The (bad) American dream

Funkekeme Solomon worries about the direction of the world under the US presidency of Donald Trump

 

When a plane takes off, it usually takes some time to attain stability. Is this the case with the current president of America? Coming from the private sector as Donald Trump did, when he took over from the urbane Barack Obama nobody expected him to immediately have a smooth flight. But more than a year has gone by and the plane is still wobbly. From false starts to serial bad landings, Trump is becoming a huge embarrassment to the US and the world. Is it a case of inexperience or is the president just plain stubborn? The world has been “shocked to the state of unshockability”, to quote from the late Nigerian journalist Dele Giwa.

Ronald Reagan was the first old man in US history to become president at the age of 70 when he took office in January 1980. At the age of 71, Trump is the second old man to become US president. But Reagan never displayed the contradictions and propensity to amnesia as Trump has. 

True, Reagan had a pathological phobia of communism to the extent that he became possessed by anti-communism, and he made his own mistakes. But the kind of imprudent and often boorish behaviour that Trump is displaying to the world is both bizarre and unprecedented. Is the old man’s disease Africa suffers from now catching up with America? 

President Trump is behaving most unpredictably. One hopes as he blunders from one big announcement to another that he learns to take stock of his presidency for the sake of democracy, not only in the US but in the world as a whole. Expectedly, the worst hit part of the world would be Africa, a continent already infested with the disease of sit-tightism.

We cannot afford to ignore Trump’s behaviour because of all the negative ramifications it causes. That is why we need to speak up now. Donald Trump is at war with everybody, including the media. He is already feeling the heat of being investigated over alleged Russian help to get him into the White House. That alone has the potential to diminish the US and his presidency. In addition to that, he is having altercations with his attorney- general who has excused himself from the Russian investigation. The director of government ethics resigns, saying the presidency is becoming a laughing stock. Could it get any worse?  Truly, it has never been this bad for America.

The president has so far dispensed with the services of 19 senior officials, including his chief strategist Steven Bannon and national security adviser Michael Flynn. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was booted out last month just as he embarked on an official tour of Africa. Trump, who had been at loggerheads with the former ExxonMobil chief over Russia, announced he’d been fired via Twitter. There is speculation that  more heads will roll.

Other unorthodox decisions continue, with the result that Senate Republicans openly criticise him and rebuff his pronouncements on a number of policy issues. Late last month Trump grudgingly slammed sanctions on Russia over the latter’s alleged meddling in the US elections. This is coming on the heels of independent attorney Robert Mueller’s subpoena of Trump over the matter and the problems the president is having finding lawyers to represent him. The confusion in the White House is so perverse that CNN laments that “no one knows the clear chain of command, or who is in charge.” 

In addition to the state of flux in the seat of government, in January Trump decided to ignite a needless diplomatic row with Africa with his now infamous reference to Africa as a “s***hole”. It was bound to be received badly even if not a few Africans secretly agree with Trump. The only snag here is that his unpresidential conduct  is turning America into a s***hole of some sort, thereby undermining Trump’s moral authority to make that kind of reference.

When he took office in January 2017, he declared, “I will make America great again”. He said it again during his state of the union address earlier this year. But this is not what is happening. With Donald Trump in the White House, it will remain an American dream, or to put it another way, a bad American dream. Having had one of the lowest approval ratings for any first-term president, the way things are going, Trump  may well go down as the worst president America has have ever produced. He is making America smaller and weaker by the day. He is the cause and America is the victim.

Steven Erlanger, London bureau chief of the New York Times, asserts that no one wants the White House to fail. Of course not, and one must remain optimistic. But it would appear that the way Donald Trump is conducting himself, he could well go the way of Richard Nixon of the infamous Watergate scandal of the 1970s. What a denouement.                      

Funkekeme Solomon is a political analyst        

 

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