Updated: Jan 23, 2021
As I stated in my last post, back when the Covid crisis began, I documented events daily with real time observations. I did this for both the US and the UK. At the time, I recorded it for my own subsequent reflection. However, in the light of events, I thought I might, sort of serialise it here, each weekend. I'm not going to dilute it with images, given it was recorded in sort of journal form. I wouldn't say it's by any means an essential read and I certainly don't intend for it to distract from my daily weekday posts, but I thought it may help wrap some context around the administrations failure and what I felt at the time. Sit back while I transport you back to February 2020, the following represented my thoughts as events happened. None of this was fuelled by any of the events that followed and are verbatim from my notes as intended to be read by Anderson Cooper, to whom I had originally intended to send my notes.
Although I live in the UK, I started following US politics more closely in 2016 following the election of who I regard to be the biggest danger to global society as we know it. Call it intuition, but I saw it coming and said to people I know, “this presents a real challenge to the world as we know it”. I was told not to be so alarmist, what could one man do? To be honest, President Trump has exceeded all my fears and then some and I do not envy any element of the media that are trying to keep him honest. He has changed politics forever, by normalising the art of the false misleading statement and removing any opportunity to be held to account for his self-serving reckless behaviour.
Who would have thought that Twitter could be used to bypass the normal checks and balances provided by the daily press briefing? I have sat and thought for many hours on so many things he has done. It actually messes with your head when you see the things he does, you guys point out the obvious lies and deception, then you are described as ‘The enemy of the people’ and that then becomes the narrative. He has created an environment in which normal oversight is drowned in a tsunami of carefully crafted self-serving propaganda that not only helps Trump feel he’s the messiah, but also serves the goals of promoting a right wing political ideology. The Mueller Report should have been a defining moment, exposing his behaviour and disregard for the rule of law. However, with the help of his wing man Bill Barr, he managed to create a blizzard of misinformation and deflection that effectively buried the truth. Not only that, he neutralised the mainstream media by painting you guys as co-conspirators of an attempted political coup. It was genius, a political OJ moment which reinforced his belief that nobody could touch him. The Ukraine debacle proved once again that regardless of obvious guilt, he could deploy a strategy that would leave him untouched, while we all sat there saying ‘How the hell did that happen AGAIN!! It could only happen in the United States of Trump of which you have all become a citizen. How could one man kidnap the republican party and make them his Patty Hirst? What concerns me most, is that the White House has become the political Waco and the Republicans have become Branch Davidian, defending the indefensible. It’s as if they have been infected by some sort of virus that robs them of their ability to see presidential wrongdoing and disregard for the rule of law.
I have on so many occasions thought “right, they’ve now got him bang to rights with his hand in the cookie jar”, only to see him use the levers of government to escape accountability. The system that we all thought had an inbuilt ability for journalists to keep the government honest, finds itself on the outside looking in. No daily briefings, lies are the new truth, alternative facts, in a world where to challenge the leader is regarded as treason. I believe that when history is written and the real truth behind the Trump Presidency is revealed, it will make the wrongdoings we’ve seen, pale into insignificance.
My politically inquisitive nature led me to look at the Trump response to COVID-19. It was no surprise to find the pandemic response unit disbanded. Whether done to save money or because science is not part of the Trump mind-space, it was a monumental error. OK, so we all make mistakes, but then we come to the real response. “Ignore it until it impacts the economy”. Sadly, you can’t negotiate with, or refuse to pay a virus. His economy first approach, refused to accept there was a problem despite advisers screaming there was an issue. It is representative of his inability to assess a risk that poses a threat to the American people. Since becoming president, he has become an expert in the art of, if you tell a lie over and over again, it becomes the truth. He becomes so invested in his own lies that he is prepared to burn down the house in their defence. The measure of a great leader is the ability to communicate. For a comedic break in all this doom and gloom, listen to an Obama speech, then fire up a Trump address. You’ll be fanstastically impressed by the tremendously great job Obama does, probably the greatest job in history, using more great complicated, beautiful words than have ever been used before, with tremendous sentences and fantastic use of grammar and punctuation! Great leaders don’t need a daily ego massage, or to to be told what a tremendous job they are doing, A real leader, has the confidence to apologise when they get it wrong and offer assurances that mistakes have been learned from, enabling better decisions to be made in the future. A real leader listens to criticism, reflects on the issues raised and where appropriate, has the good grace to say “thank you for raising that, you are right”. A real leader treats others with respect, regardless of their political beliefs, gender, sexual orientation or religious beliefs. He or she represents all citizens, not just those that agree with him/her.
I understand the following may prove controversial and the evidence for this is a whole new story, but I stand by my view that In many ways, President Trump has created a new type of politics that allows him to enrich his family and his corporate interests at the expense of the American people. His Florida Whitehouse as he calls it, has become a dacha, Putin would certainly approve of. To serve is not an opportunity to enrich, but to work exclusively for the good of those he serves. There was lots to criticise President Obama for on foreign policy and maybe some domestic policy too, but you get the feeling that it was human frailty, rather than any malign intent. Mistakes were made, but I suspect he slept each night in the knowledge that he had done his best to do the right thing. If you want a measure of dedication to service, look at a photo at the start and end of a term of office. Dedication and application ages a leader faster than would normally be expected. The weight of heartfelt responsibility takes its toll on the human body if you are all in.
In a global environment, with ever increasing competitive economic goals, it has never been more important to elect an intelligent leader, with a real grasp of the nuance of foreign policy. It’s not for nothing, that the US president is referred to as the leader of the free world. The holder of the office, is not referred to as the leader of just a selfish insular country who has abandoned the free world. The good news is, that this negative view is of the man and not the office. It must be a source of embarrassment to many Americans to know their president is viewed not as a guiding light, but rather an idiot, that needs the help of a mental health facility. His foreign policy blunders and blatant disrespect of longstanding loyal allies, presents a clear and present danger to the security of the United States. Many have described the president as a puppet of president Putin. I would respectfully suggest that nothing could be further from the truth. To be a puppet, there would need to be collusion, there is no collusion. It’s a simple matter of the most intelligent kid in the class, manipulating the kid with special needs to hide his malicious intent. Trump looks up to him because he wants to be him. He would love to mirror his ability to rule without oversight, while enriching himself. Just a minute, isn’t that what the US Senate has allowed him to do anyway? There have been countless occasions where Putin has played who he regards as the global village idiot. He is a consummate global player, who uses his KGB experience to further his geopolitical objectives. He’s an opportunist that understands Russia’s best interests are served by disruption and destabilisation in regions where the west has key interests, Syria being a prime example. Prior to Syria, his escapade into Ukraine was a calculated gamble that NATO had no appetite to do anything other than point a finger and condemn the action. Russia spends its time probing for weaknesses in western democracies. Putin knows that immigration in the US divides, so he meddles in places like Venezuela. Here in the UK, the Russia constantly probes our airspace and territorial waters on their way to Syria, forcing the Royal Navy and the RAF to respond, so they can test our military capabilities. Anyone who thought Putin was going to sit out the US elections in 2016 was dreaming. The old KGB knew how to use psychology to achieve an objective. They knew that if Trump was elected, they could tap into his ego and inability to take any form of criticism. This would enable them to manipulate media channels, to rally against political opponents, the media and even his own security services and federal law enforcement. Their calculations proved without doubt to be on point. I would suspect that it will go down in Russian history as a major victory over their old enemy. I almost expected Putin to turn up as a defence witness in the impeachment proceedings, along with Kim Jon-un and president Erdogan. My fellow Brit Fiona Hill told you all you need to hear on the matter of Russia.
Returning to COVID-19, there could not be a more dangerous situation than having a narcissist in charge of your response. His initial reaction was to put Mike Pence upfront and stay out of the way to avoid uncomfortable questions. Then to his horror, Pence started to get good press on his handling of the task, so he decided HE needed to be front and centre to get that press coverage. However, he just can’t help himself as he returns to berating the press, showing his amusement at the possibility Mitt Romney could have the virus. Then came the veiled threat that governors who don’t praise him should not expect federal help. It’s a measure of who he is and that he would burn the house down in pursuit of the glory he perceives he deserves. I feel sorry for those around him having to constantly heap praise upon him. None more so than poor old Vice President, who dispenses the most cringe worthy words of worship, while Trump nods as he soaks up his ‘beautiful’ words. Each day he swaggers into the briefing room (a place not often populated with press since he took up residency in the White House), like the uncle who turns up at family events to raised eyebrows and sighs, having consumed a beverage or two. He then shares his view on events, in what can best be described as inebriated English. It’s like no language heard before, punctuated with words like beautiful, tremendous, fantastic and special. To quote Trump “There’s never been anything like it in history” and It’s a bonus if an actual truth or fact creeps into the ramblings. The virus was going to be like a ‘miracle’ as it disappeared without a blemish on Trumptown. The only miracle was, that he thought that could be true. As a result, he has been playing catch-up against an enemy that he can’t buy off or intimidate, as it rages through the population and destroys his precious economy.
to be continued....