Trump’s recent bluster toward North Korea is competing with his rhetoric on domestic issues – this time on the Charlottesville riot, which has sent a shudder across a country struggling to come to terms with a reckless tycoon in the White House.
Notwithstanding the three deaths that occurred as a result of the rally, as well as Trump’s statement blaming “all parties” for the violence, Charlottesville would have still been jettisoned as another aberration fueled by the US president’s support for the far-right.
However, the acoustics of his rantings against North Korea – an issue that sent heads of state and think-tank experts into a frantic huddle – did not persuade him to immediately criticize the white supremacists.
To save the president some more disgrace, his aides were able to finally push him all the way to the White House from his golf retreat hundreds of miles away from the US capital.
A wincing Trump on Monday finally condemned the violence by criticizing the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis and white supremacists.
In typical Trumpesque fashion, the US president took on the media in New York City on Tuesday by retracting his so-called support for the far-right and ripping into what he called the “alt-left.” As a stony-faced White House Chief of Staff John Kelly stood cross-armed in the room, Trump even invoked the names of former US presidents George Washington and Thomas Jefferson — citing their slave-owning statuses.
That Donald Trump and his team pull different ways doesn’t surprise anyone anymore. Before his forced diatribe against white supremacists, Trump’s aides unsuccessfully tried to defend his initial remarks by saying that he had condemned the far-right.
The lingering fear of what’s coming next keeps triggering trepidation in the West Wing of the White House.
His recently fired communications director Anthony Scaramucci learned this the hardest way. Footage of a floundering Scaramucci lugging his baggage down aircraft steps proved allegorical.
Blast from the past
Analysts say the pandemonium under Trump largely resembles President Richard Nixon’s White House.
“Trump’s White House has striking similarities to how things were under President Nixon: both can be understood as chaotic and riddled with scandal, fuelled by each President’s own insecurities to criticism and leadership style,” said Steven Wright, Associate Professor of International Relations at Qatar University.
Trump fired Scaramucci ten days into the job, spawning a slew of parodies including a take on the 2003 romantic comedy How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days.
Scaramucci’s fate is the ultimate example of administrative bedlam in the hub of policy-making in a country looked up to (or was) for the quality of its governance.
It’s hard to believe that good governance has for years been the forte of a nation that is today struggling with creaky infrastructure and where a probe about a state governor ordering aides to block traffic on a major bridge had the press fulminating.
A semblance of decorum has quit the otherwise tranquil Pennsylvania Avenue building, the hub of policy making known to affect the world, besides America. At a time when Trump’s spokespeople have been changing as much as his scowl, Scaramucci’s ouster was the last nail.
Before the former Wall Street wheeler-dealer was fired, Reince Priebus had got the boot as the White House Chief of Staff. Priebus, who was cursed by a foul-mouthed Scaramucci in a press interview, became a moniker of Trump’s foibles.
“Trump refuses to listen to his advisers, believes in a Hegelian dialectic where there is a benefit to chaos and thinks anytime he is personally at the top of the media cycle is a good day,” said Barak Barfi of the New America Foundation, a US-based think-tank.
The fraying of the Oval Office will have its consequences on policy and administration. A presidential historian was recently quoted as saying that rumpus created by Trump affects morale at the executive level.
On Monday, Kenneth Frazier, CEO of pharmaceutical giant Merck, quit Trump’s manufacturing council in a protest against the president’s recent remarks that blamed “many sides” for Saturday’s violence.
Trump’s comeback on Twitter was unsurprising: ”Now that Ken Frazier of Merck Pharma has resigned from President’s Manufacturing Council, he will have more time to LOWER RIPOFF DRUG PRICES!”
Kenneth Plank, Chief Executive of athletic equipment maker Under Armour, followed in Frazier’s footsteps. And Intel CEO Brian Krzanich decided to do the same.
The father of public administration, President Woodrow Wilson, ruled the US during World War I and wrote a treatise – The Study of Administration – in which he floated the idea of policy-administration dichotomy.
“The main difference between Trump and Nixon is in foreign policy, as while Nixon was a gifted and able geostrategist, Trump’s policy is devoid of any concept of strategy,” said Dr Wright.
The situation that Trump finds himself in could be the result of his own design, given his predilection for taking advantage of chaos to obfuscate administrative failings. The manipulative business tycoon inside Trump could prove to be his own nemesis.
Leading Indian psychologist and counselor Salony Priya said, “Trump excites people, but has little empathy. Hence, winning credibility is relatively low.”
“He has a very loud, strong personality, but low emotional quotient,” she added.
“He has little grasp of politics and eschews process for shock announcement. As long as no one can rein him in, the US will continue to dither,” said Barfi.
After firing National Security Advisor General Michael Flynn 24 hours into his job, Trump’s dismissal of Scaramucci seems less damaging.
Instead of working toward making ‘America Great Again,’ the US president threatens to undo whatever little was achieved by the previous administration. The US reputation of global leadership has taken a beating.
“Chaos in the White House, combined with Trump-style foreign policy, only serves to undermine US global leadership, and its ability to play that role meaningfully, in an era when it is badly needed,” said Wright.
The writer is a journalist based in the Middle East.
Source: Global Times