Saturday, July 25, 2015

America: Welcome back to the circus.

Middle East Eye reports

Donald Trump: America's Muammar Gaddafi

Trump's outbursts are full of enough half-truths, banalities and nuttiness to make the late Libyan dictator high-five the devil

US presidential primaries are a circus, and this year Donald Trump is its clown. You know this and I know this. This is why I apologise for wasting my column on Donald Trump. But here’s the thing - Trump, according to the latest polls, now has a double-digit lead over his Republican rivals, which means the clown has been promoted to lion tamer.

The question then becomes what lions is Trump taming, is it other Republican nominees for the presidency or the toothless largely geriatric remnants of the Tea Party. If it is the former then Trump hasn't the intellect to go up against any of the serious contenders with a chance of claiming the nomination and if it is the feral remnants of the Tea Party they are already his support base. Collectively they have in the past had the ability to influence the policy positions of the Republican candidates, to their detriment and have ensured President Obama both his first and second terms as President.

We can all go on continuing to pretend Trump 2016 isn’t a thing, but it is a thing. It’s a thing that is happening. It’s a thing that is growing.

Yes but what sort of thing ? The Tea Party was a thing... in the end the Tea Party thing was actually a costly distraction thing for the Republicans. The Tea Party would have us believe it was a grass roots thing without leadership. An idiotic fiction to be sure, Trump is merely attempting to capitalise on that and establish himself as the leader of the Tea Party element of the Republican Party.

A number of media outlets, including the Huffington Post, have made the decision to starve the Trump campaign of the oxygen it needs to continue to grow. When CNN, MSNBC or Fox News gives coverage to Trump, they predictably include at least one overpaid political commentator forecasting: “This is the beginning of the end.”
But to borrow a Winston Churchill-ism: “This isn’t the beginning of the end but the end of the beginning” for Trump.

I am quite prepared to accept that “ Churchill-ism “ mainly because I can see no end. I would love to see Trump win the Grand Old Party's nomination but that isn't going to happen, however stupid I think the Republican's are, they are not that stupid. That begs the question, what is Trump's end game ? In a Westminster Parliamentary democracy one could suppose a desire to become the “ kingmaker “ but the US primaries don't really work that way. Winning your party's nomination is a long way from winning the Presidency and the golden shower box of gold at the end of that rainbow. Or more plainly there is no end of beginning or beginning of end, this is all about Trump and his ego.
In 2012, the Republican primary was replete with clowns that included Michele Bachmann (“HPV vaccine causes retardation”), Herman Cain (“I don’t know the President of Uzbeki-beki-beki-stan”), and Rick Perry (“Oops”), but the more Republican voters got to know the pretenders, the worse they did in the polls. This is not what is happening to Trump in 2016. The more Trump goes on to say outlandish things, the more conservative voters are drawn to him.

You could of course go back to Sarah Palin, the Republicans have backed clowns before to the extent even of including them on the Oval Office ticket. That particular clown didn't work out so well for them.

So it’s about time we consider what a Trump presidency, as unlikely that reality remains, actually means for the Middle East.

A Trump presidency would be America’s Muammar Gaddafi moment. Yes, a President Donald Trump would rule like an American-accented Muammar Gaddafi. The similarities in temperament are too hard (and fun) to ignore.

Except that Gaddafi actually occasionally and I suspect quite unintentionally did some good.

While Trump is yet to parade around in a comic-opera uniform, both have/had comically styled hair; both believe/believed their entire respective nations were drawn to their irresistible charms; both flaunt/flaunted their wealth; both are/were as narcissistic as a bodybuilder who could outstare a mirror; and both are/were attracted to buxom beauties half their age.

Well “ attracted to buxom beauties half their age.” isn't so unusual in the global political culture.

Trump is always telling audiences that everyone loves him. In the past two weeks alone, he has proclaimed: “Mexicans love me,” “America loves me,” “China loves me,” and even “my ex-wife loves me”.

Gaddafi was as equally disconnected from reality. In the midst of the civil war that would eventually kill him, the Libyan dictator told television reporters: “Everyone in Libya loves me, except the ones on drugs.”

If Trump was to win I would hope the Democrats had the brains to ditch Hilary Clinton in favour of Michele Obama and while she is a “ buxom Beauty “ she is not half my age. If the Republicans were serious and I suspect they aren't this time round they might consider Condalizza Rice.

It was Gaddafi’s eccentricity and charisma that initially won him overwhelming Libyan support, which are the same two qualities that are winning over Republican primary voters. Gaddafi’s readiness to take on the West earned him a measurable level of support among ordinary Libyans, even while he ruined the country. Trump’s readiness to take ( on ) illegal immigrants, China, the Islamic State (IS) group and Iran is earning him a measurable level of support among mostly white southern voters, even while he ruined his father’s fortune and Atlantic City.

A problem Trump faces is that “ a measurable level of support among mostly white southern voters,...” is probably not much more than measurable. Confederate flags rags are being hauled down. Yet another problem for Trump is whilst it takes considerable genius to make a fortune it requires monumental stupidity to lose that fortune something Trump is well on the road to achieving.

Interestingly, the lives of Gaddafi and Trump crossed paths. During Trump’s 2012 presidential campaign that never happened, the real-estate mogul boasted that among Republican candidates, he had the strongest track record of dealing with foreign leaders. “I sell them real estate for tremendous amounts of money. I mean, I’ve dealt with everybody,” Trump told Fox News in 2011.

Trump said he was particularly proud of the fact he “screwed” Gaddafi on a real estate deal. "I rented him a piece of land. He paid me more for one night than the land was worth for two years, and then I didn't let him use the land," Trump boasted. "That's what we should be doing. I don't want to use the word 'screwed,' but I screwed him."

How ironic. President Obama is trying to make friends as I type in Africa and Trump advocates a continuation of the neo-colonial stupidity that has characterised western policy with regard to the developing world too date. Trump isn't yesterdays man, he isn't even last centuries man, his time has gone I just wish he would bugger off after it.

A US President Trump would also aim to screw the Middle East, much in the same way tin pot despots Saddam and Gaddafi screwed their respective states in the Middle East. In a 2011 interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, Trump said he would recoup America’s costs for the war on terror by effectively taking Iraqi oil. “So, we steal an oil field?” Stephanopoulus asked incredulously. Trump replied, “Excuse me. You're not stealing anything. You're taking - we're reimbursing ourselves."

The other problem being that as far as I can recollect the reason for taking out Saddam had nothing to do with the war on terror but rather the last Republican President's fantasy that they were developing nuclear weapons. This is of course a man who would describe taxation as theft yet views theft as reimbursement. Go figure.

In the same interview, Trump said he would strong-arm OPEC and Saudi Arabia into lowering oil prices for the United States. “I’m going to look ’em in the eye and say, 'Fellas, you’ve had your fun. The fun is over,'” Trump promised.

And bugger the free market. Trump might want to think about communism because essentially that is what he is advocating.

More recently, and during his 90-minute-long 2016 campaign launch, Trump gave a rambling speech, which not only included an outline of his Middle East policy, but contained enough non-sequiturs, half-truths, banalities and nuttiness to make the late Libyan dictator high-five the devil.

A cartoon please.

Take a look at the deal he’s [Obama] making with Iran. He makes that deal; Israel maybe won’t exist very long. It’s a disaster and we have to protect Israel,” thundered Trump.

Trump didn’t say how a 10-year freeze on Iran’s nuclear ambitions would ensure Israel wouldn’t exist very long, but none of his Republican colleagues have explained that either. Trump also claims no US President has been a greater enemy of Israel than Obama. In a recent piece, I argued that no US president has been a greater friend to Israel than Obama. You can make up your own mind on Obama and Israel. But while you’re doing that, know Trump hopes to build a golf resort adjacent to the Nitzanim Nature Reserve along the Mediterranean coast in Israel.

I guess Trump would prefer to invade Iran. Clearly a man who learned nothing from Iraq.

All in all, when it comes to Israel and Iran, Trump’s views are very much in line with GOP orthodoxy.

An orthodoxy that will prevent the GOP ( Republicans ) regaining the Oval Office unless the Democrats do something very stupid.

Where Trump diverges from the conservative mainstream is on Saudi Arabia. “They make a billion dollars a day, a billion dollars a day. I love the Saudis, many are in this building. They make a billion dollars a day. Whenever they have problems, we send over the ships. We send, we’re going to protect - what are we doing? They got nothing but money. If the right person asked them, they’d pay a fortune. They wouldn’t be there except for us,” Trump rambled.

In simpler terms, what Trump is saying is that he’d charge Saudi Arabia for hosting US military bases in the kingdom, clearly overlooking the fact that Saudi Arabia guarantees the jobs of thousands of American workers via procuring billions of dollars’ worth of weapons every year.

Somehow the idea of billions of dollars of weapons every year offends me.

In keeping with the Gaddafi-Trump analogy, Gaddafi also once gave an equally incoherent diatribe against Saudi Arabia, by reminding the monarchy that they existed only as a result of US patronage. “You were created by Britain and are protected by America,” teased Gaddafi.

On IS, Trump said he would pursue the terrorist group more aggressively than President Obama. Why? Trump explained that IS had built a hotel in Mosul, Iraq, and he wouldn’t stand for any competitors moving into his hotel-building business. It’s easy to imagine Gaddafi going after IS because he believed al-Baghdadi’s gown to be too drab.

As I argue above this is ego, ego that is so self centered it is comical.

Yes, like Gaddafi, Trump is both a comedy and a tragedy.
Will Trump become the 45th president of the United States? Not likely. Will Trump win the GOP nomination? Not likely. So, thankfully for the Middle East, Trump is a comedy minus the tragedy. Enjoy the laughs.



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