“The world is laughing at us. They’re laughing at the stupidity of our president.”– Candidate Donald Trump, October 2016
Well, that was then. This is now.
If the world were laughing then – which it wasn’t – it would be in stitches today over the stupidity of the Trump White House. But the world isn’t laughing. There isn’t a serious international leader – including, I suspect, Vladimir Putin – who would not trade Trump for Barack Obama, if only they could somehow have the former president to deal with again.
Anyone watching the body language of Angela Merkel during her visit to the White House last week could see how thoroughly unamused the German chancellor was by Trump and his clumsy attempt to drag her into the controversy over his stupid and unfounded allegation that Obama had ordered the bugging of Trump Tower during last fall’s election.
The British government was equally unamused when, after the House and Senate intelligence committees said they could find no evidence to support Trump’s allegation, the President suggested that British intelligence had done the bugging for Obama. As the Brits snapped back: “Nonsense.”
Stupidity in the Oval Office is great grist for late-night television hosts and newspaper satirists. Has there ever been a more laughable duo of communicators than the inept Sean Spicer and the inane Kellyanne Conway?
Although the Trump Tower bugging can be dismissed as a sideshow, a small circus, based on nothing more substantial than a few foolish nighttime tweets from a leader who spends too much time on conspiracy theories, the same stupidity ceases to be a laughing matter when it involves grave issues abroad or at home.
It can be dangerous when it is exhibited by a person who is capable of reckless decisions, and Trump has exhibited reckless streaks, both during the campaign and since he assumed the presidency.
He alarms friends and allies of the United States, from Germany and Britain to Australia. They don’t know what to expect. Who is speaking for the United States? Is it Trump? Or, depending on the issue, is it Rex Tillerson, the secretary of state, or General James Matthis, the secretary of defence, or Nikki Haley, the United Nations ambassador? They don’t always seem to be singing from the same song sheet as their boss.
Stupidity encourages U.S. enemies. Kim Jong-un, the megalomaniac who rules North Korea, seems to be exploiting the chaos in the Trump presidency, to advance the timetable of his nuclear ambitions. He is clearly a threat to world peace and needs to be handled calmly, firmly and intelligently.
President Trump’s attempts to persuade the courts to ban the entry of Muslim immigrants – he is at it for a second time now – may be attractive to his political base but, as experts say, it may also be fueling the cause of what he calls “radical Islamic terrorism.” A balanced, enlightened approach to immigration seems beyond the ken (or ideology) of the Trump administration.
At home, his reckless crusade to scrap the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) is blowing up in his face. The House bill to replace the ACA will not get through Congress in anything approaching its original form.
With mid-term elections coming up next year, members of Congress wonder how they can sell voters on a Obamacare replacement that would leave 24 million fewer Americans with health insurance over a decade and that would raise premiums by an average of 13 per cent for coverage equivalent to Obamacare.
The American Health Care Act, as it is known, would be a very good deal for big insurance companies, whose stock prices have been increasing by (some would say obscene) leaps and bounds. Yet it shapes up as a very bad deal for low- and middle-income families in the United States.
Donald Trump is not unintelligent. He knows people vote and insurance companies do not. But there is a difference between having intelligence and being politically smart, as they are discovering in Washington.