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US Politics

Trump's political freefall casts doubt on his capacity to remain as president

While this column has been a Trump-Free Zone for a week or two, there are clear signs that his behaviour is continuing its downward spiral in complete political free-fall which must raise real doubts over his capacity to remain as president of the United States for the entirety of the four year term, one eighth of which has already mercifully passed.

The latest sign of his autocratic political madness is his open rift with Jeff Sessions, the southern right-winger whom he appointed as his Attorney General. He is bitterly disappointed that Sessions has recused himself from performing his functions in relation to the Russian involvement in the election issue. He has now publicly declared that he would not have appointed Sessions if he had known of his willingness to recuse himself from an investigation in which Sessions was obviously compromised.

That recusal led to the appointment of a special prosecutor. There is no way that Trump can halt the investigation now. The genie is out of the bottle. The Russian investigation will simply not go away. An angry, frustrated Trump is venting his spleen on Sessions for the continued blight on his presidency. Of course, Trump could have sacked Sessions for misleading Congress as to his dealings with the Russians at the time of his appointment hearings. But he backed Sessions and is stuck with him until he can find a cynical pretext to sack him.

And the Russian investigation rumbles on. This all resembles Henry VIII’s sacking of Cardinal Wolsey and multiple executions for his courtiers’ failure to secure a papal annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon.

Now comes the departure of Seán Spicer. The gaffe-prone Spicer was actually so ridiculous as Trump’s press man that he had assumed an almost endearing aspect. His dogged fight with facts (most memorably the crowd size at Trump’s inauguration) and his mastery of the concept of alternative facts became iconic features of Trump’s  reign of buffoonery. Even Spicer had enough when Trump decided to switch Anthony Scaramucci, an erstwhile Obama fundraiser,  from being US envoy-designate to the OECD to being his director of communications.

The very weird use of Ivanka Trump as a stand-in for her father at G-20 sessions is but further proof that Donald is dependent on his family to surround him in a ring of confidantes who can conceal his sociopathic personality from the people. What could the G-20 leaders do but acquiesce in such madness? It was the same atmosphere as surrounded Trump’s laughable lecture to the NATO leaders on his last European foray. Protesting such madness or publicly shunning her would have diminished them because she was, after all, a helpless pawn in her father’s bizarre antics.

Then Donald Trump Jr and Jared Kushner and Manafort land the President back in the mire with the revelation of their dirt-gathering meeting with veteran Russian during the election campaign.

The common thread running through all these events is Trump’s total incapacity to function without a loyal coterie of unquestioning loyalists who are afraid to stand up to him. Donald Jr looks cowed in the presence of his father. None of the family will speak truth to the patriarch. He only wants to hear loyal praise. He mercilessly attacks any person or institution which criticises him. Such a menage may be sustainable in the private world of plutocrats but it simply shrivels in the public world of politics.

I have to say that Trump’s meeting with President and Mme Macron was vintage stuff. Quite apart from his utterly inappropriate remarks about Mme Macron, I detected a feint whiff of the obsequious Blair-Bush relationship in Macron’s extended hand-holding  with Trump.

Macron may turn into a latter-day Blair with his puppy-dog tail wagging attitude to Trump. Angela Merkel has been far cleverer than Macron.

Glad-handing Trump is bad box-office in Europe where the man is seen for what he is – a walking embarrassment for the US in international affairs. If Trump comes to visit Theresa May, she will be diminished even further by the event. Postponing such a visit became a matter of survival for Mrs May.

On the international front, Trump is struggling to retain any credibility.

He has failed to deter Kim Jong Un from developing an ICBM capability. He rattled his scabbard with a phantom fleet sent to Korean waters. South Korea has sensed his weakness. So has China. He has achieved nothing more than Obama in his north Pacific policy.

He has thrown away Obama’s Cuban initiative. Now we are seeing the emergence of another communist dictatorship under Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela. Instead of one Cuba, Trump has created two Cubas.

The absurd situation in which his Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, backs Qatar while Trump tweets support for the Saudi/ GCC blockade of Qatar, masks a deep failure of American diplomacy in the Middle East.

The fragile truce in Ukraine is disintegrating as Russia ramps up the separatist pressure on Kiev.

Domestically, Trump is in equally bad shape.

Where is the infrastructural program on which he campaigned.  Apart from the “solar wall with Mexico” fantasy, and Elon Musk’s dubious claim of presidential approval for a Hyperloop transit system on the East Coast, rust-bucket America looks just as rusty as ever.

Repeal of Obamacare is stalled.

Wall Street will soon get the jitters if the promised recovery in growth and employment fails to materialise.

Now is the time for the Democrats to capitalise on Trump’s all-time low popularity. But where are they? They need a Justin Trudeau type to win in 2020. But where is he? Or she? Maybe the mid-term elections will bring forth such a contender in time for 2020. If they don’t,  the GOP may grab the opportunity to field a Dump Trump candidate.

Meanwhile making America great again is looking like a sick joke. Nothing like a moderate sized war somewhere to distract us all from domestic failure?  Don’t discount that.

It might save what Trump is pleased to describe as face.

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