THE BIG PICTURE
HOPE AND HOPELESSNESS
A new revolution and another impeachment: a sign of the times?
The 17th of May was a red-letter day not only for France but also for people in other parts of the world who are jaded by the political establishment and corrupt politicians who rule over them – people who want change.
Then again, those who desire change are divided between the liberal-minded and non-partisan (human beings), and others (call them what you may) who prefer the populist route to a Nazi-like world of extremism and all the ugly trappings that go with it.
As for the French connection, there’s a new kid on the block. And while he has his work cut out as Saro Thiruppathy explains in her column this month, France’s newly elected president is a breath of fresh air to a world that has in recent times been confronted by choosing between the centre and extremism.
Not only is President Emmanuel Macron a political novice, he brings a youthful vigour to French politics and has already kept his promise of turning the establishment upside down – or inside out.
The youngest French leader in post-WWII history, 39-year-old Macron has already barred any form of nepotism in France’s government and the state sector; his cabinet comprises an equal number of men and women who were screened for their integrity (he went so far as to say that anyone who is alleged to have been involved in corrupt activities wouldn’t be eligible to hold a cabinet post); and the 22 portfolios went to a mix of politicians from the left, right and centre, and citizens from outside the political establishment.
Soon after Macron’s cabinet was announced on 17 May, France 24 TV put a spin on the day’s proceedings by captioning it the ‘French Revolution.’ “Will Macron blow up the traditional left-right divide?” it asked.
Across the Atlantic Ocean, in the most powerful nation on the planet, events are unfolding at breakneck speed with the winner of last year’s presidential election wearing a Republican hat but acting more like France’s defeated extremist presidential contender.
Comparing and contrasting Macron with US President Donald Trump tells a story of unprecedented change – for better and worse.
Trump too is a political neophyte who promised to clean up the establishment but is proving to be a lot worse than those he says have tarnished the image of Capitol Hill – so much so that he’s now treading on impeachment territory like former president Richard Nixon did, not long after he too fired the man in charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), which preceded a web of political scandals in the early 1970s.
And while Macron is saying ‘no’ to nepotism, Trump is resorting to it like few have done before. Adding insult to injury, his character and temperament are being called into question by a growing number of Republicans and just about every Democrat in Washington. In America today, the emperor wears no clothes.
Both Macron and Trump have proved themselves in the world of business, albeit that the latter has for long been embroiled in a string of controversies (including bankruptcy). But while the French president has appointed a cabinet of proven politicians and potential stars from outside the establishment, his American counterpart is surrounded by family members and scores of lightweights who could face the axe (like other Trump aides already have) at any time.
Washington is seemingly spiralling out of control courtesy a reckless Trump machine with one rumpus following another by the week – and at times, by the day. He is raising more questions than answers both at home and away.