Posted on

That bizarre American soap opera


Political developments in the US over the past year present themselves as a captivating soap opera or even a reality show, starring a ruthless president. Our eyes and ears are glued daily to follow the next episode; tweets cursing members of his administration, attacking  foreign powers (except Russia), or firing a member of his cabinet. Or, perhaps, further revelations by White House insiders; criminal charges against associates, courtesy Mueller and his team.

Recent books by former White House insiders Michael Wolff and Omarosa Manigault Newman and by Journalist Bob Woodward of Watergate fame point to the same thing, chaos and intrigue in the White House, a president, ‘unhinged’, and close advisers trying to limit the damage to the US by uninformed and impetuous policies and actions. Woodward’s book, Fear, that was launched on Tuesday, argued that despite daily reports of ‘chaos and discord’ the public doesn’t realise the gravity of the internal situation. He points to the president’s economic adviser, Gary Cohn, stealing from the president’s desk a letter he was about to sign terminating the longstanding US-South Korean Free Trade agreement. Last week an anonymous opinion editorial in the New York Times, presumably from an unnamed Trump advisor, suggested that there was a team in the White House ‘sabotaging’ some of the President’s most outrageous and disastrous policies and actions.

That is the state of things in the administration of the most economically and militarily powerful nation in the world. It is indeed real and scandalous. The president denies all of this, but he has an unmatched reputation as a liar of the highest order, having told over 4,000 lies since his assumption of office. But is he really lying? To me, he is so out of touch with reality that a lie to him is a truth.  His behaviour is unbecoming of one said to be the Leader of the ‘Free World’ if this has any meaning at all. On a daily basis he criticises some of his advisers, attacks Federal Institutions, creates global disharmony in his dealing with the International Criminal Court, the UN Human Rights, and other regional and international bodies. He is threatening to pull out of the WTO, has asked the PLO to remove its office from the US and threatens nations that vote against any US resolutions. What is his mission? No one knows for there is no logic except trying to undo anything Obama did, undermining longstanding relations with allies and putting the US into an insular mode.

Trump, without knowing, is exposing American hypocrisy, and forcing Americans to come to grips with what they stand for as a nation. In a recent article Joe Scarboro reminds us of an article written by Roger Cohen of the New York Times shortly after Trump’s election to office. To him, “America is an idea. Strip freedom, human rights, democracy and the rule of law from what the US represents to the world and America is gutted.” This is a way of making sense of what is happening. What America wants to portray to the rest of the world is being gutted. What will be left is a bullying nation led by one who is moving to dictatorial rule.

The Republican party that dominates Congress has given free rein to those tendencies. In a recent article, Richard Cohen suggested that the Republican party has a ‘communicable disease’ acting as Trump does and lying about his lies. One suspects that the November elections will be one for the soul of America. Continued control of Congress by the Republicans will pave the way for a continuation of his dictatorial tendencies and will constitute a threat to the global community and bring global discord. Will Trump end the American dream? Follow the soap opera and see!

Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian