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Donald Trump

Donald Trump’s ‘government by tweet’ is putting the world in danger 

Kevin Rafferty says that, from the investigation into Russian collusion to trade and Syria, the US president’s obvious lack of any game plan on the key issues affecting global security is frightening, and discredits American democracy in the eyes of the world 

PUBLISHED : Friday, 20 April, 2018, 12:53pm
UPDATED : Friday, 20 April, 2018, 7:42pm

US President Donald Trump is wildly thrashing about and tweeting furiously like a wounded wild elephant, so that I am surprised that he has not been renamed President Trumpeting.

But it is no longer a mere laughing matter: the trumpeting Trump is increasingly becoming a danger to himself, to the United States, to the Western world, to democracy and to the safety and security of the world as we know it.

We are still some way from a full-blown trade war or from the outbreak of conflicts that might trigger the third world war, but there is a real and present danger. Government by tweet is an unstable and unsustainable model of governance.

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In the past few days, the US president’s tweetstorm has become wilder and angrier, including strident claims that influential people are pursuing a “WITCH HUNT” (which he habitually writes in capital letters) against him.

Trump has James Comey in his sights. The president controversially fired Comey as director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation in May last year, and Comey is now hitting back through a tell-all book, A Higher Loyalty. Comey offers a colourful stream of salacious events, allegations and observations that will keep the tabloid media happy for days, but they should not detract from his central message that the US president today is “morally unfit” for the job.  

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He compares Trump to a Mafia boss. Comey knows the Mafia because, as a career prosecutor in Manhattan in the late 1980s, he helped to break up the Gambino crime family. He sees similarities between the Mafia and Trump, noting, “The silent circle of assent. The boss in complete control. The loyalty oaths. The us-versus-them world view. The lying about all things, large and small, in service to some code of loyalty that put the organisation above morality and above the truth.”

In an hour-long TV interview with ABC based on five hours of discussion, Comey called Trump a serial liar who treats women like “meat”. 

These accounts don’t add material facts to already known charges. But, besides the graphic details and the force of his feelings, Comey’s advantage is that he was the insider in the Oval Office, man to man with the president, not a voyeur journalist listening to disgruntled gossip. His long and distinguished government career included personal dealings not only with Trump but also with Barack Obama, who appointed him to head the FBI, and George W. Bush. 

Comey’s spat with Trump is gripping stuff, but a sideshow in Trump’s battle for his presidency. Far more serious are the investigations of special counsel Robert Mueller because these are looking into alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia and at obstruction of justice. 

Americans should look in the mirror and see what an ugly laughing stock their democracy is becoming

Mueller’s remorseless investigations have taken on a hydra-headed life of their own, especially with the issue of search warrants on the offices and home of Michael Cohen, Trump’s long-time personal lawyer and fixer. The search is now extending to possible campaign finance violations, illegal payments of hush money to porn stars, bank fraud, wire fraud, and tax crimes. 

Is this the greatest democratic show on Earth? Trump was – legitimately in terms of the flawed electoral college system – chosen as US president, even though Hillary Clinton won almost 2.9 million more votes than Trump. 

I respectfully suggest that Americans should look in the mirror and see what an ugly laughing stock their democracy is becoming. The sad and terrifying thing is that Trump’s diehard supporters have looked and still like what they see.

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These Trump supporters, who are 30-35 per cent of the electorate, claim that Comey and even Mueller – considered a byword for integrity and honesty – are mocking voters, who chose Trump as president knowing he was no angel. America has had previous presidents who were hardly angels and who were deeply flawed. But, for the first time, Trump and his supporters are claiming that the president – who should be the supreme upholder of the law – is above the law.

That’s only part of the concern. One Mafia boss commented that Trump would never cut it in the organisation because he is so deal- and transaction-driven that he quickly loses the plot and has no game plan, let alone strategy.

Recent evidence supports this. Just take two examples: Trump’s views on Syria and trade. 

A third world war may be coming and it’s starting from Syria

On Syria, Trump recently announced that he wanted to pull American troops out, before being stung by Syria’s use of chemical weapons into bombing suspected weapons facilities and immediately declaring, in uneasy echoes of president Bush, “Mission accomplished!” No wonder Syria’s Bashar al-Assad looked confident as he went to work after the US raid. Trump may have slapped his face with the attack but Assad, with his Russian helpers, is firmly in control of the country.

On trade, Trump has blown like a weathercock in the wind. He pulled out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership then talked of joining it, but only if he can negotiate a better deal. But why should anyone trust Trump, whose words blow with the changing winds? We should all worry and remember that he has his finger on a nuclear trigger.

Compare and contrast with the way Xi Jinping is leading China. Whatever you think of his policies and world view, Xi has been meticulous in planning and remorseless in executing his vision, from the ”Belt and Road Initiative” to the South China Sea.

Trump and his friends should look at Xi and remember the words of a previous Chinese emperor to the once mighty British king, George III: Tremble and obey.

Kevin Rafferty, formerly a World Bank official and Osaka University professor, has reported from and on the US for 40 years