It is really quite impossible to ignore the situation in Washington, in the vain hope that it gets better, or evens out at least. It appears to get worse by the day, and follows a course that is increasingly erratic and uneven.
The Huffington Post today ran a piece quoting an unnamed member of the White House staff who claimed that President Trump is mentally unbalanced and unfit to occupy the executive office – which means unfit to lead the country. The source is anonymous for obvious reasons, but the Post seemed sure of his authenticity, and it has always been a reliable news source. It is deeply worrying. The staffer cited many incidents of Trump’s emotional instability and wild mood swings, saying that it was hard to work for him as a consequence. He is incapable of absorbing the advice from briefings and incorporating them in his decisions. Briefing papers are usually several pages long, but Trump has demanded that they be no more than a page, with bullet-points listing the issues, and no more than nine points on the page. The source said that the President ignored the complexities involved in major issues, yet would fly off the handle over the most trivial things. He issued a bulletin, for example, ordering the hand-towels on Airforce One to be changed for softer versions. His excessive and often explosive reactions to petty criticisms of him, or the ridiculing which is now fresh meat for comedians, was deeply unsettling. All of it, said the staffer, pointed to a malignant narcissist unable to perceive a reality beyond himself. It led to the tortured relationship with the media, still hatching out, and was sure to lead to far more dangerous and disruptive situations. His staff were deeply unhappy, concerned that they would one day be blamed for his enormities – which was why they were now speaking out. This is not anything we have ever seen before. Richard Nixon, at his most deluded and deceitful during Watergate, was a babe in arms compared with what we now hear daily of Trump. The talk-shows and comics can poke fun all they want – and God knows there is so much to poke at – but this is far darker than they seem to appreciate.
Perhaps Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece, Dr. Strangelove, depicted a madman in the White House, but it is not an idea that has really been explored much before. The fact that Trump is portrayed by much media as a characiture is one thing, but the fact that he consistently acts like one without seemingly being aware of it is something else altogether. I have tended not to entirely dismiss his claims of a hostile and biased media – there’s mutual hatred, it’s not surprising – but increasingly I see journalists with integrity uncertain how to deal with an administration that brutalizes the truth. Trump says it is not a Muslim ban, for instance, and yet we find that effectually it is. Two Canadians of Moroccan descent were turned away at the border today. Their cell phones were taken and they were interrogated for several hours before being denied entry. Morocco is not one of the seven nations listed in the allegedly temporary ban. The questions asked them were all about their religious beliefs: Which mosque do you attend? Who’s the Imam? What does he say in his sermons? And, outrageously, What do you think of President Trump? Border guards have clearly been instructed to keep out Muslims. They do not act on their own initiative. The President is therefore lying – and such a ban on religious beliefs is unconstitutional. Courts are now striving to overtuirn it, but we find in these legal hassles that Trump’s officials are trying to insist that a Presidential executive order cannot be denied. This too is unconstitutional. With a President so thin-skinned and reactive to any perceived slight, one wonders what the Republican party is up to. They surely knew what they were getting some time ago, so why is there so little resistance?
We must remember that George W. Bush was ridiculed in office before September 11th, 2001. The War On Terror changed all that in a trice. A TV series lampooning the Bushes was cancelled. Everything became very serious, and the public forgot how they’d scorned George II. They even voted him in for a second term. It will not take that much for the Oval Office Buffoon to become King Donald the Brave. And a war, I suspect, is something very attaractive to him. As Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, a president’s powers are vastly increased, and a wartime populace is far more pliable. Who will it be? Iran? North Korea? Take your pick. It won’t be China, though – too complicated and possibly unwinnable.
Since the late sixties, many have been predicting that America would become a totalitarian regime, a police state. Is this what the more nefarious Republicans have in mind? How can we tell? Well, there’s the erosion of civil liberties – we may see that with Jeff Sessions and the new Supreme Court. There’s the stricter control of education and what can and what cannot be taught in schools. Judging by the calibre and record of those now in charge of this area, we may see that too. There’s vastly heightened security everywhere, and we’ve been seeing that for some time. There’s control of the media, and we know Trump would like to have that. Then there is the gradual dismantling of the justice system to allow arbitrary arrests, suspension of habeas corpus, and the imprisonment of dissidents. The US has been accused of trying to achieve these goals for decades, and good people have so far managed to fend off the assaults to some degree. But has the US Constitution got what is needed to avoid a tyranny usurping the government? Alexis de Tocqueville was of the opinion that it did not. Admittedly, his observations were made in the 1830s, yet the Constitution hasn’t changed much substantially since then. It is in fact a sadly atavistic document. The mosr convincing sign of a tyranny in the making is, of course, when the leader decrees his position to be one for life.
Both Napoleon and Hitler were voted into office by a reasonably fair ballot. First, Napoleon elevated himself from one of three consuls to the invented position of First Consul. Next he was First Consul for life. Then he was Emperor. Hitler was elected Chancellor, and a year later became Fuhrer, a nebulous term but a lifetime post. In both cases, there were no more real elections, and the countries were effectively dictatorships until the dictator died. But somehow I do not see Trump as Fuhrer material. No one laughed at Napoleon or Hitler – they should have, but they didn’t. So either the American system is hopelessly dysfunctional, allowing the election of a demagogue unwanted really by both parties, or the Republican elites have a plan to turn all this to their own advantage.
It is usually a mistake to take the surface events for what is really going on. And it is a fundamental error to forget that the US is really controlled by giant multinational corporations, particularly those in the arms and military supply industry. President Eisenhower warned of it in his farewell address – look it up, it’s chilling – and it was George Bush the First who privatized the military, ensuring that irresistibly vast profits awaited the next war, and the one after that. Since there hasn’t been a lack of small US conflicts since Korea in the fifties, these corporations have become inordinately wealthy. Halliburton, for example, once run by George W’s vice-president, Dick Cheney, is now headquartered in tax-free Dubai, although it is still one of the principal suppliers to the US Military, flogging them everything from meals-in-a-bag to private security personnel, who are not answerable to the Government in Washington. The mass-murder of Iraqi civilians a decade or so ago by men working for the Halliburton division, Blackwater, has never been brought to justice. There are many more examples. But the chief head of this hydra is avarice, the raking in of enormous profits no matter what their cost in human life. Such are the men who control America, and it is hard to think of them perspiring with anxiety over the current Oval Office occupant. Such people do not hesitate to kill – or to pay someone else to do it – when their interests are threatened. One must therefore conclude that their interests are not now being threatened.
Paul William Roberts