JOHN McGURK NOVEMBER 15 2016
The great American journalist Henry Louis Mencken, star columnist for the Baltimore Sun, summed it up perfectly when on July 26 1920 he wrote about the challenges faced by future presidential candidates in connecting with the growing electorate.
The larger the mob, the harder the test. In small areas, before small electorates, a first-rate man occasionally fights his way through, carrying even the mob with him by the force of his personality.
But when the field is nationwide, and the fight must be waged chiefly at second and third hand, the force of personality cannot so readily make itself felt, then all the odds are on the man who is, intrinsically, the most devious and mediocre — the man who can most adeptly disperse the notions that his mind is a virtual vacuum.
The Presidency tends, year by year, to go to such men. As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal.
On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.
If we were able to wait long enough, perhaps all predictions would eventually come to pass but this forewarning about the future American president, written nearly 100 years ago, is as accurate as it is chilling.
Donald Trump: a serial bankrupt; a man with no political experience; a self-confessed philanderer who treats women with disdain; a tax dodger on an epic scale; a nasty loudmouth liar with a temperament totally unsuited to the most powerful office in the world; a man deemed unfit even by senior Republicans who wants to involve family and friends as close advisors.
Yesterday he appointed as his chief of staff a man who was running a right-wing website. So one of the most powerful jobs in Washington has gone to someone with a suspect past.
Even the scriptwriters of House of Cards, the television drama about a ruthless president who will stop at nothing to gain and then keep power, wouldn’t have dared to come up with such an implausible president.
Ironically, it’s not that Hillary Clinton would have been a great choice either because of her devious political past and general untrustworthiness.
She and Bill were seen to have used their status to line their own pockets while those emails simply served to emphasise her recklessness and uncaring superiority over the electorate.
But she was clearly the lesser of two evils. Most sensible folk would be sleeping easier with her and her galavanting husband back in power although many would quite rightly feel that they didn’t deserve it.
Now, as they say in all the best Hollywood movies inside the Situation Room, there is a clear and present danger. But this time it’s from within. It’s the president himself. It’s Donald Trump.
The downright moron has finally arrived in The White House.
So what will happen to President Donald Trump?…who, thanks to Republican control across Congress, will be more powerful than Obama.
While it doesn’t seem plausible that he will carry out his threats to banish muslims and force Mexico to pay for his anti-illegal-immigration wall, it’s more likely that the USA will retreat into isolation where protectionism will be a reality and tariff wars a consequence.
Surely none of this would be good news for Brexit Britain despite what that other moron, Boris Johnson says. The foreign secretary recently thought that Trump was “out of his mind” but now says we should be optimistic about him.
Nicola Sturgeon yesterday made similar comments despite removing his status as an ambassador for Scotland a year ago.
But the greatest test of President Trump will be how quickly he lets down those blue-collar white males who voted him into office or aggravates those who didn’t vote for him, many of whom are now protesting and rioting in cities across the USA.
How long will it be before social media, the vehicle which helped to galvanise Trump’s bid for power thanks to its narrow-minded participants, is used against him?
It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that something dramatic will happen to Donald Trump. Either he will face the wrath of his fellow Republicans or the wrath of the mob when he gets caught out cheating on one or the other — or both.
The two worse fates for any president must be impeachment or assassination.
In the cauldron of divided America, the extremist Donald Trump will surely run the risk of both.