ald Trump’s at­tempt to fig­u­ra­tively throw CNN’s Jim Acosta to the li­ons at the very first pres­i­den­tial news con­fer­ence af­ter the elec­tion is the stuff of slap­stick, but the im­pli­ca­tions are omi­nous. Don­ald Trump ap­pears to revel in an en­vi­ron­ment of chal­lenge and con­tro­versy, so it has to be pre­sumed he will wel­come the op­por­tu­nity to strut in a more com­bat­ive play­ground.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.