Theoretically, we have another year before the next American presidential campaign gets underway. And yet those who follow US policies more closely know that the 2020 presidential campaign has already started. In a sense, at least as far as the two main political parties are concerned, the campaign started the day Donald Trump took the oath of office.
In his first two years in office, Trump has attended at least 30 rallies across the United States that could best be described as campaign sorties. Add to that more than two dozen media interviews, not to mention thousands of tweets designed to create the image of a successful president running for a second term. For their part, Trump’s Democrat rivals have campaigned against him in a guerrilla-style, hoping to kill his hope of a second term with a thousand cuts.
Unable or unwilling to confront his policies or lack thereof, Democrats have focused their strategy on destroying the persona that Trump has tried to forge for himself. They have done this with three charges.
The first is incompetence. Two years after entering the White House Trump has not yet succeeded in filling some 34 percent of the positions in his administration. In the same period, he has lost almost all the top figures of his initial administration, including a handful of prestigious generals who gave his presidency the gravitas many claimed it lacked.
However, Trump’s supporters may claim that he has not rushed to fill the posts with cronies mainly because, coming from the private sector, he did not have a political entourage. As for the heavyweight fellows who left or were kicked out, Trump was perhaps right in not keeping them even after he and they had found out they cannot work together. And that was in contrast with many previous administrations, in which people who couldn’t abide one another stuck together, saying ‘cheese’ in front of the cameras to hide their clenched teeth. One recent example was the cohabitation between President Barack Obama and his first Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton.
The second charge brought against Trump by is arrogance.
There is little doubt that Trump’s opinion of himself seems to be higher than justified by reality. But then, considering his surprise ascendancy to the presidency in just a few months, would others have felt differently?
Have we forgotten Obama, who claimed that the start of his presidency meant “oceans receding” to end climate change? Or his boast that he would solve the Israel-Palestine problem in one year?
The third charge against Trump sounds potentially more serious but is surely more bizarre. That is the claim that Trump may be a kind of Manchurian candidate working with, if not for, Russia or even Vladimir Putin himself.
This charge is incompatible with the first two. An incompetent agent would be of little use to anyone and liability for everyone. And if Trump is afflicted by the sin of arrogance how would he accept to work for a son of Stalin’s cook?
Accusing senior leaders, including presidents, of being agents of foreign powers is nothing new in the United States’ short history.
Those who opposed the creation of the US as an independent nation claimed there was collusion between the Founding Fathers and the French, who wished to prevent the English from extending their empire to the whole of North America.
Even today, the French still boast of how they sent 6,000 troops commanded by General Rochambeau “to help American colonists led by George Washington against British forces.” And that is not to mention General Lafayette, whom legend has upgraded into an American national hero.
Aaron Burr, the third US vice president under Thomas Jefferson, was accused of colluding with Napoleon to seize Florida from Spain, capture Texas and create an empire of his own by annexing chunks of American territory. He was also suspected of being a Manchurian presidential candidate for the British.
More recently, Charles Lindbergh, a famous aviator and spokesman of the America First Committee, was the subject of similar suspicions. Many saw him as a standard-bearer for the Republican Party to defeat President Franklin D Roosevelt and keep the US out of the Second World War. But his hopes were dashed when his Nazi sympathies were revealed. He later renounced his pro-Nazi sympathies.
Needless to say, evil tongues also accused Roosevelt of colluding with the British to get the US involved the Second World War.
The claim that “foreign interests”, including European, Latin American, Arab and Iranian (during the Shah’s time) have tried to buy influence in the US by financing candidacies up to the presidency has been a routine part of the political war in America for decades.
A relatively new nation, the US may appear rather vulnerable to the conflict of loyalties among the numerous ethnic and religious groups composing it. The use of double-barrel identities, such as African-American or Irish-American, to cite just two, may reinforce that impression. However, anyone familiar with the US would know of the mysterious, not to say a mystical, bond that holds Americans of all ethnicities, creeds, and colors together, making the betrayal of America unimaginable.
My guess is that the much-heralded Mueller report, likely to appear long before the next presidential campaign is put in high gear, will exonerate Trump of the third charge while the other two charges fade into background noise.
But, even if, when the next presidential election comes, Trump faces nothing but the three charges leveled by Democrats, he would have a good chance of sailing through to a second term. By making themselves prisoners of these charges, the Democrats may have blocked the path for serious debate on key issues of domestic and foreign policies. And that is bad for American democracy.
This article was originally published in a slightly different version by Asharq al-Awsat and is reprinted by kind permission of the author
( Gatestone Institute)
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