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Bumpkin businessman-turned-American president a babe in the business of politics

By Parsa Venkateshwar Rao Jr

It is not necessary to harangue against US President Donald J Trump’s core beliefs even when those core beliefs seem to influence and shape the public sphere in his own country and the relations of his country with other countries. Those issues will have to be dealt on a case-by-case basis. But it would not be going out of the way to assess the acts of President Trump in the week he has been in office.

There is little doubt that he is a flustered man. The office of the President of the United States does seem to overwhelm him, and he is trying his best to come to terms with it. There can be little doubt that he has fought a hard election, a bitter election – and he had himself admitted to it in his post-election interview with the editorial staff of The New York Times, a rare gesture for a unselfconscious right-winger to be speaking to a liberal leader of the American media – and he does want to get past the heat and dust that it evoked. But he just does not seem to know how to do it. He is quite rustic in his mannerisms. It would be perhaps wrong to call him rustic because the rustic is one who has led a simple and protected life and who is unused to the ways of the world.

Trump is no doubt an unsophisticated businessman, who wants to keep things simple and straight for himself if not for those with whom he makes deals. He lacks grace and he is awkward when he tries to be graceful as when he said of Hillary Clinton that she fought a hard election and that he respected her. But he could not bring himself to say that post-election it is time to move beyond the campaign heat, and that he would welcome any advice from her. It was not necessary for him to accept anything that she has to offer. But then that would be a nice way of doing things. But Trump just does not know how to do it. So he avoids the bit about being graceful. He is the genial gruff guy and not the cold-hearted villain that his detractors want to make him out to be. He is no Stalin or Mao, much less a Mussolini. We will leave Hitler out for the moment. Trump is emerging to be a bumbler, and that is not a good sign for a man who wants to be seen as strong and decisive.

Donald Trump on campaign trail
Donald Trump on campaign trail

Take the issue of building that “great wall” – the subliminal reference to China’s Great Wall is inevitable and Trump does not seem to be aware of the cultural connotations of the wall as such – and how he had painted himself in a corner. In his interview with the ABC news channel, he mumbled that the wall will be good for Mexico as well and he had to fidget quite a bit with his words to overcome the embarrassment of going back on his campaign boast that he would not only build the wall on the US-Mexican border, but that he will make sure that Mexico will pay for the wall that he is going to build to protect America from illegal immigrants from across Mexico. He is now faced with the harsh reality that he will have to rustle up the funds with the help of the Republican-dominated Congress to get the work started on the wall.

On Friday, he issued the executive order to review the entry of refugees, and the longish order reads like a bureaucratic rigmarole. He has entrusted the secretaries of homeland security and state to sort it out, report to him, keep reporting to him on the situation periodically, and to prepare the list of the countries from where the refugee intake should not be allowed purely on humanitarian grounds. He says that those who want to come to America must love the country and its constitution, and that they should not think of attacking it. It would appear to be a simple demand, and even a straight one at that. But he knows that it cannot be as simple and straight as that. And he does not know where the complication lies. He seems agreeable to allow refugees who are religious minorities in their countries. It is being interpreted that it meant that only Christians from the troubled West Asian countries will have an easy entry into America. Given the Americans’ attempt to influence other countries, the decision-makers would take in refugees who are political dissidents, who could then be used against the regimes in their own countries. This has been a long-standing policy with the United States, whether Russians or Chinese, Iranians or Syrians. It did not matter if they belonged to staunchly religious organizations, be they Shias from Iraq or the Sunni members of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. Trump will get to learn the American tricks of the game. But at the moment he seems to be making a statement against all refugees except the religious minorities and he is looking like an ignoramus.

The way to treat Trump, and all blusterers like him, is to have to a good laugh. He should not be taken seriously. He is going to hit against the wall of the American constitutional system of checks-and-balances at every turn, and there will be bumps all over his head, figuratively speaking.

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