Global Watch

The Trump presidency in the dock

Trump.jpg

A month into office, the deluge of criticism heaped upon President Trump seems to be justified. It is, however, too early to come to a clear-cut conclusion.

The US presidential election was there for Hillary Clinton to win, but she stuffed it up – big time!

Now Donald Trump occupies the White House and all of us, Americans as well as the rest of the world, must deal with it in an unemotional, sober manner and stop ‘hyperventilating’.

“This is a time when clear-headed analysis is vital,” writes the well-known historian RW Johnson in Politicsweb.

Now is not the time to preach fire and brimstone and paint Trump with devil’s horns.

Trump did not elect himself, and those condemning him to the place of eternal fire should rather ask themselves why it had happened and why they did not do enough to prevent it from happening?

Astounding

It is astounding how Hollywood ‘celebrities’ are trying to upstage one another in criticising Trump and those who voted for him.

Many of them, who, more often than not, feature in sleazy magazines for their tasteless escapades, have suddenly discovered their ‘moral compasses’, lecturing to all and sundry about the demon now running the US. 

It made for amusing viewing watching footage of these ‘celebrities’ ridiculing Trump in the run-up to the election. It remains an open question who of them, if any, are going to be brave enough to stick to what they promised should Trump win.

“Polls have long shown large majorities of American voters believing that Hollywood has far too much influence in politics,” writes Johnson.

However, despite that, “Hillary's campaign depended heavily on celebrity endorsements. People don’t like being told how to vote by people with far more money, status, fame and privilege than them and the ability to dodge any negative consequences.”

Using a tantrum thrown by Madonna saying she had “thought an awful lot about blowing up the White House”, Johnson concludes: “It is not difficult to imagine the effect of the sight of such over-privileged celebrities misbehaving on swing voters: in effect Madonna and her ilk are working for Trump’s re-election”.

He is of the opinion that, “Indeed, if the Democrats want to get mad at anyone, best to start with Hillary. She was a uniquely bad, unpopular candidate. From a Republican point of view, she was the dream opponent.”

Controversial and unsavoury individual

For many, in the US, and elsewhere, a highly controversial and very unsavoury individual will run the most powerful country on the planet for the next four years.

Some speculate, others wish, that Trump will not see out his full term.

Irrespective of whether he does or doesnt, the global order will undergo drastic changes during his presidency and he is going to play a major part – good or bad, only time will tell.

Most observers and commentators are of the view it will be bad or even worse. One such an advocate, writing in The Atlantic concludes: “By all early indications, the Trump presidency will corrode public integrity and the rule of law—and also do untold damage to American global leadership, the Western alliance, and democratic norms around the world. The damage has already begun, and it will not be soon or easily undone. Yet exactly how much damage is allowed to be done is an open question.”

Perhaps justified   

Looking at the controversial executive orders and announcements during his first month in office, the concerns seem justified. 

Trump contentiously imposed a travel ban on people from seven Muslim-majority nations, namely Syria, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen and Iran.

Fresh sanctions were imposed on Iran after new missile tests, prompting the Iranian leader to respond that his country is “not afraid of threats” when Trump told the Iranians they “are on notice”.

His first military order authorised a less-than-successful raid into Yemen. Coupled with the spat with Iran and the travel ban (since overturned in court), the possibility of a renewed upsurge of anti-American sentiment in the Islamic world is real. 

Trump reiterated his plan to erect a wall between the US and Mexico and jeopardised relations with Australia, one of America’s most loyal allies, amid reports of a hostile call between him and the Australian prime minister – over an Obama-era agreement, according to which the US would take in 1,250 refugees from detention centres off the Australian coast.

Getting worse        

As if it is not bad enough that an unpredictable populist has been elected US president, it comes at a time in history when democracy itself is under mounting pressure.

Advocates of this view argue that democracy is under pressure when the public becomes receptive to undemocratic alternatives and undemocratic politicians emerge who exploit that opening.

For them this trend is visible in a multitude of places and best illustrated by Trump’s victory and the up-swing of rightwing nationalism in Europe.

The description of President Trump is that of a narcissist with an erratic personality. What excites Trump is his approval rating, his wealth and his power. He shoots from the hip and by his own admission he is not fond of reading and prefers to communicate by tweeting.

So, how informed is the most powerful man on the planet, with the ability to make decisions with far-reaching consequences? Not much, according to Brookes Spector.

If he has made up his mind, Trump is not keen to rely on information and advice from his intelligence chiefs, as Spector wrote in Daily Maverick: “Moreover, the core of senior staffers around him seems certain to reinforce his tendencies, with no one except a son-in-law to whisper in his ear at the end of the day that something was ill advised, or even potentially disastrous.

“The tight phalanx and a few other lesser lights seem poised to reinforce the president’s combative, anti-experience, anti-expert, anti-insight, anti-learn-from-the-past approach to national challenges ...”

Context is everything

In a thoughtful article, “Containing Trump”, in The Atlantic, Jonathan Rauch concludes, “Context is everything”.

Trump extracts all kind of emotions, mostly negative, but as Rauch correctly points out “context is everything”. It is too soon and premature to judge the Trump presidency. Only in good time when his presidency can be placed in context, can Trump be properly judged.

By then it might be too late or maybe not.

by Garth Cilliers

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