The problem with Trump is not Donald Trump!
The problem with Trump is not Donald Trump. The problem is not the people that elected him, nor the media that supports him. It is not the Republican party, or the support of the National Rifle Association, the Ku Klux Klan and the Koch brothers. Nor is his misogyny, disdain for honesty and inability to express anything but simple – often incoherent – sound-bites or tweets what should give us the most concern. The really scary part is that nobody is standing up to him.
The endless derision of Trump on social media and increasingly also in mainstream media, may appear as edifying proof that public opinion is against him. But the flip-side of modern media diversity is that most of us watch, read and listen in an echo chamber of our own opinions. Rest assured that there is another such room resonating with Trump supporters – and it is no antechamber.
Looking at Trump standing next to Putin at the Helsinki press conference reminds me of the old tale: Here is a man wearing the cloak of a President, a cloak made invisible by the absence of the substance required to wear it. Naked in his incompetence for everyone to see, yet those around to advise him pretend to see the cloth that isn’t there – exactly as in H C Andersen’s fable – The Emperor’s New Clothes.
But not just those that advise him, anyone who has anything to lose by opposing Trump is pretending they see the cloak. That Vladimir Putin – himself a cunning liar – manages to keep a straight face is no surprise – a naked President is what he wanted. Theresa May’s position in her own country is so weak that she had to tag along with the charade at Chequers; and although some of the photos of the Queen with Trump says it all, she is in a position that precludes exposure of anything, even the obvious.
Canada’s Justin Trudeau has come close a few times, but his nation probably stands to lose more than anyone from a retaliatory Trump. In Australia, Julie Bishop left her principles on the altar of leadership ambitions a long time ago, uttering only that “Trump does things differently”. Malcolm Turnbull famously stood up to Trump in ‘that phone call’, but is never going to rebuke the leader of ‘our closest ally’ publicly.
Despite having managed to trash the reputation of his country in less than two years, relinquishing the moral right to be the leader of the free world, Trump remains a powerful man. I can understand that Trudeau and Turnbull and many other leaders are afraid to stand up to him, too much to lose. China’s Xi has taken up the mantle that the POTUS has lost, not needing to stand up to anyone unless it serves his interests. India’s Modi has little apparent regard for world affairs. Japan’s Abe and Indonesia’s Widodo equally so; and no African or South American leaders even have a place at the executive table of world leaders.
That leaves Europe, or more specifically the European Union and M&M – Macron and Merkel.
European leaders have no excuse for not standing up to Trump. Moreover, European leaders – and especially Angela Merkel – cannot ignore the lessons of Hitler’s rise to power. It must remember what Chamberlain didn’t do, with President Albert Lebrun (I know, I had to look it up, too) watching idly from the Elysee Palace.
In the United States, Franklin Roosevelt was shackled by internal problems, turning a blind eye.
Today, the domestic opposition to Trump is weakened by a tepid Democratic Party still getting over Clinton’s loss. And although there is a growing disquiet even among Republicans, their desire to cling to power outweighs their willingness to see their denuded President.
And that is the problem with Trump: We still live in a world where might is right.
And just like the invisible cloak, it is not.