Emperor Trump

Come Friday, the Trump era begins.  Shortly after midday, Barrack Obama will watch his successor take the oath of office and then quietly slope off into private life and obscurity. Much of what he effected, during his presidency, will be swept away by Emperor Trump.

Donald Trump has an imperial and imperious air about him. He holds court in Trump Towers in New York, and a personally owned resort in Florida and after next Friday, in the White House. He is surrounding himself with plutocrats and glossy blondes. His suite of rooms in Trump Tower resembles the Palace of Versailles but thrown together in a few months rather than a few centuries. Gold leaf and gold bric-a-brac are to be seen in abundance.

Since he won the election in early November he has been conducting his affairs via social media and has released daily tweets on just about every subject under the sun. He responds to criticism by letting fly with a tweet containing the opposite point of view.  As the day of his inauguration and assumption of power approaches, there has been no letup in the volume and shrillness of his messages. He seems to be especially thin skinned And easily provoked. He has promised to repeal Obama care, to tear up the nuclear disarmament treaty with Iran, to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement(NAFTA), redraw NATO and lift sanctions imposed on Russia for its deeds in Ukraine and Syria. The promised wall along the USA/Mexican border is due to go ahead right away. Some so-called Illegal immigrants might find themselves expelled and those from Moslem parts of the world, who wish to settle in the USA, will be subjected to enhanced vetting. According to some of his pronouncements, all of this is due to begin during his first 100 days in office. Now, whether or not he can manage all of this, he has mightily discombobulated many world leaders.  During his election campaign he promised " to drain the swamp in Washington”  and put an end to business as usual.

 Several ethical questions are swirling around him as he prepares to take office. Unlike all previous American presidents, he has refused to release his tax returns and he has not really separated himself from his vast business undertakings all around the world. He leaves himself open to conflict-of-interest accusations but appears not to care. There are very many outstanding lawsuits faced by various entities of his business empire. Several members of his family are to occupy important roles in his court.

Mr Trump is hyperactive, thin skinned, combative and impatient. Once in office, he will find himself dealing with dozens, scores - even hundreds of issues flooding across his desk every day. Many of these will require urgent action. He has not yet made it clear how great a part he intends to play in the day-to-day operations of his various businesses. He is going to be a very busy boy: president and part-time tycoon and so he will be under a lot of stress. Much of the work of a leader is routine, humdrum and unexciting. It is legitimate to ask how he will cope with the tedium as he seems to be someone who thrives on drama. There are four possible outcomes: he will manage the affairs of his country and his business interests surprisingly well; he will become increasingly frustrated by the day-to-day demands and just walk away; he will be laid low by a stroke –  he is more than seventy years old and a little overweight; he will be impeached on ethical grounds – conflict of interest or by something that might crop up in the Russian inspired dossier, going the rounds, retailing some sexual hijinks said to have occurred on a visit to Moscow.

The British have a long-standing tradition of lampooning their leaders and other prominent persons. William Hogarth in the eighteenth century was a pioneer of such behaviour. Dean Swift, Charles Dickens, Max Beerbohm continued it  The Goon Show, Monty Python’s Flying Circus are recent examples. Who can forget ‘ the Life of Brian’? There is much about Donald Trump’s behaviour and appearance which lends itself to ridicule. The Brits call such attacks ‘ 'avin’ a laugh’, ‘ winding him up or plain ’ taking the piss’. A few years ago, British television carried a programme called Spitting Images, which featured savage caricatures of such lofty persons as her Majesty the Queen and Margaret Thatcher. No one was immune.  An example of their work can be found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xujHlWzWW98  The French are also pretty good at this kind of thing, witness the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. I am not aware that such satirical attacks cross the Atlantic in a big way.  If Mr Trump manages to make a fool of himself in the early part of his presidency, American comics will find a good deal of ammunition in the dictionary. The verb’ trump’ can mean to produce a sound as if from a trumpet or to get the better of. The word ‘trumpery’ is defined as nonsensical talk or writing, folderol, rubbish or tripe. Another definition is 'ornamental objects of no great value’. From what we have seen so far, it looks as if he would readily rise to the bait of an all out satirical attack, which in turn would provoke further attacks.

Whatever happens after midday on January 20, business as usual is most unlikely. Most people that I have spoken to about Donald Trump's impending ascent to power are hanging on to their hats and making sure that their seat belts are securely fastened. It does look as if we are entering a turbulent period quite unlike the one that would have unfolded had Hillary Clinton been successful.

David Amies

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January 19th 2017