Suckers! With every passing day it grows clearer that President-Elect Donald Trump has no intention of sending the wild rivers of white working-class wrath roaring through Washington’s reeking stables. Trump is no Hercules. He will not use the powers of the Presidency to slay the monsters of privilege and corruption. Trump is a creature of the swamp – and like recognises like.
SOME WEEKS BACK I penned an opinion-piece entitled “Looking on the Bright Side of President Trump”. Exactly how the unrestrained spirit of Pollyanna seized control of my mental faculties remains a mystery. My foolish decision to get blind drunk on her optimism was probably due to the fact that every sober attempt to come to grips with our Trumpian future left me waist-deep in a gloomy swamp of pessimism.
Unfortunately, Pollyanna’s 100 percent proof “Glad Game” didn’t help. A month has passed and now the whole world is waist-deep in the big muddy – and sinking fast.
Before he started naming his Cabinet, it was still possible to write: “That Donald Trump possesses an enormous ego is indisputable. The question is: will that ego be better served by becoming one of America’s truly great presidents – or one of its very worst?” Now we know that his promise to “drain the swamp” was a cynical inversion of his true intentions.
With every passing day it grows clearer that Trump has no intention of sending the wild rivers of white working-class wrath roaring through Washington’s reeking stables. Trump is no Hercules. He will not use the powers of the Presidency to slay the monsters of privilege and corruption. Trump is a creature of the swamp – and like recognises like.
Trump’s embryonic administration shows every sign of growing into a veritable Hydra of swamp-begotten evil. His pick for Attorney-General is the epitome of genteel Southern racism. His preferred national security team is the closest the United States has come in its 240-year history to being “protected” by a military junta. The man he is contemplating for Secretary-of-State is CEO of the oil giant Exxon – a man with whom the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, will have no difficulty doing business. How do we know? Because Rex Tillerson has already been there, done that, and has a bright, shiny Russian medal (the Order of Friendship no less!) to prove it.
In happier times, the moniker “Mad Dog” would’ve constituted a pretty big obstacle to being considered for any – let alone a major – presidential appointment. But these are far from happy times and Marine General James “Mad Dog” Mattis is Trump’s pick for Secretary-of-Defence. Why “Mad Dog”? Well, this is the man who told the Afghans: “I come in peace. I didn’t bring artillery. But I'm pleading with you, with tears in my eyes: If you f**k with me, I'll kill you all.”
Mind you, if Trump continues to threaten Chinese exporters with a 45 percent tariff; and goes on talking blithely about turning Richard Nixon’s greatest foreign policy achievement, the One China Policy, into a readily expendable negotiating chip; then having a mad dog Marine General as your Secretary-of-Defence may turn out to be, as another mad dog Marine once put it, “a pretty neat idea.”
But even if (and it’s a very big “if”) Trump’s unintentional embrace of Nixon’s infamous “Madman Theory of Diplomacy” is enough to keep China’s nuclear missiles in their silos (remembering, of course, that we have nothing now to fear from the ICBMs of America’s new “very, very, very good friends”, the Russians) then that other global incinerator, Climate Change, is unlikely to start cooling down any time soon.
Trump’s pick to take over the US Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, is a no-holds-barred climate change denier of such impressive ideological rigidity that even George W. Bush is decrying his appointment.
Dubbya’s opposition notwithstanding, Trump’s transition team has sanctioned the following media statement from the politician who has never received a “Big Oil” corporate donation that he wasn’t happy to bank:
“The American people are tired of seeing billions of dollars drained from our economy due to unnecessary EPA regulations, and I intend to run this agency in a way that fosters both responsible protection of the environment and freedom for American businesses.”
By “responsible” protection, Mr Pruitt presumably means the sort of protection afforded to the hen-house by the fox.
If the American Republic was anything like the Roman Republic, then the equivalents of Cassius and Brutus would already be sharpening their daggers against this combed-over Caesar. Indeed, it could be argued that all that stands between Trump and the imminent demise of American greatness is a handful of patriotic United States senators.
Roll on the constitutional Ides of March.
This essay was originally published in The Waikato Times, The Taranaki Daily News, The Timaru Herald, The Otago Daily Times and The Greymouth Star of Friday, 16 December 2016.