Thursday, 5 January 2017

Trump's Press Conference

Donald Trump faces many challenges when he enters the White House in just 15 days time as the 45th President of the United States. How to avoid giving press conferences perhaps, how to fit in governing with his extensive tweeting duties.

There are any number of persistent awkward questions he has managed to avoid thus far that likewise will not go away:

Is the American taxpayer going to have to stump up cash to pay for security for his many gaudy hotels around the world that will now be targets for protests, violence and even terrorism? What would his response be if one such gaudy palace of tastelessness were to be attacked? Can he be trusted under such circumstances not to overreact, not to avail himself of the most powerful military in the world?

Trump refused to publish his tax returns during the campaign claiming that they were being audited. This was a lie. There is no rule to prevent someone publishing his or her tax returns regardless of an audit. But presumably when the audit finishes he will publish them? No?

There are many similar awkward questions that will be asked by journalists if and when Trump deigns to give a press conference, although he has now Tweeted (of course) that he will hold one on January 11th.

He has yet to give a single one since he was elected two months ago meaning that the American people have no clear idea of his intentions once he starts to govern. He does however tweet constantly, preferring this method of communication because it fits his attention span and of course, though Twitter does answer back, it can easily be ignored.

Even now however we should only believe his promise of a press conference when we see the whites of his eyes. He has promised them repeatedly for weeks now and they have been continually postponed. It is hard to see Trump avoiding the press in perpetuity, although it could easily be believed that he will try or at least will continue to rely on more intelligent underlings to answer the awkward questions instead. There was a famous Not the Nine O Clock News sketch to this effect many years ago now (see above). Maybe Trump could adopt that approach during a press conference.

The logical contortions his proto administration is getting itself into on the issue of Russia and Putin is an early example of where it could all go wrong for President Trump. He reacts to each and every slight and refuses to listen to advice or to simple evidence. He has rubbished the analysis of his own security and intelligence services claiming that he knows all about hacking and his expertise is greater than theirs. Yet the man's only real knowledge of IT is through his Twitter account. Even then he gets others to type them out for him. Presumably the exclamation mark key needs regular replacement.

This week, not only has Trump been singing the praises of Vlad the Botoxed, a sworn enemy of his country and one that has been caught repeatedly spying on and making mischief in the US, he has even backed the judgement of Julian Assange, a man who has received and published stolen classified materials from the US that has endangered it and its allies and made life easier for terrorists.

What are the American people supposed to make of a man who will soon be their leader and head of state who is siding with its enemies? All of this seems to the consequence of intelligence briefings suggesting that the Russians helped Trump win. This has put his back up. How dare anyone suggest that his triumph, one that he himself did not expect to happen, was anything other than glorious and entirely his. And indeed nobody is suggesting anything of the kind. The Russian interference was at worst or best, dependent upon your point of view, peripheral to the end result. But it was interference nonetheless. Why is Trump the only person who is not angry about this? Why is he endangering the vital first weeks of his presidency by engaging in a spat with his own intelligence community in defence of a murderous foreign dictator? Is he that stupid? Is he that tone deaf? Is he that politically and diplomatically inept? Is he out to prove, even before he takes office and is assailed by the demands of the job, that he is as out of his depth both intellectually and temperamentally as many of us feared during the campaign?

The worst part for Trump is that his own obstinacy is just a hostage to fortune. Congress, which began its new session this week, will soon start hearing evidence, in public, about Russian culpability. President Obama may well end his term publishing a report into the Russians too. At that point Trump's denials will look ever more absurd. Worse they will start to look suspect. And, given that he still refuses to publish his tax returns? I leave you to your own conclusions about that.

Maybe Trump's fondness for Vlad the Botoxed is because he intends to follow the dictator's approach to foreign affairs and domestic management. If in doubt, blame foreigners and when in trouble or in need of a boost in the opinion polls then why not start a war. An early opportunity may present itself with North Korea, which is currently building up to one of its major set pieces firing a missile that, it claims, could hit parts of the United States. Whether or not this is true - and they are certainly getting closer and closer to this aim - Trump weighed in with his usual subtlety and using his favourite forum.

So there's another question for the next president. How do you intend to prevent North Korea's use of ICBMs and further development of nuclear weaponry? Given the failure of previous administrations from both parties to rein in North Korea what makes you think you can do any better? Are you going to invade? It's hard to see anything short of all out war and regime change stopping The Fat Leader from doing whatever he likes.

I for one can't wait for that press conference. If only it had happened before the electoral college voted. As it is, Trump's path to impeachment looks more and more certain every day.

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