Neil Mackay on two years of Trump
PSYCHIATRISTS are loathe to diagnose Trump because it’s unethical to publicly put someone on the couch who isn’t your patient. But his behaviour is so bizarre that many are now breaking the rules.
Thousands of mental health professionals signed a petition stating they believe Trump “manifests a serious mental illness that renders him psychologically incapable of competently discharging the duties of President”. They also said he should be removed from office by article four of the 25th amendment – “the mad president” law.
On American news networks, it’s hard to go an evening without Trump being referred to as a “baby” or a “narcissist” – and that’s probably the most likely diagnoses: he’s a 72-year-old narcissistic baby.
But he may represent something much uglier in the collective psyche: the id, the most basic part of our consciousness – our drives, impulses, aggressions and needs. Freud called the id “the dark, inaccessible part of our personality ... a cauldron of seething excitations”. Almost as if Twitter sprouted arms, legs, tiny hands and big hair, and came to life.
1 New World Order
IT was once right-wingers who screamed about the liberal left creating a New World Order of PC internationalism. Today, it’s the right restructuring how the world works. Trump is dismantling the old structures.
Throughout the last century, America – like it or not – was the beacon of democratic values across the world. After the Second World War, the planet was split into two poles – the Communist east and the democratic west. Under Trump, America has pivoted towards dictatorships and autocrats, while antagonising its oldest allies. In comes the chilling figure of Rodrigo Duterte, the Philippines president who salivates over extrajudicial executions, out goes Angela Merkel. Vladimir Putin gets fanboy love, while Nato – the cornerstone of Western security – gets put on the naughty step.
Trump’s administration is happy to see Brexit, where his predecessors backed European unity. Other presidents kept the promises America made – the hallmark of diplomacy – while Trump breaks deals without the bat of an eye, whether it’s the Iran nuclear deal or the Paris climate accords.
Instead of tip-toeing in the Middle East, he moves America’s embassy to Jerusalem. Rather than defend free trade – a concept almost symbolically American – he attacks it and opts for protectionism and trade wars.
Many of his actions – whether it’s talk of Syrian withdrawal or humiliating Nato – play into the hands of Putin, adding to the belief the Kremlin not only interfered in the US election to help Trump take the White House, but maybe has some “kompromat” on the President as well.
2 War on women
IT’S become common for American parents to fret about the vulgarity Trump brings to their TV screens – but with Trump vulgarity is inescapable. Before he ran for President, many saw him as a bit of a sleaze, but events since have shown him up to be much more than that. It would be difficult for even his most ardent supporters to argue against claims of misogyny, and that’s before we even think about the allegations of sexual assault.
Anger at such a man in the White House prompted mass marches by millions of women. But nothing seemed to soften Trump’s attitude.
Once more Trump has upended the old standards and shown himself to be a catalyst of change – albeit change for the worse: any president before him would have been finished by the Stormy Daniels scandal (remember that one?) alone. With Trump and scandal, nothing seems to stick. He once said he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and not drop in the ratings. Maybe he’s right.
3 Chaos theory
GOD knows how people survive in the Trump circle. It must be like living inside a hurricane. He creates such chaos and drama – such a fast-moving news cycle – that it’s near-impossible to keep up, and therefore ridiculously difficult to scrutinise thoroughly. In his first week in office, he signed six Executive Orders,– including moving to repeal Obamacare, withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, opening up controversial oil pipelines, and planning his infamous border wall, each of which would have run as news stories for months.
There’s no consistency, only chaos. The world reacts with horror to the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi – Trump shrugs his shoulders. One minute he’s bombing Syria, the next he’s pulling out. The one thing Trump does well is blind-siding the world.
The chaos he creates protects him. There are investigations into Russian interference and hush money for Stormy Daniels, both of which, during any other presidency, would have cleared the news schedules and be the only topic of debate. But with Trump they get pushed out on a daily basis alongside everything from locking children up at the border to mocking a female journalist as “low IQ”, “crazy” and “bleeding badly from a facelift”.
Right now, his latest act of chaos is shutting down the federal government because he can’t get his way over the Mexican wall. As a result, federal employees are going without wages and struggling to pay their bills. Chaos leaves collateral damage.
4 Sacrifice of truth
WHERE to start? The Obama birther myth? His claims that vaccines cause autism? His flirtation with conspiracy theorists like Alex Jones from Infowars?
It’s not the fact he’s brought conspiracy theory in from the cold that is so dangerous, though, it’s his all-out violence-inciting assault on the press – he once said a Republican congressman who body-slammed a journalist was his “kind of guy”. From banning CNN’s Jim Acosta from the White House, to his endless mantra of fake news when it comes to any accurate story he does not like, Trump is locked in an existential battle with journalism, a key pillar of democracy.
The best weapon he has is Twitter, which he uses – like many other populist leaders – to circumvent the press and speak directly to his base. It’s the equivalent of getting your news from a drunk in a bar. Just look at the kind of loathsome stuff he sends out over social media. Step forward Jayda Fransen, deputy leader of Britain First – who had the honour of her Islamophobic messages being retweeted by Potus. Last year, Fransen was jailed for religiously-aggravated harassment.
5 A vote for pain
THE first President with no government or military experience has embarked
– as have so many other populist leaders – on a series of policies that will hurt his base, often the poorest in society. But they don’t care because he represents the rejection of the PC liberals they blame for wrecking their lives. Shades of Brexit abound.
Trump doesn’t believe in climate change ... or gun control, in fact, he thinks teachers should be armed ... his economic policies help the rich ... he’s obsessed with reviving old, dirty and dangerous industries such as coal because they represent his vision of a 1950s Golden Age when men were men, and they died from coal-dust inhalation. He’s axed Obamacare, and he’s eyeing up restrictions on mercury pollution. To be honest, the author of The Hunger Games would have trouble inventing this domestic manifesto.
6 Hatred of the other
WHETHER it’s baiting black sportsmen for taking a knee, making an equivalence between Nazi protesters in Charlottesville and counterdemonstrators, or trying to establish a Muslim travel ban, Trump plays to the worst nativist instincts of his base. In fact, it’s really only shoring up his base that he cares about.
His flirtation with white nationalism has given rise to players once consigned to the fringes – from Breitbart’s alt-right svengali Steve Bannon to Richard Spencer, who hollered “Hail Trump” in front of a crowd that replied with Nazi salutes.
Perhaps the lowest point of his presidency so far, and there are so many to choose from, was the policy of separating migrant parents from their children at the border. Two children in the custody of US Border Protection have already died.
7 How to lie bigly
BY the end of December, the Fact Checker database found Trump had made 7,645 “false or misleading claims” – aka lies. He lies the way most people breathe. He even lies when the evidence of his own eyes proves he’s lying – as shown when he claimed 1.5 million people came to his inauguration. At most, it was 250,000 – as the thin crowds in Washington showed. But he had to be bigger and better than Obama, whose inauguration was truly huge,
By the end of December, the Fact Checker database found Donald Trump had made 7,645 ‘false or misleading claims’ – aka lies
with an estimated 1.1 million crowd. Trump claims he won the popular vote during his election – even though he lost it.
Lies tend to mean flirting with the law. Already a number of key Trump staff have had their collars felt. Campaign chairman Paul Manafort was indicted following consulting work for the pro-Russian Ukrainian government of Viktor Yanukovych. He was eventually convicted of fraud.
Amid fears of Russian interference, Lieutenant General Mike Flynn, former National Security adviser
– a man who once led anti-Hillary Clinton crowds chanting “lock her up” – was investigated over whether he had taken money from foreign governments. He later pleaded guilty to making false statements to the FBI.
8 It’s my country
AMERICA First. Make America Great Again. The slogans nail the nativism. The irony is many of his policies make America weaker than ever. America is no longer seen as the leader of the free world ... the free world doesn’t really have a leader any more, though Angela Merkel held the title briefly before her government hit the ropes in Germany.
Trump’s trade wars with Europe and China only hurt working-class Americans as Brussels and Beijing respond with their own financial weapons. Right now, Trump’s trade wars are seriously imperilling British car manufacturing as exports from the UK to China slow down as the country copes with American protectionism. Many economists now think that when – not if – the next crash comes it will be thanks to Trump, the man who wrote The Art Of The Deal.
9 Winging it
IF you have no real policy, no real ideology beyond self-aggrandisement, then you pretty much have to wing it day to day if you’re President. And so, we have policy by the moment.
One day Kim Jong-un is little Rocket Man who’s going to face fire and fury, the next he’s Trump’s best buddy and the pair are in love. Out of nowhere, Trump backs torture or he’s going to overturn the constitutional guarantee that if you’re born in America you have citizenship.
He’s a one-man crisis machine, and most of his ideas come from the full-fat cable news he ingests via Fox. His craziness has even been seen as a cause for the rising number of American’s reporting mental health problems.
10 Destroy, destroy
DESTRUCTION is Trump’s default position. He will trash anyone who gets in his way – just look at how he humiliated his Attorney General Jeff Sessions after he removed himself from the Russia probe, describing him as “weak” and “DISGRACEFUL” (he loves shouty capital letters in tweets). He is constantly getting rid of staff – so many top officials have gone that his Cabinet looks like a team made from kids who never got picked for PE.
By the end of his first year, 34% of staff had resigned, been fired or reassigned. By mid-2018, 61% of his senior aides had left, as had 141 staffers by the end of the year. His ex-Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, described Trump as a “f***ing moron” after dismissal. Many former staff agree. Whether it’s Obama’s legacy, America’s alliances, or even the norms of behaviour – Trump will destroy them. That’s Potus – and he’s still got two years to go.
So what’s next?
IT’S pretty simple – he loses in 2020, he wins in 2020, or he gets impeached. Formal efforts to start the impeachment process have been started by Democratic Representatives Al Green and Brad Sherman. Going after Robert Mueller, the former FBI director now heading the Russian inquiry, would be the most likely catalyst for impeachment.
However, more than one commentator in America has wondered out loud if Mr Trump would accept the impeachment process, or even leave the White House should he be defeated in 2020. A few have even fearfully speculated his fall could spark violence on the streets from his fired-up base, a lot of whom have plenty of guns.
Mr Trump will run for a second term – no Republican will successfully stand against him. He filed the papers to do so within hours of assuming the presidency. So far, he’s got a 2020 war chest of well over $50 million.
The big question is who will the Democrats run against him? Could there be some beautiful karma as a woman like Elizabeth Warren becomes Potus 46? Or will the Dems fight fire with fire and choose a super-rich TV star?
Oprah Winfrey and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson have both ruled themselves out – but anything can happen these day so it could be President Taylor Swift this time two years from now. Only joking. I think.
Donald Trump’s term in the White House has seen many inconsistencies in his policies, such as denouncing North Korea leader Kim Jong-un as ‘Rocket Man’ to holding a summit with him, left, like they were best buddies. The President has also been able to push scandals such as that about claims of hush money for pornographic actress Stormy Daniels, below left, off the news agenda