Reflections on recent events, plus the occasional fact
free rant unfiltered by rational argument.
Trump’s first year in office. He’s not fallen nor is he much diminished nor chastened in his personal view. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the USA's international standing. I’d kinda expected that by now he’d evolve into the role or retreat to the Oval Office; a sullen crest-fallen figure.
For all we know he’s a modern-day Macbeth. His ambition, and the dissembling ways that earned the presidency lead to his crippling paranoia. He sees knives around every corner; mistrust in the eyes of all those around him. This fear leads to him isolating himself. But no. That’s what the left assert. It’s not credible.
He's defining himself with a personal narrative that excludes unhelpful facts and evidence. In many ways, he’s the 'postmodern' president. Meanwhile, he’s moulding an America shaken by an inversion of its order.
“Fire and Fury” reflected on these events, but didn’t land any knock-out blows. Much of the portrayal of events is over-blown as if seen through a distorted prism. I’m tempted to believe that Trump didn’t expect to win the seat in the White House. It’s sure his team felt that way. Thus, when the results came in, he was as shocked as Hillary Clinton.
Understanding his first year is challenging. Why? Because we have nothing tangible against which to measure him. While defenders seek to retrofit him into the political styles of various predecessors, none of it works.
Let's review fundamental team changes. The author of Trump’s presidency Chief Strategist Steve Bannon is gone. Cast out; he still asserts allegiance. Bannon would always go rogue. Worse yet, he can only spout venom. Insiders moved against him in August following rioting in Charlottesville. His ill-considered advice to Trump backfired in national outrage. Fired, resigned or let go - depending which version you believe.
Sean Spicer, the press guy, soon morphed into a figure of fun. He single-handedly reenergised late-night comedy. He went as the ‘Mooch’ arrived. Anthony Scaramucci came from central casting when the request arrived for a ‘wise guy’.
Trump wanted brains. Instead, he got a mongrel cross between Alastair Campbell and Tony Soprano. Without the finesse. His foul-mouthed manner meant he lasted ten days. Reince Priebus, the Chief of Staff, lasted until August when John Kelly took over. Kelly was responsible for kicking the ‘Mooch’ out.
Since Kelly took the helm, the ship has steadied. The ex-military guy has brought discipline to the White House. Unfortunately, he’s done little or nothing to roll back on his bosses childish tweets. It’s become weird ambient noise. Plus pushing other leaders out of his way and knee-jerk reactions to every slight makes your eyes-roll. The ‘big-button’ tit-for-tat with Kim proved entertaining, partly because there is no button.
His insults got him uninvited from the 2018 society occasion of the year. A royal wedding in the UK is a must-attend event for anyone wanting to be a player. Prince Harry’s marriage to US citizen Meghan Markle should be a shoe-in for a US President. Except his presence would provoke massive protests. Beleaguered Prime Minister Teresa May rolled-back on an invite, fearful of rioting. It’s never agreeable to have the citizenry smashing up your capital when the Royals are parading. Brenda doesn't like that.
Trump earns my praise for a couple of things. First, he’s devolved ‘rules of engagement’ for military operations to front-line commanders. This decision is smart. It removes the delay in decision making, making troops safer in the process. Folks sitting in command posts are usually ill-informed, thus leading to reduced quality decisions. Trump re-established lessons learnt down the decades.
The recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital is long overdue. Palestinians will continue to bleat, but until they stop firing missiles, they hardly hold the moral ground. Likewise, they are content to take American aid while attacking its policies. Some dismiss Trump’s move as pure pandering to the Jewish lobby. That’s likely true. Although, it does not change the fact that the current unhealthy stalemate needs dissembling. Time will tell.
Which leads us to North Korea. Trump’s uncompromising stance, often compared to Nixon’s ‘mad-man’ doctrine, is bearing fruit. Sanctions are hitting hard, as China strengthens its borders in recognition of troubles to come. Isolated and starved of resources, the North Koreans want to talk about the Olympics.
They’ve taken a face-saving opportunity to ease the tension. It's right that Trump can claim credit for standing tough in the face of Kim’s threats. Real-politics dictate that if Kim crosses a line, he faces destruction. Trump keeps signalling he's capable of delivering that blow.
On a negative note, Trump’s travel ban is going to make America dumber. The blanket nature of the prohibition excluded stem-cell researchers and computer experts. Silicon Valley is already feeling the pinch. The first attempt at implementation proved a nightmare as airports ground to a halt. It looked inept, because coordination was non-existent. Perhaps the most significant impact will come in smart foreigners viewing the US as unwelcoming. They will take their expertise elsewhere.
And yet, unemployment is at a 17-year low, and the stock market is booming. The economic numbers are looking solid. Companies are scrambling to appease Trump with investments. Corporations, fearing punitive tariffs for transferring jobs abroad, are stepping carefully. This plays well with his core support, who see the ‘America first’ approach showing tangible results.
As Trump’s first year in office arrives, the US government is in shutdown. That’s not a first. Bill Clinton faced the same situation in 1996. With official staff gone from the White House, Clinton relied on interns during an impasse with a Republican Congress. One of those interns went beyond the call of duty. But that’s another story.
Meanwhile, the ‘Russian thing’ is a slow burn as the investigation trundles along. Whether it will detonate into something more serious remains unknown. In the interim, Trump is holding Jared Kushner as fodder for ejection when things get too close. That should deflect attention.
Over the past year, a whole industry has developed around analysing Trump. There are many different versions. Hysterical elements in the leftist media state he’s crazy. They trot out so-called experts to pontificate on details of his movements, diet, utterances and policies. It’s all somewhat lazy, headline-grabbing stuff. Then it gets unprofessional when psychologists and such get involved. To be clear, he’s not mad. I agree he has some odd behaviours and may want to be a tyrant at times, but isn’t accomplished enough.
I’m not going to bother trying to predict what comes next. Let's sum up. Trump proved to be a game changer, as he cast aside norms and traditions while fighting on all fronts. Republicans and Democrats alike faced his spleen. We can expect more of the same, as nothing is the same.
Walter De Havilland is one of the last of the colonial coppers. He served 35 years in the Hong Kong Police.