The media is sensing blood and latching on to the false promises, ineptitude and implications of the Trump presidency.
India grapples with the competing merits of its presidential candidates, who mirror the integrationist and empowering sensibilities of “identity” in emerging India. The conversations have now drifted into evaluating which candidate would personify the expected constitutional sobriety and correctness, more aptly than the other, pursuant to a national urge and instinct to retain the traditional conduct of the nation’s “conscience keeper”. However, traditional conduct is not to be equated with “rubber-stamp” or “unmodern” as the incumbents to our highest office have gently and successfully elevated the office with the likes of the “Citizen President” in K.R. Narayanan, “People’s President” in A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, etc., who have defined and contemporised the Indian narrative of modernity, without losing the basic soul and optics of constitutional dignity, egalitarianism and loftiness.
As the US jolts-out from the Kennedyesque grace and charms of the Barack Obama era, the sounds of tolerance, hope and all-American idealism are getting replaced by the brassy, taunting and disparaging notes from the latest incumbent to the Oval Office, President Donald Trump. With each passing day, the headlines of the latest US presidential conduct are lowering the bar to unprecedented and unfathomable lows. Earlier, Mr Trump was quick to dismiss his misogynistic and lewd comments to convenient “locker room banter” — whereas, inelegant comments personal like “Crooked Hillary”, “Lyin’ Cruz”, “Little Marco”, etc., in the run-up to the presidential elections were perfectly normal and warranted no restraint in the world of Donald Trump. However, his latest diatribe against his pet peeve, that is the media, is a no-holds-barred frontal attack that has regressed from previous accusations of “fake news”, “failing pile of garbage” and “enemy of the American people” to seriously personalised comments on mediapersons, like “I heard poorly rated @Morning_Joe speaks badly of me (don’t watch anymore). Then how come low I.Q. Crazy Mika, along with Psycho Joe, came to Mar-a-Lago 3 nights in a row around New Year’s Eve, and insisted on joining me. She was bleeding badly from a face-lift. I said no!” The master of insults attributes his rants on the social media to transparency and the need for unfiltered communication, “where he can talk directly to the American people”, and into the making of his rendition of, “modern day presidential”!
Even the Presidents of the United States of America’s sense of humour is intrinsically subversive, smug and crass — with a history of calling women, “fat pigs”, “dogs”, “slobs”, “disgusting animals”, the bully is completely out of line with previous presidential tenor and tone. Silly attempts at humour included a doctored video clip of Mr Trump beating a figure representing the CNN network (shown in the end to be morphing as, “FNN: Fraud News Network.”) — that this video was posted on the official presidential Twitter account makes for chilling suggestions of violence against journalists. The crude campaign against the media manifests in the juvenile and immature bravado like, “The fake media tried to stop us from going to the White House. But I’m President, and they’re not.” Clearly, showing that the President has more inclination and proclivity to settle personal scores, rather than address issues of strategic concern like the bloody quagmire in West Asia, checkmating Chinese belligerence, addressing domestic economy or even preparing for the impending Putin-Trump meet. However, the reality is that a large section of the American electorate is still lapping up the attacks on media and his other histrionics, and Mr Trump is not oblivious to the same, and irrespective of the condemnation and horror expressed at his behaviour, Mr Trump gleefully attributes the new normal as “modern day presidential”.
The presidential discourse in the US has fallen from the eminence of Washington, Lincoln, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Reagan, Clinton, Obama, to that of the era of the businessman-entertainer-mocker, Donald Trump. The hoary intonation of inclusivity in Mr Obama’s, “There is not a liberal America and a conservative America — there is the United States of America. There is not a black America and a white America and Latino America and Asian America — there is the United States of America,” has to be contextualised with the abject disregard for democratic norms, established institutions and expectations of presidential sobriety. The very palpitation of a thriving democracy, like the US, is rooted in the independent criticism of the dispensation of the day, its policies and conduct, as carried out by a free and unmuzzled press. The truth is the casualty in the prevailing culture and that is best exemplified by statistics carried by the Washington Post that states that Mr Trump has made 744 false and misleading claims in the last 162 days! The danger looms larger than the one emanating in the tortured sarcasm, limited vocabulary and the grandiose language, which is frequently deployed on the social media. But with unanswered questions on the Russian links, business entanglements, tax returns, etc., still pending, the spat is only going to worsen.
The first five months in office have defined a worrisome pattern and portents of the “modern day presidential” promise — with bigoted travel bans, insistence on Trump family members still maintaining business interests, failed initiatives in West Asia and worsening relationships with Iran, China and North Korea, the report card is replete with only megalomaniac and narcissistic bravado. The pledge of “America First” and “Make America Great Again” is still very fashionable lexicon, albeit, vacuous with no content — the Affordable Care Act is going nowhere, no White House tax plan exists, the giant infrastructure investment plan is still in Mr Trump’s mind, he has challenged Nato and Paris accords, thankfully his uncalled for threats of tearing apart the Iran nuclear deal have been relegated to the background. Expectedly, the media is sensing blood and latching on to the false promises, ineptitude and implications of the Trump presidency. For a man who had incredulously questioned his opponent Hillary Clinton for not having a “presidential look” — the fact that he himself is deeply out of touch with the scale and intricacies of governing a nation is lost on him, and he is making up for the same with bluster, intimidation and crassness.
The writer is a retired lieutenant-general and a former lieutenant-governor of Andaman & Nicobar Islands and Puducherry