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You know the shot: “We finally really did it,” Charlton Heston contemplating the ruins of the Statue of Liberty. Well, the Statue and what she symbolises will survive the Trump presidency but that scene from Planet of the Apes leapt into my mind as I sat in a Manhattan restaurant on election night with a crowd of startled Republicans, some pleased, some not, watching another compelling drama lurch to a conclusion that most of those there, including me, had not anticipated.

An orange brick through the establishment’s window: Donald Trump and family on election night (©Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)


So, what had “we” done? Well, by voting for Trump, or hazy Gary Johnson, the Libertarian (as I did), or crazy Jill Stein (the Green) or, in many cases, by not voting at all, Americans had rejected Hillary Clinton, the direction the country was going, or both. But it was not that much of an endorsement of The Donald. Trump has his fans, to be sure, but, even allowing for the polarisation that such figures generate, he proved to be a most unpopular populist, the most unpopular major party presidential candidate in American electoral history. He was, however, the handiest brick to throw through the establishment’s window.

What we can now expect, absent some last astounding scandal, is that Donald Trump, bully, braggart, billionaire (presumed), and defendant (currently) in some 75 lawsuits, will soon take up residence in 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, the first president never to have held earlier elective office or served in the military. But that won’t stop him benefiting from the way that the legislative branch — and this is a bipartisan offence — has acquiesced for some time now in the transfer of power to the executive.

Barack Obama: “We’re not just going to be waiting for legislation . . . I’ve got a pen and I’ve got a phone.”

Trump will also have Congress — and a Supreme Court nomination — in his pocket.
Working out what Trump will do with the power heading his way is not made easier by his pronouncements over the years.  The Donald is always sure, but in sometimes inconsistent ways. In 1999 he was sure about a one-time “net worth” tax on the very rich to wipe out the national debt. He was also sure that the Republicans were “just too crazy right” for him to remain in the party. He was “very pro-choice” then; now he is “very, very proud to say that [he is] pro-life”.

Looked at kindly, this shows a willingness to change his mind; looked at less benignly, it shows a willingness to play to whoever is in the room, but running through it all is his conviction that he has the answers.  “Nobody knows the system better than me,” Trump told the Republican convention, “which is why I alone can fix it.” I alone: what’s right is what Trump says it is — I, I, I.

Party affiliation provides less of a clue than it might. Trump, a former member of the Democratic, Reform and Independence parties, enjoys an equivocal relationship with a GOP that he has hijacked, or at the very least exploited, taking advantage of its resources, its people and its brand when it suited him, bypassing them when it did not, helped by his money, social media, the power of celebrity — and the fact that his revolt against the GOP’s establishment actually increased his appeal to many Republican voters.

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Juggling For A Cure
January 16th, 2017
2:01 AM
Liberal media and celebrities were acidic toward Trump before election as well. However they did not remember that acid turns blue litmus red.

Milton Ezrati
December 19th, 2016
10:12 AM
Criticism of anything by Andrew Stuttaford always presents a challenge. The problem is he writes so much and is generally so thoughtful and so clever that one cannot help but agree with many of his points. The above has an equivocal title that makes my point - "Trump is No Loser, But Government is Harder". In this one, as with so much written about Trump, it is less his analysis that irritates than his tone. This piece starts with a confession that the author underestimated Trump's ability to take the Republican nomination and a further confession that he underestimated Trump's ability to win the general election. But then, without a hint of further humility, Stuttaford rolls on to examine how Trump's abilities will fall short of the demands of the job. One cannot argue with such a conclusion. I cannot think of anyone who has abilities fully up to the demands of that job. One can only hope that Trump, behind his boastful manner, has enough humility to proceed carefully and to subject his initial attitudes to review. One can only hope, too, that Mr. Stuttaford might reflect on his earlier failures and subject his initial attitudes to review. But he, like so much elite opinion, seems to feel no need to hesitate even for a moment or qualify conclusions in light of past failings. I suspect, though I cannot know, that he, and much elite opinion, cannot help himself because Trump is so unlike him in style, background, and aspiration, and that might be the most mortal of sins. One passage in the article stood out in this regard. About a third of the way through, Stuttaford tells us that Trump has "boasted about hiring the best and letting them get on with it." Then he contrasts that with Trump having added "but I always watch over them." My first problem is his use of the word boasted. Trump is an irritating braggart, but his comment about hiring the best does not sound like a boast at all. On the contrary, it sounds like a promise to the voters and an executive pursuing a well-respected approach to management. Worse is Stuttaford's effort to imply that oversight is somehow a contradiction. An executive, mush less a president, would be a fool to neglect oversight, even of the very best. That is what Eisenhower did with his generals and what many other successful leaders have done. But with tone alone, Mr. Stuttaford leaves the impression that these attitudes reflect inadequacies. There are other examples throughout the article. It is surely Trump's manner that makes good sense sound silly in Stuttaford's ears, but he owes it to his readers to see beyond style to the substance.

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