30 March 2020

A couple of days ago on Facebook I shared an article by Richard Wolfe in The Guardian, titled “No Greater Love Hath Trump than to Lay Down Your Life for his Re-election” (you don’t need to read it to follow this discussion), to which one of my Australian friends commented:

“Can you explain please why Trumps’ approval rating is at an all time high? Are Americans totally mad?”

Which got this reaction from a loved one in the USA:

“because we the people think President Trump is the first one in years that gives a damn about us and not about making himself richer at our expense. I don’t know why the Australian people have such a dislike of President Trump and thought President Obama was the best President the United States of America ever had. So, perhaps while we are boggling y’all’s minds y’all are boggling ours. Just saying.”

There were two follow-ups expressing agreement and gratitude for these observations. One of them then posted this:

You’ve been on vacation for two weeks, you come home, and your basement is infested with raccoons.. Hundreds of rabid, messy, mean raccoons have overtaken your basement.. You want them gone immediately!.. You call the city and 4 different exterminators, but nobody can handle the job.. But there is this one guy, and he guarantees to get rid of them, so you hire him.. You don’t care if the guy swears, you don’t care how many times he’s been married, you don’t care if he has a plumber’s crack, you simply want those raccoons gone!.. You want your problem fixed!.. He’s the guy.. He’s the best!
Here’s why we want Trump: Yes, he’s a bit of a jerk; Yes, he’s an egomaniac; but we don’t care!.. The country is a mess because politicians suck, the Republicans and Democrats can be two-faced and gutless, and illegals are everywhere.. We want it all fixed!.. We don’t care that Trump is crude, we don’t care that he insults people, we don’t care that he’s been married 3 times, we don’t care that he fights with Megyn Kelly and Rosie O’Donnell, we don’t care that he doesn’t know the name of some Muslim terrorist. This country became weak and bankrupt, our enemies were making fun of us, we are being invaded by illegals, we are becoming a nation of victims where every Tom, Ricardo, and Hasid is a special group with special rights to a point where we don’t even recognize the country we were born and raised in; “AND WE JUST WANT IT FIXED”.. And Trump is the only guy who seems to understand what the people want.
We’re sick of politicians, sick of the Democratic Party, sick of the Republican Party, and sick of illegals!.. We just want this thing fixed.. Trump may not be a Saint, but we didn’t vote for a Pope.. We voted for a man who doesn’t have lobbyist money holding him back, a man who doesn’t have political correctness restraining him.. We all know that he has been very successful, he’s a good negotiator, he has built a lot of things, and he’s also NOT a politician, NOT a cowardly politician.!.. And he says he’ll fix it.. And we believe him because he is too much of an egotist to be proven wrong, or looked at and called a liar.. Also, we don’t care if the guy has bad hair.. We just want those raccoons gone, out of our house, NOW!!!
…The raccoons have got to go!!!”

This article in The Guardian, “The missing six weeks: how Trump failed the biggest test of his life” provides a great frame for outlining my issues with Trump. It highlights his disastrous handling of the covid-19 pandemic on every front.

Without mentioning Obama, it implies an answer to the question above about why Australians thought Obama was “so great” and Trump is such a laughing-stock, the answer can be summed up in the words Leadership & Relationship. Obama was far from perfect, but he understood that in this interconnected globalised world, more than ever, looking after the nation’s interests requires strong, stable, cooperative relationships with the rest of the world. Trump’s “America first” rhetoric turns its back on that.

I must concede that Trump has kept this promise. He has most certainly delivered, disrupting long-standing alliances, creating friction with other world leaders, and isolating the USA at this time when it appears global cooperation is more necessary than ever to avoid devastating consequences.

I will also concede some of Steve Harvey’s points: I share his distrust of the major political parties to get the job done. And certainly, if there was an expert raccoon exterminator around, his foul-mouth, plumber’s crack and weird hair-do wouldn’t dissuade me from hiring him to get the job done. But with women in the house, the allegations of his serial sex offenses and his boasts of grabbing and kissing, would give me pause.

I would also be refrained by the complete absence of any evidence that he actually is the best exterminator. Yeah, he said so – but he also claims to be the best at everything; and, like his claims to have the pandemic under control, it’s patently obvious that he’s lying. Steve Harvey might not care that the man is a compulsive liar, as long as he gets the job done. But he’s not getting the job done, and he keeps lying about it.

Let’s shift away from Harvey’s scenario, though, since Trump didn’t promise to get the racoons out of the basement, but rather to ‘drain the swamp’. This is a more ambiguous, less measurable, objective. What exactly would it mean to “drain the swamp”?

I suspect what his supporters heard was that he would rid Washington of corrupt politicians and lobbyists. I don’t see any evidence that he has fulfilled this promise.

But he has certainly drained something out of the federal government. The Guardian article above cites a 16% funding cut to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), announced after the covid-19 outbreak in the USA. More tellingly, the National Security Council’s pandemic response unit was disbanded in 2018, and between those two events, the federal government has seen a brain-drain, as talented and experienced medical and security experts have dispersed, fleeing an administration that clearly did not value their expertise or professionalism.

In a sense, then, Trump has drained from the swamp the medical professionals who dedicated their lives to keeping us safe. He has also drained the State Department, the Justice Department, the EPA, and countless other agencies of the expertise required to keep us safe.

As mentioned, his “America first” position has undermined international institutions, draining them of cooperation and goodwill. Clearly his “America first” slogan struck a chord with many voters, and still does – but for me, it has always sounded just like those shoppers fighting over toilet paper (“me first!”), and promised the same results: disruption and depravation. I know, he promised the disruption – but he also promised abundance…

Finally, Harvey’s comments about “not having lobbying money holding him back” point to a clever bit of misdirection. It may be technically true, but only because he has circumvented the lobbying system. So instead of being corrupted by the receipt of corporate handouts, he has the government giving handouts to his corporations. The government is paying his corporation to host official functions, to billet Air Force aircrew, to send his family members on diplomatic missions where they mix private business with their official capacities, and so on.

Yesterday, there were reports that he will refuse to let the auditor general examine the dispersal of half a trillion dollars in corporate handouts as part of the covid-19 stimulus package. Draining the swamp of checks and balances. Again…

So no, I don’t have any issue with his foul mouth, plumber’s crack, or bad hair. My problem is that, contrary to his self-promotion, he’s a lying, insecure, selfish, incompetent, corrupt swamp rat who has assiduously drained the swamp of rat-controllers.

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