Welcome dear reader,
It’s been a while and I apologise for that. However, now I’ve requested forgiveness it’s time to get on with the show as they say!
So, unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few weeks you might have noticed a change emanating from the USA. How different it all seemed just months ago, the USA was a beacon of progressive values, with an African-American President and a woman poised to succeed him.
Instead we have the oldest, richest and ‘white-est’ administration in history of the USA. Lead by President Donald Trump and his cronies. For liberals and progressives this is a nightmare. There are a number of points I want to address but I’d like to avoid intruding too much on your precious time dear reader and concentrate on what I consider the more salient points of this new Presidency.
Since it took office the Trump government has been a disaster. Policy missteps included the introduction of a botched ban on Muslims and refugees entering the country. It wasn’t just the idea of this ban that was crazy but the rollout was cack handed and clumsy to say the least. Foreign governments in Europe (most strongly France and Germany and sadly and somewhat belatedly the UK and Spain) and Canada condemned such measures and the European Parliament recently voted to scrap a visa free travel privilege for Americans visitors. As the excellent Young Turks online news show reported the USA already had an average of 18-24 months vetting process for new arrivals, one of the longest in the world. Questions were legitimately raised about the policy, as it targeted only seven Muslim majority countries (like Sudan and Iraq) yet it failed to incorporate notable wealthy Middle Eastern states, such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE, where it is speculated Mr Trump has a network of close business ties. The ban is now in legal limbo after the US courts intervened and suspended the implementation of the ban over possible violations of the US constitution. Chaotic scenes then ensued at airports around the country as officials struggled to catch up with the court orders. The government is now seeking to refine the policy and resurrrect it, however aside from the dubious moral reasoning behind this misguided policy the President has failed to see the obvious economic damage from such a scheme. Kayak, the online travel agency has reported dramatic declines in flight searches and bookings since Mr Trump’s January inauguration, some of about 50% and 30% to key US resorts such as Orlando and Las Vegas. The Global Business Travel Association has stated that the ‘Trump Slump’ has already set in and the USA has missed out on $185 million since January. Oh my goodness!
Alongside this a cloud has hung over Donald Trump’s and the Republican Party’s victory in November and substantive, damaging claims, made not least of all by the FBI, of Russian interference in the process to swing the result Mr Trump’s way. In February, the evidence laid out by the US’s own intelligence agencies claimed its first scalp when the New York Times first reported potentially indiscreet conversations between the US National Security Adviser, Michael Flynn, and the Russian Ambassador, Sergei Kislyak. Mr Flynn swiftly resigned and Mr Trump went on a verbal tirade aganist the media and his own security services for leaking the information. His Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, is now in the spotlight and feeling the heat over similar contacts with the the Russian envoy. He may yet be forced out too, if the opposition Democrats get their way. Mr Trump has not helped his case by equivocating on sanctions against the Russians over their illegal invasion of eastern Ukraine in 2014, and for his often gushing expressions of praise for the Russian leader, Vladimir Putin. This relationship it is rumoured is based on alleged serious conflicts of interest over Mr Trump’s business ties and the speculative allegation of inappropriate sexual behaviour with prostitutes on a trip to Russia four years ago. This has already provided rich materials for late night satirists and comedians, such as Seth Meyers and Stephen Colbert, who have seen ratings for their shows peak in recent weeks. However, aside from the comical angle, it raises some serious concerns for European governments and the potential for Russian meddling in crucial elections in the Netherlands, France and Germany, where nationalists and populists are seeking to ride a wave of poisonous victories which began last year with the Brexit vote in the UK. A great source of shame for me as a nominal Brit.
The other concern is the repeated attacks against the press. Now, they are big boys and girls, and the truly experienced journalists can take the constant jibes about “fake news” by the President in their stride. Indeed, it would be strange to find any Western leader who enjoys the scrutiny the media brings and the media wouldn’t be doing its job properly if the relationship were too cosy. However, tell tale signs of hostility and contempt for journalists were most vividly on display during the campaign when Mr Trump publicly and disgustingly mocked a respected reporter for his disability. Fast forward a few months and we now have cherry picking of selected right wing bloggers and story tellers (Breitbart and InfoWars comes to mind) for privileged access to the Trump team, and now the more serious barring of long serving and reputable members of the press (such as The Guardian, Buzzfeed, CNN and the BBC) raise serious doubts about the commitment to democracy by the President and his advisers.The First Amendment of America’s cherished Constitiuon has never looked more threatened.
It is not just me or the outside world who looks on with horror, at this car crash Presidency as it unfolds, but according to Gallup (the respected polling agency) 51% disapprove of the President’s job performance, against 44% who approve. This is a historic low for any US President so early into his term in charge of the country! Everybody fasten your seatbelt, the ride is about to get bumpy and lest we forget that we are only a handful of weeks into this “new era.”