Surely This Can’t Go On Much Longer
For those of you lucky readers who have, somehow, missed out on the last week of entirely surreal, insane, headlines, let me quickly bring you up to speed.
The most powerful man on earth announced that he was “the chosen one,” tried to buy a country and its people, took offense when he was told it and they weren’t for sale, abruptly canceled a state visit to Denmark and then explained that the leader of Denmark, an allied nation, was “nasty” for not engaging in real estate negotiations with him.
Said “chosen one” repeatedly called Jews who opposed him “disloyal,” thus inciting his Fascist base to glom onto one of the oldest, and potentially most inflammatory, racial libels on the books.
He ratcheted up a mutually destructive trade war with China, and went on to make the extraordinary announcement that he was “hereby ordering” American companies that do business in China to look for alternative countries in which to make their investments.
No matter that leaders of democracies can’t, and almost always don’t, “hereby order” things that they have no constitutional authority to order or to enforce. In Trump’s view, l’etat c’est moi; or, more prosaically, as Mel Brooks once put it, “It’s Good To Be The King.” Because, when you’re the king, you can say and do the stupidest goddamn s**t imaginable, you can bully and terrorize, you can operate entirely outside the law, and you’re pretty much guaranteed to be praised for all of this by the toadies and yes-men, the sycophants and the mediocrities who surround you.
When you’re the king, you can impose tariffs that make no sense, and then blame the Federal Reserve Chairman for being “the enemy” when there are economic consequences to all the bullying, faux-strongman tactics that you bring to the world stage. You can blame the media for signs of an economic downturn. You can contemplate more tax cuts for the rich to shore up your election chances, despite the fact that your last set of tax cuts have ballooned federal borrowing to a level not seen since World War Two – and let to a great, and entirely predictable, conservative yawp to cut Social Security, Medicare, Food Stamps, Medicaid, and so on to claw back some of these dollars.
When you’re the king, you can say that nobody gets hurt in a trade war, despite the fact that, with a single tweet, Trump managed to tank the Dow Jones by more than 600 points. You can say the economy has never been so strong, despite data suggesting the Federal Government over-estimated the number of jobs created last year by half a million.
Of course, this exhausting week wasn’t all about economics. Trump rarely lets more than a few days go by when he doesn’t find new ways to beat up on, to torment, one immigrant group or another. Last week it was economically fragile families daring to use public assistance – and an all-out assault on America’s heritage of welcoming immigrants of all economic classes. This week it was undocumented kids.
At Trumps’ urging, Ken Cuccinelli, acting director of Citizenship and Immigration Services, announced that the Feds were seeking to rip up the Flores Settlement so that they could indefinitely detain children who came over the border into the U.S. without the right documents, and that, to do so, they would be setting up networks of detention centers to house entire immigrant families. In Cuccinelli’s Orwellian telling these would be well-provisioned, humane environments, somewhere between boarding schools and holiday camps. In reality, the treatment of immigrants in detention in recent years, the horror stories that regularly emerge from Trump’s fortified borderlands, suggest they are far more likely to be brutal, gulag-like facilities, with inadequate supplies of food, with almost no education for children, with little to no emphasis on hygiene and medical care, and with a vicious guard-culture adept at humiliating and tormenting the immigrant inmates.
To add to the moral stench regarding the Administration’s immigration policies, the Department of Justice followed up its assault on Floresby sending out a newsletter to immigration judges around the country that included links to online white supremacist propaganda.
All of this is makes for a truly ugly week in Trumpland. But it gets even worse.
To cap it all, the Amazon rainforest is ablaze, with potentially irreversible impacts on the global environment and climate. France, Germany and many other countries have expressed both a horror at what is happening, and a fury at the Brazilian government for allowing it to happen, for holding the world’s ecological health hostage to a far-right, development-at-all-cost agenda. Not surprisingly, Trump’s administration, which has warmly embraced President Bolsonaro – who fetishizes Brazil’s years of military dictatorship and death squads — as a soul-mate to the U.S. president, has both said nothing about it and also done diddly squat to try to convince Bolsonaro to take this environmental calamity seriously.
Trump is on his way to the G-7 meeting now. I shudder to think what inanities he will come up with during this gathering. He claims he has made America strong again, made America respected again. What hubris, what gibberish. This man is a living wrecking-ball; he leaves nothing but destruction and ill-will in his wake. On the global stage he is at best ignored, at worst laughed at, mocked, ridiculed, his mental acuity questioned, his value-system held in contempt.
Trump craves unrelenting praise and flattery. Amongst his fellow leaders this weekend, men and women who have been insulted and threatened and humiliated by this man for the past three years, I suspect he will get little of either.
— Sasha Abramsky