Monday, 20 March 2017
Where Will the Liar in Chief Lead Us All in the Coming Days and Weeks?
Donald Trump thinks that he is a genius. This much is obvious and is part of his epic narcissism. It is why he surrounds himself with sycophants and yes-men and women and has marched off the premises anyone who has in the past written or spoken of him in less than admiring tones. It also explains why the brat in chief actually refused to shake the hand of Angela Merkel last week in full view of the press only to then claim that they had got on like a house on fire and that any suggestion to the contrary was fake news. You have to question, don't you, the sanity of a man who says things in direct denial of what we have actually seen and heard him do. But then he does it over and over and over again and gets furious with others for pointing it out.
Even those who are sent out to defend him don't take this process seriously any more. Sean Spicer actually laughed (see above) when asked why unemployment figures were a fraud on the American people under the Obama administration but are a sign of Trump's all consuming genius now. It takes quite a feat of genius, incidentally, for a man who hasn't actually announced any economic policies and whose budget was criticised by both sides of the aisle last week to claim he is having any kind of impact on the economy, still less on unemployment, the lead time on which is at least a year and likely more. But doesn't that just typify the man? He thinks that just by becoming president he is creating jobs and creating prosperity. What he will do if the economy turns down is an interesting subject of speculation. Fake news? Fake statistics? Fake unemployment queues?
Trump has been in power for two months now and has almost nothing to show for it other than a few furious tweets. In the debit column he has a forced resignation after only 24 days and his attorney general forced to recuse himself from an investigation owing to a conflict of interest, one unsupported calumny against his more popular predecessor, one absurd claim that the crowd for his inauguration was bigger than we all could see it was, a ridiculous counterfactual about his election, a brazen and easily googled lie about his electoral college win being the biggest, an executive order that was thrown out by the courts with another currently on hold, an angry phone call with one of America's strongest allies and and furious denial from the spy agency of America's closest ally that it was involved in Trump's invented calumny. And the list could be longer. A lot longer. But you get the drift.
It's hard to know exactly what is going on in that orange head of his, although I for one subscribe to the theory that he is in possession of such a massive ego, allied to an equally massive inferiority complex, added to a fear of intimacy, added to unresolved issues regarding his father, added to just being a spoilt and nasty brat who has managed to bully and bullshit his way through life because of his one and only real talent that he is effectively simply off the scale nuts. This is a man who not only shouldn't be allowed to visit the Oval Office let alone work from it, he should be committed for our and his own protection.
The problem we all face is that, for reasons few of us ever understood when he was just a gaudy and unpleasant celebrity and entrepreneur, he keeps winning and pulling the wool over people's eyes. So why wouldn't he believe that he is a genius? He isn't of course. He is just very very lucky and in possession of epic levels of self belief and a refusal ever to back down.
His standard modus operandi is to never ever admit that he is wrong, never ever to back down, always to hit back and hit back hard. It explains his success to date. It actually, if you think about it, explains why he got elected. His opponents simply did not know how to counter or defeat him because he broke all the rules. The media didn't know how to handle him and let him off the hook just because his determination to dominate the news cycle kept him in the headlines. He was as surprised by his success as the rest of us.
But this is why he is behaving as he is now. It's not a strategy. It is just what he does.
Trump knows he's not cut out for his new job. He's not that stupid. He knows that he lacks the intelligence, the education and the attention span to do the job. But he is serially incapable of admitting it. And when he is attacked he always hits back hard. Yet he always yearns for approval. He always wants the praise of the very same news organisations he angrily dismisses as fake news.
And this is why he is doomed to fail as president, possibly catastrophically so. The danger is that he keeps upping the stakes, keeps seeking newer and more outrageous ways of upping the ante. Its a fortnight since he Twitter bombed Barack Obama because of the continuing coverage of his Russia connections. Yet since then things have not really improved. The Russia story is still bubbling under the surface and his accusations about Obama will be called the lies we can all see that they are in the coming days. His budget has been roundly criticised. His and the party's proposals on healthcare are in trouble.
What then will he do to change the subject?
I point you, tentatively, in the direction of North Korea. Rex Tillerson, the Secretary of State, has been in Asia this past week and sounded a distinctly hawkish note on North Korea including discussion of the possibility of new options being considered. Now this might just be language designed to stir China into action. Equally it might be an attempt to worry the North, although that in itself is not necessarily a sensible approach given their volatility. But we also must consider another alarming possibility, that Trump's administration might do something about the North, possibly to distract us all from other woes and maybe in the probably mistaken belief that he can lead a quick, short and sharp campaign against one of the world's most vile regimes and win plaudits for doing so.
It is certainly true that there are no good options where North Korea is concerned and someone should have done something about it a long time ago. But they didn't for the very good reason that it could all easily go very wrong very quickly and embroil America in another foreign war that at best would be ruinously expensive, could easily plunge the world into a recession or depression, a trade war or something more existential.
I hope I am just fearing the worst here. But given how disastrous Trump's first 60 days have been, at a time when administrations are normally at their most dynamic, bold and energetic, you have to wonder what he is capable of. We are already starting to learn that he is incompetent to an astonishing degree and is leading an understrength, inexperienced, arrogant and twitchy administration. The possibilities for miscalculation are terrifying.