Trump administration turning into dangerous farce

Yossi Mekelberg
Yossi Mekelberg

Yossi Mekelberg

By : Yossi Mekelberg

For an administration that is barely a month old, it is alarming how it has managed so rapidly to set an agenda that is undermining some of the basic tenets of US values. Donald Trump’s presidency is turning into a farce, and his country is fast becoming the laughing stock of international politics. But this is not funny anymore. Trump may be a blessing to stand-up comedians and satirists, but he is a political liability with a finger on the nuclear button.

It is hard to grasp that a president in the early stages of his tenure could inflict such extensive damage to the legacy of his predecessor and to the image of the US presidency. There is nothing wrong with a new president who is eager to advance his election campaign priorities within his first 100 days in office. But Trump’s executive orders and public statements are a testament to his ignorance, ill judgment and bigotry. It is not only US citizens that he manages to alienate, but also some of the country’s closest allies.

A sensible president would have taken his time to put last year’s ugly presidential campaign behind him, and try to heal the wounds by reaching out to as many segments of society as possible. Instead, this bull in a china shop attacks everything that is sacrosanct and revered in his society. He is lost in his new job because nothing in his past or personality equips him to even remotely fulfill the demands of this complex role.

He is obviously out of sorts with the immense power handed to him. Consequently, he resorts to his comfort zone, in which he continues campaigning and rallying his hard-core supporters, who cannot tell the difference between right and wrong, or fact and fiction.

The manner in which he assembled his new team should have served as an early warning sign of the chaotic nature of the administration to come. I use the term team here in a very loose way, since this was a random collection of people, some with impressive resumes but not necessarily team players. Others were selected despite lacking even the most basic skills to serve in government, and nepotism and cronyism played their part.

His strategic guru is obsessed with war and conflict. He chose an education secretary whose agenda is to undermine state schools; a head of the environmental agency who fought those who protect the environment in court; and a national security adviser who has already resigned for lying to Vice President Mike Pence about his secret conversations with Russian officials. One can only assume that considering the personalities in the Trump administration and the views they have expressed so far, this discord is bound to continue and escalate.

The person who has access to the most sensitive intelligence is basing his policies on watching a TV channel with a clear ideological line. Could he not just pick up the phone to the head of the CIA?

Yossi Mekelberg

This catastrophic start to Trump’s presidency could have been attributed, maybe even excused, to teething, had he and some of his closest aides not launched direct and venomous attacks on some of the foundations of the US tradition of tolerance and freedom. His baseless association of Muslim migrants and terrorism, with no shred of evidence, is contemptible.

One of his closest aides, Kellyanne Conway, defended his travel ban on seven Muslim-majority countries by blaming two Iraqis in the US who had been radicalized for the “Bowling Green Massacre,” which never happened. Trump was not far behind, blaming Muslim migrants for an imaginary terrorist attack in Sweden last week.

No surprise that the Swedish government asked for clarification, only for Trump to reveal that his source — surprise, surprise — was Fox News. It cannot get anymore farcical than that. The person who has access to the most sensitive intelligence is basing his policies on watching a TV channel with a clear ideological line. Could he not just pick up the phone to the head of the CIA?

If migrants are one target of his ruthless assault, his other favorite is the media, especially liberal outlets. In his audacity, he blames them for spreading fake news, though he never bothers to substantiate the claim. It is a lousy attempt to smear the media with the very phenomenon — fake news — that no person has contributed to more to than him.

His press conferences, and those of Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, have become a circus characterized by their efforts to silence representatives from media outlets that Trump deems unfriendly to him. This behavior is reminiscent of dictators, who first silence press freedom then everyone else’s freedoms.

It is not surprising that demonstrators are taking to the streets inside and outside the US to protest the existential dangers to liberties, equality and world peace if Trump continues the trends he started in his first weeks in office. More than ever, the role of civil society is invaluable to stopping a president who, between his ignorance and his viciousness, could inflict immeasurable calamity.

Yossi Mekelberg is professor of international relations at Regent’s University London, where he is head of the International Relations and Social Sciences Program. He is also an associate fellow of the MENA Program at Chatham House. He is a regular contributor to the international written and electronic media.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in the Column section are their own and do not reflect RiyadhVision’s point-of-view.


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