How Trump is the Gorbachev of the U.S.A. – Ghazanfar Ali Garewal | Asia Times

How Trump is the Gorbachev of the United States of America

Ghazanfar Ali Garewal | Asia Times

Toward the end of the 20th century, the Soviet empire was facing myriad challenges. At that time, Mikhail Gorbachev, who had an altogether different outlook from his predecessors, assumed the leadership of the USSR. He introduced the twin policies of glasnost (openness) and perestroika (restructuring), which were in stark contrast to the Soviet culture and sociopolitical system.

These policies raised concerns among the friends of the Soviet Union, particularly in China, and even brought them into a confrontational position.    

While intending to make the Soviet Union prosper again, Gorbachev deconstructed the very fabric of the Soviet empire and accelerated its downfall.

In the same “Gorbachevian” manner, the current president of the United States, Donald Trump has been rapidly pushing his country toward its decline.

Two Striking Parallels

Though many a parallel can be drawn between them, two are most striking.

First, Gorbachev introduced policy reforms that were incompatible with the Soviet system and culture, and thus eroded the very base of the Soviet empire. In the same vein, Trump has been taking policy initiatives, at home and abroad, that have been considered anathema to USA liberal values.

Second, by introducing his policy measures, Gorbachev drifted away from his country’s allies and even became at odds with them. In the same fashion, Trump has distanced the USA from its allies and partners to a degree that was unimaginable before.

His recent decision to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem is but one example.Despite his warnings and threats, the world stood against him and – rightly so – against the USA. A rare emergency session of the United Nations General Assembly was called after the USA vetoed the Security Council resolution to condemn the decisions.

President Trump and US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, resorted to threats and warnings to swing the countries to their side. But even friends of the USA such as the UK, Egypt and India remained unmoved.

According to a US news website, a correspondent for an Israeli news channel reported that the heavy-handed approach backfired when Canada decided to switch to abstention just to dispel the impression of being a USA puppet.

Political analysts in the US questioned the productivity of Trump’s decision. One prominent critic of Trump’s policies, Fareed Zakaria, called it an act of pandering rather than diplomacy.

According to a recent poll, Trump’s approval rating has gone down as low as 35% since he failed to deliver much of what he promised during the election campaign. Going against public opinion has hardly been a celebrated tradition in the USA political system.

Toward the same consequences?

In June, a Pew Poll found that the US image in international affairs had suffered badly because of Trump’s views. The survey revealed that US favourability had fallen to 49%, and in this backdrop, it is not surprising that the world abandoned Washington at the UN. The US has long been known as the champion of liberty, democracy and human rights. These three elements strengthened US supremacy in the world.

Now, however, far from being an advocate of globalization and internationalism, the US has withdrawn into the cocoon of protectionism and nationalism. It is these policies that are leading the major powers to think they have to do without the USA.

At the same time, these policies are making America’s allies believe that Trump’s rhetoric is not a matter of conjecture only. It has eroded American credibility, so they are compelled to look for alternatives.

Faced with this dilemma, Lee Hsien Loong, prime minister of Singapore, asked a very pressing question when Washington withdrew from the Trans-Pacific Partnership: “How can anybody believe in the USA any more?” While giving an interview to Time magazine, Lee predicted that Washington’s failure to ratify the TPP would diminish USA influence in the region. Herein lies the problem:

The United States’ unwillingness to fulfill its international commitments and its failure to restore the confidence of its partners and allies.

The Group of Seven Summit in May was another episode of erosion of trust in the USA, which ended with exposing splits between Trump and the European leaders. They voiced their concerns and, at times, severely criticized US trade policies and its withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement. These developments brought uncertainty to the long-term partnership between the US and its European allies.

Trump began his presidential election campaign with a very attractive slogan, “Make America Great Again,” and he believes the key to reviving the old glory is avoiding globalization and reinvigorating the spirit of nationalism. In doing so, he has failed to incorporate the US values of liberalism, democracy and human rights.

He might be looking for the right thing, the revival of the US supremacy, but his instruments are faulty: military power, threats, and coercive policies.

These amount to an antithesis of the US norms that became global. If his policies continue the same trend, it should not come as a surprise if a tragic event takes place in the very matrix of the United States of America.

Asia Times is not responsible for the opinions, facts or any media content presented by contributors.

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  • Clyde Duncan  On 01/02/2018 at 11:16 am

    An American Tragedy

    David Remnick | The New Yorker

    The election of Donald Trump to the Presidency is nothing less than a tragedy for the American republic, a tragedy for the Constitution, and a triumph for the forces, at home and abroad, of nativism, authoritarianism, misogyny, and racism.

    Trump’s shocking victory, his ascension to the Presidency, is a sickening event in the history of the United States of America and liberal democracy.

    On January 20, 2017, we bid farewell to the first African-American President — a man of integrity, dignity, and generous spirit — and witness the inauguration of a con who did little to spurn endorsement by forces of xenophobia and white supremacy.

    It is impossible to react to this moment with anything less than revulsion and profound anxiety.

    There are, inevitably, miseries to come: an increasingly reactionary Supreme Court; an emboldened right-wing Congress; a President whose disdain for women and minorities, civil liberties and scientific fact, to say nothing of simple decency, has been repeatedly demonstrated.

    Trump is vulgarity unbounded, a knowledge-free national leader who will not only set markets tumbling but will strike fear into the hearts of the vulnerable, the weak, and, above all, the many varieties of Other whom he has so deeply insulted.

    The African-American Other. The Hispanic Other. The female Other. The Jewish and Muslim Other. The most hopeful way to look at this grievous event — and it’s a stretch — is that this election and the years to follow will be a test of the strength, or the fragility, of American institutions. It will be a test of our seriousness and resolve.

    All along, Trump seemed like a twisted caricature of every rotten reflex of the radical right.

    That he has prevailed, that he has won this election, is a crushing blow to the spirit; it is an event that will likely cast the country into a period of economic, political, and social uncertainty that we cannot yet imagine.

    That the electorate has, in its plurality, decided to live in Trump’s world of vanity, hate, arrogance, untruth, and recklessness, his disdain for democratic norms, is a fact that will lead, inevitably, to all manner of national decline and suffering.

    In the coming days, commentators will attempt to normalize this event. They will try to soothe their readers and viewers with thoughts about the “innate wisdom” and “essential decency” of the American people.

    They will downplay the virulence of the nationalism displayed, the cruel decision to elevate a man who rides in a gold-plated airliner but who has staked his claim with the populist rhetoric of blood and soil.

    Trump ran his campaign sensing the feeling of dispossession and anxiety among millions of voters — white voters, in the main. And many of those voters — not all, but many — followed Trump because they saw that this slick performer, once a relative cipher when it came to politics, a marginal self-promoting buffoon in the jokescape of eighties and nineties New York, was more than willing to assume their resentments, their fury, their sense of a new world that conspired against their interests.

    That he was a billionaire of low repute did not dissuade them any more than pro-Brexit voters in Britain were dissuaded by the cynicism of Boris Johnson and so many others.

    The Democratic electorate might have taken comfort in the fact that the nation had recovered substantially, if unevenly, from the Great Recession in many ways — unemployment is down to 4.9 per cent — but it led them, it led us, to grossly underestimate reality.

    The Democratic electorate also believed that, with the election of an African-American President and the rise of marriage equality and other such markers, the culture wars were coming to a close.

    Trump began his campaign declaring Mexican immigrants to be “rapists”; he closed it with an anti-Semitic ad evoking “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion”; his own behavior made a mockery of the dignity of women and women’s bodies.

    And, when criticized for any of it, he batted it all away as “political correctness.”

    Surely such a cruel and retrograde figure could succeed among some voters, but how could he win?

    Surely, Breitbart News, a site of vile conspiracies, could not become for millions a source of news and mainstream opinion. And yet Trump, who may have set out on his campaign merely as a branding exercise, sooner or later recognized that he could embody and manipulate these dark forces.

    The fact that “traditional” Republicans, from George H. W. Bush to Mitt Romney, announced their distaste for Trump only seemed to deepen his emotional support.

    The commentators, in their attempt to normalize this tragedy, will also find ways to discount the bumbling and destructive behavior of the F.B.I., the malign interference of Russian intelligence, the free pass — the hours of uninterrupted, unmediated coverage of his rallies — provided to Trump by cable television, particularly in the early months of his campaign.

    We will be asked to count on the stability of American institutions, the tendency of even the most radical politicians to rein themselves in when admitted to office.

    Liberals will be admonished as smug, disconnected from suffering, as if so many Democratic voters were unacquainted with poverty, struggle, and misfortune.

    There is no reason to believe this palaver.

    There is no reason to believe that Trump and his band of associates — Chris Christie, Rudolph Giuliani, Mike Pence, and, yes, Paul Ryan — are in any mood to govern as Republicans within the traditional boundaries of decency.

    Trump was not elected on a platform of decency, fairness, moderation, compromise, and the rule of law; he was elected, in the main, on a platform of resentment.

    Fascism is not our future — it cannot be; we cannot allow it to be so — but this is surely the way fascism can begin.

    Hillary Clinton was a flawed candidate but a resilient, intelligent, and competent leader, who never overcame her image among millions of voters as untrustworthy and entitled.

    Some of this was the result of her ingrown instinct for suspicion, developed over the years after one bogus “scandal” after another.

    And yet, somehow, no matter how long and committed her earnest public service, she was less trusted than Trump, a flim-flam man who cheated his customers, investors, and contractors; a hollow man whose countless statements and behavior reflect a human being of dismal qualities — greedy, mendacious, and bigoted. His level of egotism is rarely exhibited outside of a clinical environment.

    For eight years, the country has lived with Barack Obama as its President.

    Too often, we tried to diminish the racism and resentment that bubbled under the cyber-surface. But the information loop had been shattered. On Facebook, articles in the traditional, fact-based press look the same as articles from the conspiratorial alt-right media. Spokesmen for the unspeakable now have access to huge audiences. This was the cauldron, with so much misogynistic language, that helped to demean and destroy Clinton.

    The alt-right press was the purveyor of constant lies, propaganda, and conspiracy theories that Trump used as the oxygen of his campaign. Steve Bannon, a pivotal figure at Breitbart, was his propagandist and campaign manager.

    It is all a dismal picture. Late last night, as the results were coming in from the last states, a friend called me full of sadness, full of anxiety about conflict, about war. Why not leave the country?

    But despair is no answer. To combat authoritarianism, to call out lies, to struggle honorably and fiercely in the name of American ideals — that is what is left to do.

    That is all there is to do.

    David Remnick has been editor of The New Yorker since 1998 and a staff writer since 1992. He is the author of “The Bridge: The Life and Rise of Barack Obama.”

  • Rosaliene Bacchus  On 01/02/2018 at 1:20 pm

    We live in interesting times.

  • Clyde Duncan  On 01/02/2018 at 2:26 pm

    Reading this one year later – It is ripe – Like fine wine.

    But, wine doesn’t age in the bottle.

    Don’t pour it back in the bottle – This is serious – This won’t last another 3-years!

    President Obama in his eloquence said democracy is like a garden, it needs attention, and that growing complacent could quickly lead to things falling apart.

    “That’s what happened in Germany in the 1930s, which despite the democracy of the Weimar Republic and centuries of high-level cultural and scientific achievements, Adolph Hitler rose to dominate – Sixty million people died. . . So, you’ve got to pay attention. And vote.”, Obama asserted.

    Historian Michael Beschloss said:
    “Donald Trump is doing what he is doing because he wants power, wants to expand presidential power. He will be pushed and he will only stop when he is stopped.”

  • Clyde Duncan  On 01/04/2018 at 11:23 am

  • Clyde Duncan  On 01/04/2018 at 9:33 pm

    Donald Trump: The best of the book that blew up his bromance w/Steve Bannon

    ABC – Australian Broadcasting Corporation

    A feud between United States President Donald Trump and his former strategist Steve Bannon has erupted in public view.

    The catalyst is a new book, Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, by journalist Michael Wolff.

    It’s not out yet, but The Guardian and the New York Magazine have published some eyebrow-raising excerpts which detail 18 months with the US President and his staff.

    It’s worth noting that some of the figures in the book have denied the claims in the excerpts (reportedly Rupert Murdoch and former deputy chief of staff Katie Walsh).

    Here’s some of the best bits from the excerpts published in the book, so far:

    What Bannon thinks about that Trump Tower meeting

    Bromance crashes and burns

    Steve Bannon is the latest in a number of once-close allies Donald Trump has tried to distance himself from, painting a picture of an increasingly isolated Commander-in-Chief, writes Stephanie March.

    The line that’s generated the most headlines is Steve Bannon’s thoughts on a Trump Tower meeting between Donald Trump Jr, Jared Kushner, campaign chairman Paul Manafort and Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya.

    Here’s Bannon, according to the book:

    “Even if you thought that this was not treasonous, or unpatriotic, or bad shit, and I happen to think it’s all of that, you should have called the FBI immediately.”

    At the time President Trump denied he had any knowledge of the meeting.

    Here’s Mr Bannon’s view on that:

    “The chance that Don Jr did not walk these jumos up to his father’s office on the twenty-sixth floor is zero.”

    Before we move along – ‘What’s a jumo?’ – We may ask.

    Steve Bannon’s description of a Russian lawyer has everyone scratching their heads

    Some believe the word was lost in translation when the interview was transcribed for publication, and Mr Bannon may have potentially used the word “jamoke”.

    “jamoke” and related terms appear in slang dictionaries from the early 20th century.

    Urban Dictionary defines jamoke as “a clumsy loser who is incapable of doing normal human tasks”.

    Okay – Okay – The foregoing explanation fits – Let’s move along:

    Melania Trump’s reaction on election night 2016, according to the book:

    Melania Trump, who had been assured by her husband that he wouldn’t become president, and they could return to inconspicuously lunching. Losing would work out for everybody. Losing was winning.

    Shortly after 8 p.m. on Election Night, when the unexpected trend — Trump might actually win — seemed confirmed, Don Jr. told a friend that his father, or DJT, as he calls him, looked as if he had seen a ghost.

    Melania was in tears — and not tears of joy.

    Bannon shares his view on the Russia scandal

    The book describes a dinner between Bannon and former Fox News boss Roger Ailes.

    “What has he gotten himself into with the Russians?” pressed Ailes.

    “Mostly,” said Bannon, “he went to Russia and he thought he was going to meet Putin. But Putin couldn’t give a shit about him. So he’s kept trying.”

    Trump was considering appointing his son-in-law Jared Kushner as his chief of staff

    It was Ann Coulter who finally took the president-elect aside.

    “Nobody is apparently telling you this,” she told him.

    “But you can’t. You just can’t hire your children.”

    Ivanka has a colourful description of her father’s infamous hairdo…

    She often described the mechanics behind it to friends:

    An absolutely clean pate — a contained island after scalp-reduction surgery — surrounded by a furry circle of hair around the sides and front, from which all ends are drawn up to meet in the centre and then swept back and secured by a stiffening spray.

    The colour, she would point out to comical effect, was from a product called Just for Men — the longer it was left on, the darker it got.

    Impatience resulted in Trump’s orange-blond hair colour.

    …and she apparently has presidential ambitions of her own

    Balancing risk against reward, both Jared and Ivanka decided to accept roles in the West Wing over the advice of almost everyone they knew.

    It was a joint decision by the couple, and, in some sense, a joint job.

    Between themselves, the two had made an earnest deal:

    If sometime in the future the opportunity arose, she’d be the one to run for president.

    The first woman president, Ivanka entertained, would not be Hillary Clinton; it would be Ivanka Trump.

    Murdoch reportedly called Trump a ‘f***ing idiot’

    Wolff’s book claims Mr Trump had plenty of admiration for Mr Murdoch, urging a group of guests at Trump Tower to stay and meet the media titan.

    “He’s one of the greats, the last of the greats,” Trump said. “You have to stay to see him.”

    Not grasping that he was now the most powerful man in the world, Trump was still trying mightily to curry favour with a media mogul who had long disdained him as a charlatan and a fool.

    But that feeling doesn’t sound like it was mutual. Here’s Wolff’s description of a phone call between the pair:

    Murdoch suggested that taking a liberal approach to H-1B visas, which open America’s doors to select immigrants, might be hard to square with his promises to build a wall and close the borders.

    But Trump seemed unconcerned, assuring Murdoch, “We’ll figure it out”.

    “What a f***ing idiot,” said Murdoch, shrugging, as he got off the phone.

    Inauguration day ‘not a happy one for Trump’

    Trump did not enjoy his own inauguration. He was angry that A-level stars had snubbed the event, disgruntled with the accommodations at Blair House, and visibly fighting with his wife, who seemed on the verge of tears.

    Throughout the day, he wore what some around him had taken to calling his golf face: angry and pissed off, shoulders hunched, arms swinging, brow furled, lips pursed.

    Like he lost his wallet?!?!!

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