Neil Mackay on two years of Trump

The Herald on Sunday - - THE WEEK -

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

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