STATE OF THE DIVIDED STATES
BLOW HOT BLOW COLD
Saro Thiruppathy wonders how far Donald Trump will go to fulfil his xenophobic election pledges
The US government prepares for the transition of power from the incumbent to the new president with a certain degree of precision, with Vice President-elect Mike Pence leading the transition team.
President-elect Donald John Trump was formally elected by the Electoral College on 19 December and his election will be certified by a joint session of Congress shortly. And at noon on 20 January, he will be sworn in as the 45th President of the United States of America.
Now let’s get to the fun stuff…
Anybody and everybody who has been watching international news over the past few months must surely have experienced a range of emotions from anger and disgust to absolute disbelief at the pronouncements made by the candidate of the Grand Old Party.
BUILDING A WALL While Trump’s rallying call to ‘make America great again’ did have a certain promising ring to it, it was his crowd-puller campaign promise that he would secure the border between the US and Mexico by building a wall, having the Mexicans pay for it and tackling illegal immigration head-on that caught the attention of a near majority of American voters (he didn’t win the popular vote, after all).
While some on both sides of the fence pooh-poohed the idea, Trump’s supporters howled with delight because they’re sick and tired of illegal aliens entering the US, and taking their below-minimum-wage jobs – which they’re not necessarily willing to do in the first place.
In an interview with Fox News in December, Republican Congressman Michael McCaul assured voters that the wall would be built as promised.
“Starting next month, the people are going to get what they asked for. We are going to build the wall… In fact, we are already starting to work on an emergency plan in Congress to build the tough barriers we need along the border, close all gaps and defend this country’s sovereignty,” he announced.
McCaul continued: “But we are talking about more than just a wall. We are talking about a historic, multi-layered defence system so that drug cartels and terrorists cannot simply slip through the cracks. This means more border patrol agents, new authorities, aerial surveillance, sensors and other technology to make sure we seal our territory from illegals for good.”
“We will take a military-style approach by giving our border and immigration agencies the real command-and-control they need to make it happen. Congress will seek to fund this effort straight away but we cannot simply stick Americans with the bill,” he maintained.
THE MUSLIM REGISTRY In the aftermath of the terror attack by a radicalised Muslim couple in San Bernardino, California, that resulted in the deaths of 12 people and injured many more, Trump lent it his own particular brand of radicalism. He called for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what the hell is going on.”
And when NBC News asked him whether there’ll be a database that will be able to keep track of the Muslims living in the United States, Trump retorted: “Oh I would certainly implement that. Absolutely!”
He even suggested that the authorities should visit mosques and make a record of the worshippers. But truth be told, even before the San Bernardino attack, Trump had been mulling over the idea of creating a registry of America’s Muslims.
The white boys in their white tunics who burnt crosses and hanged ‘Negros’ were mightily thrilled, for the messiah was finally here. He would take back the US from the coloured folk – never mind that America was stolen by the whites from American-Indians, but who’s quibbling over these petty historical details now?
Even as his transition team assembles an interesting assortment of white supremacists and racists, Trump appears to have modified his original call for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.” He now favours “extreme vetting” of visitors and immigrants from countries where terrorism is rife. But he has yet to call off his original ban on Muslims.
DIPLOMATIC FAUX PAS Systems and protocols seem to escape Trump. He shoots from the hip – a characteristic that has endeared him to hundreds of thousands of voters who indulgently allow him to get away with pretty much everything from “locker room talk” to threats to jail his opponent for her use of a private email server. While his followers chanted ‘lock her up,’ the far-right Christians forgave him his trespasses because he ‘repented’ on national TV.
It is that same lack of synergy between head and tongue that has resulted in a potential brouhaha between the Chinese and Americans over a friendly chat between Trump and Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen.
It’s quite possible that Trump was unaware of the One-China policy that the US had been overtly observing, much like his lack of awareness that President Putin annexed Crimea and the Russians are at war with the Ukrainians. It seems that the ‘leader of the free world’ needs an urgent lesson in both history and geography.
Former US Ambassador to the United Nations (UN) John Bolton – a strong proponent of recognising Taiwan as in independent nation – has told Fox New that Trump should “shake up” the relationship between the United States and China.
RADICAL UNDERTONES The type of people nominated to occupy key positions in the Trump administration and those who will have his ear are a harbinger of things to come.
Jeff Sessions has been picked for the post of Attorney General. In 1986, Sessions was the US Attorney in Alabama but his nomination to the federal district court was rejected when people testified under oath that he had uttered racially charged comments, and used the derogatory term ‘boy’ on a black prosecutor. It is also claimed that he had joked about his support for the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) and called the NAACP “un-American.”
Steve Bannon has been named Trump’s Chief Strategist, a position that does not require Senate confirmation. Bannon was the head of Breitbart News Network – a far-right news and opinion website based in the US – and it is alleged that during his tenure, articles that were sexist, racist and inflammatory were published.
A former Breitbart editor has written that with Bannon at the helm, the website had openly embraced the white supremacist alt-right and pushed white ethno-nationalism to be a legitimate response to political correctness while the comment section had turned into a cesspool for white supremacist meme-makers.
Though not technically a cabinet post, the position of National Security Advisor is influential. Lieutenant General Michael Flynn has been nominated for the post and the media is already on edge. It is widely believed that Flynn is rather frugal with the truth and has a tendency to disseminate fake news on social media. Apparently his subordinates in Washington D.C. had begun compiling a list of his untruths, which they called ‘Flynn facts.’
Trump named Steven Mnuchin, who was formerly with Goldman Sachs, as his choice for Treasury Secretary. According to Fortune, Mnuchin had co-founded a bank (OneWest) in 2008, which he helmed until 2015. Now OneWest is being sued for allegedly discriminating against black and Latino customers.
The complaint claims that the bank “kept bank branches out of non-white neighbourhoods” and gave non-white customers disproportionately fewer mortgages. OneWest had offered zero loans to black customers in Los Angeles in 2012 and 2013.
But the president-elect took his time to announce his nominee for the plum position of Secretary of State with Rex Tillerson – Chairman and CEO of ExxonMobil – getting the nod eventually. Among those who came close to be handed the job was Bolton, whose résumé is scary to say the least (although he would have been a perfect fit as an advocate for Trump’s ideology).
EARLY BACKTRACKING Less than three days after his election victory, Trump began backtracking on his promises. Right up to election day, he said that he’d repeal and replace Obamacare if he won. But now he says that he will amend, repeal or replace Obamacare.
Trump also promised that he would rip up the Iran nuclear deal, calling it the “worst deal ever negotiated.” But he has changed his mind on that too. On his election pledge to jail Hillary Clinton, Trump was non-committal, saying “I’m gonna think about it” on the TV show 60 Minutes.
But he who sups with the devil must have a long spoon and should heed the warnings of his supporters like that of 69-year-old Kathryn Stellmack, who said: “We expect him to move forward on all the items he has promised… And if he doesn’t, we will hold his feet to the fire!”