With Steve Bannon directing operations, and aided and abetted by a bunch of power-crazed loonies, the answer is probably very far indeed. Things could get extremely nasty...
It is a little bit like watching a car crash in slow motion. Some part of you hopes against hope that fate will intervene. That something will happen to stop the lethal projectile dead in its tracks. That at worst it will hit a brick wall and go up in flames, ensuring at least that no innocent bystanders can be injured or wiped out. But in your heart, you know that something even more appalling is on the way. Soon.
Like the loathsome, vengeful pseudo-jihadist truck-driver, Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel, in Nice, at the start of his gruesome rampage along the Promenades des Anglais last year, US President Donald Trump has levelled the first few bodies in his path. But he is ploughing ahead, grinning malevolently, and a bunch of half-wits are egging him on. He is causing damage to the left. He is causing damage to the right. He is causing damage right down the middle. Hey, who cares? “It’s my truck,” he screams.
The main difference between the scenes in Washington and Nice is that no one is going to shoot Trump.
I hear the usual lemmings piping up in the background: “I don’t know why everyone is being so hard on him. Give the man a chance. After all, he is the democratically elected President of the United States.”
Gimme a fucking break. Donald Trump is so twisted he has a corkscrew for a spine. His election was based on lies and disinformation, with Facebook facilitating him and Putin and his cronies in Moscow pulling the strings. There was a theory that, once victory had been secured, he might begin to act with grace. That he would become a President for all the people. That notion lasted about three minutes. Since he entered the White House, the President has behaved like a paranoid two year old pumped up on a vast excess of sugar and caffeine. In fact we could probably expect more sense from a two year old. Sadly, however, we got President Donald Trump instead.
He threw the rattle out of the pram when the media reported the fact that there were fewer people at his inauguration than at Barack Obama’s. Fake news, he squawked. Fake news.
The National Parks Service tweeted pictures of the two crowds, which confirmed what he didn’t want to hear. Acting in the carefully reasoned and dignified manner which has been the hallmark of his Presidency to date, he ordered them off Twitter and bellyached that the pictures had been photoshopped.
“This is the largest crowd ever to witness an inauguration, PERIOD,” his press secretary Sean Spicer shouted at media at his first press briefing. It was a brazen lie. The pictures were worth a thousand words. But if you say it often enough, and shout it LOUD ENOUGH, then your followers will hear you. And a lot of them are either stupid or prejudiced enough to believe you.
We were, it transpired, getting an early feel for the belligerent tone of his presidency. Trump’s ground troops were lying. He was lying himself. But the new President had the gall to accuse the media of mendacity, repeating the “fake news” mantra like a parrot with throat cancer and a bad hairdo. At the President’s instigation, the juvenile Spicer rolled out the ground on which the President would walk from now on. Meanwhile, Trump’s adviser Kellyanne Conway – straight-faced – introduced the concept of “alternative facts”, which roughly translates as “lies that suit the President’s twisted view of the world.”
With every day it becomes clearer that the man is not just verging on the clinically insane; worse, he is an unscrupulous, self-aggrandising monster, who is verging on the clinically insane. He supports torture and wants water-boarding re-introduced. “It works, absolutely,” he claimed, in a television interview. Independent studies say otherwise but in the alternative reality where Donald Trump resides, that’s fake news too. Global warming? Doesn’t exist. Human rights? They’re for patsies. Because we say so. You better believe it.
Within hours of Trump’s inauguration, pages on climate change, civil rights, LGBT rights and health care were deleted from the White House website. In a fit of pique, he compared the US intelligence community to Nazis. He fired off tweets as if there were no tomorrow (with him in charge, one day soon there may not be). Women all over the world took to the streets to protest against his misogyny. He surrounded himself with a platoon of white men. And Conway.
Every which way you turn, the portents which tell us that fascism has arrived in the good old USA get stronger. Without a shred of evidence to support the contention, Trump claimed that he’d have won the popular vote if it hadn’t been for voter fraud, claiming that 5 million illicit votes had been cast for Hillary Clinton. I’ll say it now: the claim is a flimsy pretext for an attack that will surely come, on the voting rights of African Americans and other non-whites, in the States that voted Clinton. Make no mistake: his objective now is to rig the next election. This is a land grab.
Getting his – and Trump’s – retaliation in first, the President’s chief strategist, the white supremacist Steve Bannon, described the press as “the opposition party” and insisted that the media should “keep its mouth shut”. He stopped short of spelling out the “or else” that was clearly implied. And then, in an unprecedented move, Trump appointed Bannon to the US National Security Council, pushing the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff and the director of national intelligence to one side. Bannon probably sees it as the beginning of a New World Order.
Trump met the British Prime Minister Theresa May and, in an action that he might have imagined was gallant, but was in fact deeply condescending and insulting, because she is a ‘lickle woman’ he held her hand like a bumptious would-be Casanova on his first date. He thought better of groping her. Too old.
Desperate to look like a man of action, Trump embarked on a mad flurry of photo-ops, issuing a series of so called executive orders – cobbled together by Bannon and his henchmen – in the manner of a nappy-clad tin-pot dictator with hand-writing like a vampire’s. The only surprise was that the orders weren’t written in blood.
• He ordered staff at the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Transportation, the Department of Agriculture, Health and Human Services, and the Interior Department, among other government agencies, to do what Steve Bannon had told the press to do: that is, to shut the fuck up and not to speak to the media or give information to the public for an indefinite period. In what has all the hallmarks of the beginning of a witch-hunt, his team asked the Energy Department to hand over a list of names of people who had worked on climate change issues.
• Ignoring the hardship it would impose on ordinary working class people, including many who voted for him, he began to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, instructing the Secretary of Health and Human Services to “waive, defer, grant exemptions from, delay” requirements of what had been the signature achievement of the Obama presidency.
• He issued a ban on federal funds being provided to cities that “wilfully violate federal law in an attempt to shield aliens from removal from the United States.” In effect this was an attack on the principle of sanctuary, which allows illegal ‘aliens’ to file complaints if they are victims of crime, without risking deportation.
• He froze employment in the public service, ordering that “no vacant positions existing at noon on Jan. 22, 2017, may be filled and no new positions may be created.” Except, predictably, for military, “public safety” and national security personnel. And, of course, the sinister cadre he is installing in positions of power around him.
• Despite major environmental concerns – including pollution of the drinking water of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe – he gave the green light to the Dakota Access and Keystone pipelines, which would carry crude oil and petrol respectively across thousands of miles of land. Coincidentally, Trump has had investments in some of the companies who have been involved in building the pipelines.
• He instructed Homeland Security to proceed with the building of a wall between the United States and Mexico. He also continued to insist that Mexico would pay for the wall, triggering a diplomatic incident which resulted in the cancellation of a meeting with the Mexican President, Enrique Pena Nieto, sparking fears of a trade war. Mexico is one of the largest markets for US goods.
• In a ‘fuck you’ to women and liberals, and bowing hypocritically to the Christian right, the serial adulterer and self-confessed groper ordered a block on federal funding for international family planning organisations that either provide abortion or discuss abortion services with their clients.
• And finally, for now, he issued the most contentious Executive Order of all in relation to immigration, suspending the arrival of refugees for at least 120 days, denying access to people coming from seven predominantly Muslim countries – Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen – for at least three months and barring all Syrian refugees indefinitely. In a sense, this was just Trump carrying through on an election promise: after all, during the race for the White House, he had called for a total and complete ban on all Muslims coming to the United States. Discrimination on religious grounds? No problem.
As Homeland Security put the order into effect, there were protests at numerous airports across the US. The human cost of families and children being turned away mattered not. The very clear line of discrimination on religious grounds mattered not either. When you give a bully power, he only knows one way of doing things. Immigration lawyers pointed to the fact that no one from any of these countries had been involved in a terrorist incident within the US. The facts were, and are, deemed irrelevant. So is the likelihood that tensions will be inflamed elsewhere, and that the decision – like internment in Northern Ireland – is the best recruiting sergeant that ISIS could ask for right now. This is government by prejudice.
Making the discriminatory nature of his action clear, in an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network, Trump said that he would give priority to persecuted Christians from Syria. And confirming his status as a petty dictator in all but name, he fired the acting Attorney General Sally Yates when she questioned the legality of the order.
She was not alone in her concern. A series of legal actions have been taken against the order, notably by the Attorney General for Washington, Bob Ferguson – but also by civil rights groups and by Muslims who were refused entry. In all, 16 State attorneys joined in a statement saying that the Executive Order was “un-American and unlawful.” Bob Ferguson insists that the President is not adhering to the constitution.
That he is not should come as no surprise. The real question is: just how far is he prepared to go upriver – and into Ku Klux Klan territory? With someone like Steve Bannon directing the movie and acting as his script-writer, the answer is: probably very far indeed.
Things could hardly be more precarious. With a grotesque bully in nominal charge, the United States is a tinderbox in the making. The reins of power have been handed to a clique of bigoted, racist, misogynistic, power-crazed thugs, who have no respect for the constitution – and even less for a huge number of US citizens. And like a posse of crazed vigilantes, they are riding into battle, their guns cocked. Things could get really evil.
In the meantime, I don’t think I can bear the thought of the pictures on St. Patrick’s Day. The big question is: will fair Donald hold Enda’s hand? I suggest that the Taoiseach should do some weights in the meantime. Just in case..
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