It is a funny old world – politics. A few weeks ago, Francois Fillon appeared to be on course to win the French presidency. But an Exocet has hit his campaign in the form of a scandal about his placing of his wife on the public payroll as a political advisor when in fact she carried out no such function. The size of her ill-gotten gains is matched only by the hugely brazen nature of his denials of wrong-doing mixed with claims that he was the target of a witch-hunt.
So now, poor Francois is political dead meat – a ”political corpse” as Shane Ross might put it.
And the chief beneficiary of this spectacular implosion is his rival, Emmanuel Macron. He is an independent, social liberal candidate and was formerly a member of France’s Socialist party. While he rejects the label “federalist” for his stance on EU matters, he is undoubtedly an integrationist. His latest call for a EU Defence capacity centred on a Franco-German axis with the potential to make “credible” interventions in the Middle East (whatever France and Germany might credibly do by way of military intervention there?), was immediately greeted with warm support by none other than Guy Verhofstadt, the arch-priest of federalism.
Macron also speaks of the need for the people of the European Union to become “sovereign” – which is the language of super-state supporters. This, he claims, is necessary in order to counter Trumpism and Putinism – each of which is a threat to the EU, as he sees it. That is vintage Verhofstadt language too. Always use an external or internal crisis as a pretext for further EU integration.
Macron may yet end up as being Marine Le Pen’s contender in the final round of the French election in a few months’ time.
So Trump’s jump into the US political pool is causing potential tsunamis in Europe.
Le Pen openly models her campaign on Trump’s; Macron is defining his policy by reference to the need to counter the threat of Trump to the EU. The Donald is dangerously polarising politics across the globe.
In his elephantine and wholly unconvincing attempt at prayerfulness at the recent annual Washington Prayer Breakfast, Trump yet again revealed his utterly self-indulgent, self-regarding traits. How he managed to weave Arnold Schwarzenegger’s TAM ratings for the Apprentice Show into a prayer breakfast is a marvel to behold. But that’s what he did. He asked for prayers for Arnold’s Tam ratings which, he was delighted to report, had gone “down the tubes”!
That nonsense apart, his prayer breakfast speech was laden with menace. His audience (who had better start praying hard) were told that in the coming days we are all going to see what Trump is going to do about terrorism. Will he bomb Iran? Will he “bomb the shit out of Isis” as he memorably promised to do in his mad-cap spectacular primary speech at Fort Dodge, Iowa?
He is cooking something up, for sure. So fasten your seat-belts. With a small inner group that includes son-in-law Jared Kushner, Defence Secretary “Mad Dog” Mattis, and nut-job Steve Bannon taking decisions to unleash military operations such as the recent Yemeni operational fiasco, virtually anything is possible. These “good dudes” are planning a relentless global campaign against “bad hombres”.
I am more and more convinced that Trump is actually losing it in terms of incipient dementia. His vocabulary is shrinking to that of a school-yard teenager. He can’t hold any train of thought. He mis-speaks and repeats himself. His pre-occupations – Inauguration Day crowd size, Apprentice show TAM ratings etc. – cannot be kept in. At Langley CIA headquarters, where he went to honour dead CIA agents, he blurted out his lies about the numbers who saw him sworn in on the Mall. At a prayer breakfast, he went off-script (or off the teleprompter, which he had difficulty reading) to ridicule Arnie Schwarzenegger. He just can’t help it.
But along with the menace there is a complete political idiocy. Trump needs the Iraqi government and army to win the battle for Mosul. He is helping them with air power and advisors. They are all expected to put their lives on the line in the war on ISIS.
So what does he think the average Iraqi – soldier, citizen or politician – is to make of his travel ban on any Iraqis going to the US? Does he see any connection between these issues?
At his CIA Langley debacle, he also said of the 2003 US invasion of Iraq, “If we kept the oil, you probably wouldn’t have any ISIS … because that’s where they made their money in the first place. So we should have kept the oil, but …OK…maybe we’ll have another chance.”
That particular piece of menace horrified his Iraqi “allies” – soldiers and civilians alike. It reveals Trump’s utter shallowness and political greed. It confirm to the Muslim world that Trump sees them as vassal sates to be humiliated and expropriated at will. His famous executive order on immigration was carefully crafted to carve out exemptions for non-Muslim religious minorities
Taking the Iraqis’ oil is another Fort Dodge theme. Having told his cheering audience there that he would “bomb the shit out of ISIS” (does that mean levelling the city of Raqqa and its hostage civilian population?), he went on to say that he planned to establish a perimeter around the ISIS held oilfields, and bring in the “guys from Exxon” – (“they’re fantastic, you know”) – and then “take out” the oil. It’s that simple.
Trump told the Breakfast Prayer Meeting that he would be having more “tough” phone calls in the near future. Threatening Mexico’s President with a US armed incursion into Mexico to take out the “bad hombres” and asking him to come to Washington to accept financial liability for the Wall must be seen in the context of his December call to President Duterte of the Philippines in which he invited Duterte to visit him in the White House this year and praised the Filipino for his war on drugs involving summary execution of suspects.
Incidentally, he also told the prayer breakfast that he would be attending seven more such annual events – suggesting that he sees himself as embarking on two terms as President. That is a welcome sign of humility. For a man of his talents, you might have thought that he would have everything banged to rights easily inside four years. Just goes to show that no-ones‘s perfect!
Will he get eight years? Will he survive four years? Will his shrinking vocabulary allow such things? Who knows?
I did not exaggerate here last week when I wrote of the coming “dark valley”. Take a look at the prayer breakfast meeting in its entirety on Youtube – especially the bit where Trump arrogantly promises not to fire the congressional chaplain and then half-senses that he has no role in the matter any way. It’s frightening stuff.