A Rueful Regime

The first few weeks of Donald Trump’s presidency were always going to be eventful. The thinly veiled objective was to set about destroying the scarcely blemished legacy of predecessor Barack Obama by implementing a range of controversial and radical policies that were outlined during the election campaign.

There was universal disdain when he shamefully spoke of banning all Muslims from entering the United States, as well as anger in Mexico after vowing to build a huge wall across the border between the two nations. Those claims seemed far-fetched at the time. After all, he still needed to win an election. But that he did, and the former businessman has immediately set about making them a reality.

It all began at his inaugural address, a bombastic display of fierce and furious rhetoric, all uttered in front of a crowd of (I suspect) quietly seething onlookers. For many in the United States and across the globe, it was a day which confirmed that their worst fears had been realised, as someone who showcased some of the least desirable human values and characteristics gained passage to the White House and all the power it brings.

Some of the more optimistic members of the sizeable percentage of the US population that is against Trump pledged a willingness to give him a chance and see how things would play out. Surely he wouldn’t be as cruel and subjective as he was suggesting he would be during his grudge match with Hillary Clinton? He said all those things so he could win an election, right?

Wrong. A series of social media outbursts and tense press conferences in the run up to his inauguration hinted that Trump would never allow anyone to undermine his authority. Not the media; not the Clinton supporters still raging at his triumph, and not even the most distinguished of Hollywood actresses such as Meryl Streep; disgracefully lambasted for expressing an opinion – and one shared by many.

After only an approximate number of 250,000 people gathered outside the US Capitol building for the ceremony on January 20, the tone was set for the new administration’s relationship with the media. Following a series of accusations from Trump himself, new White House press secretary Sean Spicer led the assault, erroneously asserting that the crowd was the highest ever for such an event.

This was a lie, and Spicer knew that all too well. At a time where fake news seems to be  ubiquitous in muddying the editorial waters and misleading the public, this unsophisticated remark from such a high ranking government official was not only irresponsible, it  has left the people doubtful as to whether they can trust the legitimacy of White House press statements. Not a good idea when faith in politicians worldwide seems to be at an all-time low.

A week into Trump’s reign came the visit of UK Prime Minister Theresa May, which the media on both sides of the Atlantic never tired of serenading as his first meeting with a foreign leader. For May it was a bid to secure the best possible trade deal and the continued endurance of the ‘special relationship’ between the two countries, the importance of which was added to by the upcoming departure of the UK from the European Union.

Trump has been consistently unequivocal in his support for the UK’s decision to leave the EU, a process that will dominate the political arena in the months to come. He is unlikely to change his stance on that matter, but Theresa May has been able to convince him of the benefits of NATO. Be grateful for small mercies.

Indeed, when facing the customary media conference during her trip to the States, May openly stated that she would not hesitate to tell her counterpart if she disagreed with him on a particular issue. That it seemed, was typical of her character – throughout her time on the cabinet she has come across as steely, resilient and single-minded.

But she even went as far as to announce that Trump would make a state visit to the UK later in the year. A dubious promise given the widespread hatred that exists for Trump, and one which was to have severe ramifications barely 24 hours later.

For Trump then passed an executive order, restricting entry to the United States for citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries.  The order amounted to the groundless and unjust persecution of millions of innocent individuals, with these nations unfairly targeted despite no evidence that any are involved in terrorism.

It is oppression of the kind that shouldn’t exist in the 21st century, let alone in a country which likes to be known as the Land of the Free. As the new president, Trump can now claim to be the leader of the Free World. Instead he is using his office to forcibly remove people from US territory, simply because of the country that they happen to be from, or because they are seeking to escape bloody regimes and landscapes overseas.

The level of disgust resulting from the order has been unsurprising, understandable and completely justified. Some have questioned the legality of such a policy, with Supreme Court judges taking a dim view, but despite his failure to retain its enforcement, a begrudging Trump has stuck to his guns and decided to rid himself of anybody who is against the new measures.

Take the acting Attorney General Sally Yates. She spoke out and was made to pay with her job, which was a particularly worrying development. On Twitter I likened the decision to 1930s/40s book burning ceremonies, where the most notorious 20th century leaders would create a cult of personality where any contrasting or dissenting voices would be silenced without good reason.

Such vilification for simply having a perfectly reasonable and well-considered opinion is making a rather ominous comeback through the guise of social media. Well respected public figures are voicing their opposition to Trump’s values and measures, at the expense of receiving vile messages. This represents a rather frightening aspect of modern societal attitudes.

The executive order may have been put on hold, but the resulting barrage of tweets from Trump, which have basically lampooned dignified public figures such as court judges and elected representatives, have been ill-becoming of a national president, and frankly irresponsible.

As was Theresa May’s refusal to condemn the executive order, a decision which saw her go down in the estimation of many. Having hot-footed it to Turkey, she was admittedly put in a tricky position, but she failed to stand up for our values and reinforce the promotion of human rights and in doing so received the criticism she probably deserved.

I, like many other UK citizens, do not want Donald Trump to make an official state visit. However, any notion that he will be barred seems preposterous, given that the United States is our greatest ally. That it has elected a buffoon as its president will hardly change that.

In the weeks since his installation, Trump has never been away from the headlines, many of which have involved crackpot new measures, social media backchat or a possible scandal. Just look at the resignation today of Michael Flynn, the US National Security Advisor, for apparently discussing sanctions for Russia before the new administration assumed office. The dust just isn’t being allowed to settle.

Not even a month has passed, but already so much has happened and so much has been said, and you would be surprised if that didn’t remain the case during the years to come. One striking (often described as eerie) moment of the inaugural address saw Trump quote the Batman villain Bane, promising to ‘give it (America) back to you, the people‘. From what we have seen so far, Trump also favours Bane’s favoured choice of punishment: Death by exile.

 

A Week To Go

It is now just a week until we will find out who will become the next president of the United States of America. Following an exhausting  yet highly eventful campaign, the result that emerges will ensure one of the most momentous days in electoral history, whichever way it goes.

There is plenty to admire about Hillary Clinton. She is leading the two-horse race to assume office, and should she be successful it will be the culmination of a distinguished and spirited political career. But is her integrity intact?

The revelations surrounding her email accounts while she was Secretary of State have weakened her standing, while opponents have also deemed her guilty by association with regards to husband and former president Bill Clinton, whose 1998 impeachment still resonates, and about whom allegations still exist.

The latest investigation into her emails by the blundering FBI have also led to serious question marks over her suitability for the job, and there are many within the USA who feel that Clinton simply cannot be trusted. In most election campaigns, she would have been down and out, but this is no ordinary election.

For the alternative is Donald Trump, the most bombastic, discriminatory, hateful and misogynistic presidential candidate the country has ever seen. A man who wishes to bar all members of a particular faith from entering the USA; a man who describes taking advantage of women as something as trivial as ‘locker room banter’; a man who promises to build a wall on the border with Mexico in a bid to curb immigration. Contrary to popular myth, it won’t be visible from space.

Despite his multitude of objectionable characteristics, Trump retains a loyal army of supporters; groups of guerilla mercenaries who will defend him come hell or high water. His divisive remarks have struck a chord with millions who feel disillusioned with life, whose backing he has gained at the expense of political correctness.

Clinton is clearly the lesser of two evils and should (if nothing significant comes of this current FBI probe) emerge victorious, but the uncertainty will remain over her ethical record. A Trump success would be a disaster not just for the state of American politics, but it could have a serious effect on foreign relations. Diplomacy, and the equal opportunities of all American citizens are at stake, and could suffer dramatically should the former Apprentice USA host land the top job.

Sadly, in a year which has seen the United Kingdom vote to leave the European Union, it seems as though anything is possible. The year 2016 has seen the world take a backwards step and the landscape for discrimination appears to have widened as distasteful attitudes have come to the fore; poisonous rhetoric driven by those in positions of power.

As a final thought, the realisation that either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump will become president just goes to show how big a shame it is that Barack Obama’s time is nearing its end. Obama may have had his critics in the USA during his eight years in power, the unlike his potential successors he has shown himself to be honest, reassuring and dignified from beginning to end. The shining example of the personal qualities required to hold such a position.