There he stood at the inauguration, President Donald Trump raising his fist in a bizarre parody of a revolutionary salute. Promising to bring the workers of America back the jobs that have been stolen from them by the international neoliberal elite. This billionaire protectionist, hero of the proletariat who has filled his cabinet with the bosses of America’s most rapacious banks and corporations. Irony died and went to heaven on Capitol Hill.
THE Donald Trump story has “box office” written all over it. His progress to the White House, where he has been installed as the 45th President of the United States, has had all the fascinating tension of a Netflix box set. The only difference being that no-one would believe the plot lines. It’s like the West Wing rewritten by the makers of Breaking Bad.
Earlier episodes were even more unbelievable. En route to the White House, Donald Trump admits in a press conference that the Russians helped his presidential campaign by hacking the Democratic National Committee and dumping damaging emails about Hillary Clinton onto Wikileaks. That alone would be enough to have you on the edge of your seat in disbelief.
But what was more astonishing was that President-elect Trump actually condoned the Russian intervention in the democratic process, which he said was “an asset not a liability”. He went on to suggest that the affair could even improve prospects of closer diplomatic co-operation with Vladimir Putin. Nah – you’re kidding me. That could never happen in the real world …
The next plot line is that the next President is engaged in a war with the all three American intelligence agencies: the CIA, FBI and the National Security Agency. Not even the makers of Clear And Present Danger would have dreamed up a plot like this. Imagine: 10 days before his inauguration, Harrison Ford discovers that spooks (played by Tommy Lee Jones and Josh Brolin), are leaking stories that he has been secretly recorded by the Russians engaging in perverse sexual practices with prostitutes in a Moscow hotel.
The allegations, published in full by a salacious online news website, Buzzfeed, led to sordid cartoon images being circulated all over the internet depicting the Peotus (President-elect of the United States) engaged in bizarre sexual practices. They are set out in excruciating detail in a 35-page dossier, a version of which intelligence chiefs are known to have revealed to the President-elect at a secret meeting in Trump Tower. Trump then publicly accuses his own intelligence chiefs of leaking “fake news” about him, and claims that the CIA and the FBI are behaving like the Gestapo in “Nazi Germany” .
As the plot thickens, the scene shifts to London. The dossier on the Russian “kompromat” (that’s compromising material usually of a sexual nature) on Trump, had been researched, it emerges, by a former agent of British intelligence agency, MI6 . The document claims that there has been a history of collusion between team Trump and Russian intelligence. The investigator, Christopher Steele (to be played, no doubt, by Ralph Fiennes), has to go into hiding in fear of his life as he’s revealed as the source of the allegations.
Then, MI6 contacts brief the BBC and The Guardian that Steele’s work is “very credible”, and suggest that his sources may be reliable, even though some facts have already been disproved. There are allegations that the British Embassy may have been involved in circulating the dossier in America. Whatever the truth of the sex allegations, it’s clear that the CIA and the FBI, probably in league with MI6, have been conducting an investigation into Donald Trump’s business and other dealings with Russian interests over the last five years.
Meanwhile – that’s if you haven’t switched off on the grounds that the story line is just totally unbelievable – the President-elect, actually boasts on TV that he has been offered $2bn by Dubai businessmen, to do a property deal in the Gulf State. He graciously turns the offer down. However, since he has just very publicly handed his property and business portfolio to his two sons, under so-called “divestment”, the Trump Organisation’s business interests in Dubai will, as they say on The Apprentice, continue.
The conflict of interest here is manifest, given the father’s relationship to the new managers of his supposedly autonomous business empire. Trump has already invited charges of nepotism by bringing members of his family into his government. But with this arrangement, the very presidency could become an offshoot of his family business. It’s pure Don Corleone: the wildest sequel yet in the Godfather franchise.
But this isn’t fantasy; it is the political reality of 21st-century America. A man who has the vocabulary and intellect of a 12-year-old has been handed the keys to the White House. His performance last week reminded us of what we’d tried to forget over Christmas: namely, that Donald Trump is demonstrably unfit to be in any position of authority, let alone Commander in Chief of the most powerful military forces in history.
“America First, America First” was the sum total of his inaugural address. His warning to the nations of the world was chilling. He now has possession of the “football” – slang for the briefcase that contains the codes for launching a nuclear war. At least in Dr Strangelove, the US President was a reasonable, rational man who resisted his military commander’s urge to launch a pre-emptive nuclear strike. This is one remake we really don’t want to see.
Everyone had been vaguely hoping that Trump would emerge as a more moderate and broad-minded figure as he entered the White House. Some commentators have been saying that he is really a New York liberal at heart, and has just been playing to the Tea Party zoomers to get elected. His supporters, and the stock market, believe that he has the will to revive the US economy by reversing globalisation and bringing well-paid jobs back to the US. Even Bernie Sanders, the left-wing socialist who lost the Democratic nomination to Hillary Clinton, says that he can work with Trump, at least on jobs.
But there’s no evidence that there really is another side to Donald Trump. What you see is what you get. His lack of intelligence, humility, consistency, tolerance and even dignity is demonstrated by every bad-tempered media appearance. He is the worst person to lead a great country, not least because Donald Trump seems incapable of understanding the magnitude of the responsibilities he is taking on. He is a person who can actually say, in all seriousness, that he has “a really great brain” and doesn’t need advisers. Then he delivers some rambling and incoherent stream-of-consciousness speech that makes your toes curl.
President Barack Obama’s farewell speech in Chicago was, by contrast, a reminder of just how great American politicians can be. He was conciliatory, thoughtful, funny and emotionally articulate without being insincere or mawkish. He reminded his audience that America was founded on the principle that all are created equal, and then audaciously appealed to his own black voters to try to understand the plight of white working-class voters left behind by globalisation. That’s a real leader.
Barack Obama may have had limited policy achievements, and he will always be criticised for his drone wars and for caving in to Wall Street after the financial crash. But at least he managed to reboot the US economy through public investment and introduced the beginnings of a health system. He didn’t heal the racial divide, but showed that a black president can be as good as any white man (and not get assassinated). Obama is a politician in the great tradition; in the company of Lincoln and Roosevelt, at least in terms of eloquence and integrity. He is everything that avid followers of the West Wing would have hoped to see in the Oval Office. The next incumbent is everything they most fear.
After the inaugural address many are beginning to wonder if Donald Trump will last very long in office given his temperament and narrowness of vision. His confrontations with other world leaders, the press, Congress and the intelligence agencies will surely eclipse any domestic achievements. His business dealings are questionable; his personal life a swamp; and his Russian connection is a toxic mess. You feel there can only be one outcome to this horror show: impeachment. Eventually, even his own Republicans will be forced to say: Donald, you’re fired.
adapted from Sunday Herald