authoritarianism, Globalization, Human Rights, Neo-liberalism, Politics, xenofobia

Wheels on fire. The Thin Edge: Is the Donald Trump regime imploding?

Jun 24 2020

By Ruchir Joshi – Editor,  Telegraph of India

Watching the wheels come off an inept, conceited person in power is always satisfying. However, each time we witness such a moment, the satisfaction is tempered by the following question: how much more damage will this person cause before the political graveyard finally swallows him?

Let’s relish the current, possibly tsunami-level travails of Donald Trump. But before savouring them, we need to broadly tot up the devastation that the Trump presidency (if such a sad and sordid pantomime can be called that) has visited upon the United States of America and the world. America, an already divided and festering society, has been further divided; the poor are poorer, the rich even more filthily rich; the health system that Barack Obama tried desperately to improve is back in a far worse place than when George W. Bush’s tenure ended; most recently, the tragedy of thousands of avoidable deaths was caused due to Trump’s disastrous mismanagement of the Covid-19 crisis; precious environmental safeguards have been systematically smashed across the US with knock-on effects globally; a society already rupturing because of brutally racist policing has had the cleavages exacerbated, made more precipitate, by a president supposedly in charge of keeping the peace; America has become a loose cannon in the international arena; whatever ‘stability’ and ‘ballast’ the US used to provide have now been scuppered by repeated acts of foreign policy hara-kiri; this has pushed already troubled regions, from Bolivia and Venezuela to Palestine/Israel, Syria, Iran and Yemen into a much worse state.

It is in the following context that we see this man, Trump: completely at the mercy of a rival superpower like Russia and a ruthless leader like Vladimir Putin; witnessed by a close defence  adviser, John Bolton, to be begging another ruthless leader, Xi Jinping, of the other major rival, China, for help in getting himself re-elected; throwing all his country’s priorities into the waste-basket as he tries to leverage leaders of other countries to besmirch his political rivals at home. Bolton is a right-wing, war-loving hawk, a man who is at the other end of the spectrum from the ‘liberal lefties’ Trump loves to hate. But such is Bolton’s disgust at his ex-boss that he is willing to lay things out in a book and fight in the courts to ensure the book’s release. The list of Bolton’s accusations doesn’t end there: apparently Trump was willing to trample on the two-term limitation for US presidents and try and get himself further terms in power; allegedly he was happy to pander to the despotic Recep T. Erdogan and promise to squash an American investigation into a Turkish firm that Erdogan favoured; he publicly backed the Saudi government’s murder of the dissident journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, that too primarily in order to distract media attention from his daughter’s use of her private emails for government work — the same ‘crime’ for which he has constantly demanded the arrest of Hillary Clinton.

Coupled with this dishonesty is a deep ignorance about the world: apparently Trump thought Finland was a part of Russia and had no idea that Britain possessed nuclear weapons. This absence of basic general knowledge is important to note because it demonstrates, yet again, that know-nothings with no great interest or curiosity about the world can nevertheless find a path to capturing power in all sorts of different cultures.

Many Western analysts and opinion writers, clearly none of them beset by superstition or any notion of nazar, have begun to write in happy anticipation about the imminent end of the Trump presidency. The election is still a few months away but people are guessing that Trump may try and postpone them. This may be beyond Trump’s ability to swing, but there are theories as to what Trump may do if he loses in November. One favourite is he may refuse to cede power, using some trumped up excuse or another. Another set of conjectures circles around what he may do in his remaining two-odd months of power between losing the election and his victorious opponent’s swearing-in. A third guess is that he may leave the White House but continue to vehemently throw doubt on the election result, goading his supporters to destabilize the country for the next president.

Even as Bolton’s revelations and these post-election projections seep out into the media, Trump’s core supporters continue to demonstrate their own spectacular ignorance of the world, flaunting their MAGA (‘Make America Great Again’) caps and carrying assault rifles onto the steps of state legislatures to protest against their ‘freedoms’ being ‘taken away’ by Covid-19 lockdowns. In case anyone in this country is tempted to feel superior to these blindered nationalists, they should listen to a sound-clip making the rounds on WhatsApp. In the clip, a man identifies himself as a retired army major and the president of the Defence Colony Residents’ Welfare Association in south Delhi. After lauding the colony’s response to Covid-19 where ‘we have taken care of our poor and our needy’, the man goes on to exhort the residents to rise up against China. The burden of his message is this: we are a colony of faujis; despite all our honours and medals we unfortunately cannot pick up arms and fight at the front; however China still needs to be taught a lesson; so at 7pm please bring out all the China-made goods in your house and throw them on the street; then take photos and videos and send them to newspapers and TV channels; make them go viral and let China see what we will do to it economically.

If the context wasn’t the loss of several of our soldiers in truly ghastly circumstances, one would crack up with laughter. As things stand, this man’s delusions are just pitiable and appalling. The fact is most of Defence Colony’s residents are no longer from the military; they are the same wealthy citizens you find in similarly gated enclaves of other posh colonies in south Delhi. The fact is burning or trashing a few consumer items is going to have the same effect on China that banging thaalis had on the coronavirus. The fact is people who’ve actually fought in a war rarely thirst for picking up arms and rushing back into another one. I did happen to know one such person, a retired general who lived in Defence Colony, till he passed away a few years ago. A decorated soldier who performed bravely and brilliantly when required, I never once heard him glorify war; in fact, I remember well the seriousness on his face whenever the situation got out of hand on our borders; I remember the complete absence of any triumphalism in him after the bloody mess of Kargil was over.

The leaders who glorify war, who need a remote-control conflict to promote their own agenda, are usually ones who have never fought in one. Often they are the very ones who bring about a war-like situation through their own ignorance, hubris, lack of imagination and stupidity. They are the ones who can be easily identified as they speak ‘on behalf of our entire nation’ of ‘sacrifice’, of ‘unyielding courage’, of giving ‘a fitting answer to the enemy’, of delusional surgical strikes, or of being part of the greatest military tradition in the world, as the draft-dodging Trump did at West Point Military Academy the other day.



An isolated Trump receives an eager Polish president

By Ishaan Tharoor* – The Washington Post 

President Trump has had a miserable week. A weekend rally in Tulsa turned into a political dud as Trump’s earlier boasts of vast crowds fell flat in the face of a sea of empty seats. Current polls show his reelection prospects are grim. On other fronts, Trump is failing to put out the fires: The toll of the coronavirus keeps rising across the country; his much-touted trade deal with China is near the brink of collapse; and, incapable of offering a unifying message to the nation, Trump instead panders to his base by fearmongering over Black Lives Matter protesters and pushing sweeping cuts to legal immigration.

So when Polish President Andrzej Duda goes to the White House on Wednesday, Trump may welcome the chance to play statesman again. Duda leads the first foreign delegation to call on Trump since the onset of the pandemic and shutdown measures in the United States. His visit will mark the 11th time the two leaders have met — in 2017, the U.S. president delivered a vintage Trumpian speech in Warsaw, steeped in a blood-and-soil nationalism rarely articulated by American leaders abroad.

Duda is an ally of Poland’s ruling right-wing Law and Justice party, or PiS, which controls the country’s legislature and has been rebuked by the European Union for its steady erosion of the independence of some of Poland’s major institutions, particularly the judiciary.

“After devoting its initial years in office to an illegal takeover of the country’s constitutional court and the council responsible for judicial appointments, the PiS government started persecuting individual judges in 2019,” noted a recent report from Freedom House, a Washington-based think tank that tracks democratic progress and backsliding around the globe. “By early 2020, judges who criticized the government’s overhaul or simply applied European Union law correctly were subjected to disciplinary action. Such an attack on a core tenet of democracy — that there are legal limits on a government’s power, enforced by independent courts — would have been unimaginable in Europe before PiS made it a reality.”

Though accustomed to lectures from Brussels, Duda and his allies are hoping for a boost ahead of a June 28 presidential election. He faces a tougher-than-expected challenge from the opposition. Some polls show that he could lose to Warsaw Mayor Rafal Trzaskowski if this weekend’s vote yields a July runoff. “Emphasizing strong relations with Washington is particularly crucial for Duda, given Poland’s growing isolation within Europe as his government has become increasingly autocratic,” my colleagues reported. “The European Union has censured Poland for failing to uphold democracy, rule of law and fundamental rights, and has said his government’s judicial revisions threaten the independence of the courts.”

That doesn’t appear to pose much of a problem for Trump, who has found common cause with a global menagerie of illiberal nationalists over the past three years. Trump and his political allies see in central Europe an emerging nationalist vanguard in countries such as Poland and Hungary. And Duda could present the White House with an opportunity to launch another shot across the bow toward liberal Europe: The two presidents are expected to finalize the details of a number of defense deals, which include discussions over the possibility of U.S. troop deployments in Poland.

Duda’s arrival comes in the wake of Trump’s decision to withdraw about a third of U.S. forces stationed in Germany, a decision prompted both by Trump’s factually challenged insistence that Germany is “delinquent” in payments to NATO, as well as his personal antipathy toward German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The announced withdrawals from Germany set off alarm bells in Congress, where both Democrats and Republicans have issued stern statements warning Trump against undermining the United States’ position in Europe.

 “We would like an increase in American forces in Poland,” a person close to Duda told the Guardian. “We aren’t happy that America is withdrawing forces from Germany, we want as many U.S. forces in Europe as possible, but it’s a separate issue, the more forces we have in Poland, the better.”

Duda’s immediate concerns are ultimately not about geopolitics. Once seen as a shoo-in for a second term, his lead in polls has slipped amid the economic toll of the coronavirus pandemic. Like Trump, he has opted to pander to a right-wing base, harping on the threat posed by “LGBT ideology,” which he recently declared worse than communism.

Hosting Duda now, critics say, is tantamount to a kind of election interference, an act similar to Trump’s explicit currying of favor with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before general elections in Israel. “I am troubled by President Trump’s inappropriate efforts to insert himself into Polish domestic politics and boost President Duda’s reelection with a White House visit,” Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), who is Polish American, said in a statement. “I am especially concerned by Duda’s recent comments comparing the LGBTQ community to communism. It insults the very people who elected him and liberty lovers everywhere, who for decades struggled to lift the yoke of communist oppression from their shoulders.”

The White House visit “legitimizes Duda’s platform, which in the past few weeks has seen homophobic and anti-Semitic messages, and has scapegoated minorities,” Zselyke Csaky, research director for Europe and Eurasia at Freedom House, told Today’s WorldView. She emphasized how high the stakes were for Polish democracy: “What we see right now is that there’s no stopping for the ruling party. If it can go ahead unchallenged, then it’s really very difficult to fix the damage.”


See also:

Forecasting the US elections

The Economist is analysing polling, economic and demographic data to predict America’s elections in 2020.  Right now, our model thinks Joe Biden is very likely to beat Donald Trump in the electoral college.:

Trump vs Biden – who will win? Latest polls show Biden holds lead as Trump rating plummets

DONALD TRUMP and Joe Biden still face a long road until the 2020 US election. Who is going to win according to the latest polls? Democratic presumptive nominee Joe Biden is maintaining a steady lead over Donald Trump in the polls in a worrying turn for the President. A divisive figure regardless, Mr Trump’s credibility has taken a tumble in recent weeks with ongoing civil unrest across the states and the world’s highest coronavirus death toll.

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