​​​​Posted 5th February 2017

Alternative reality

It should come as no surprise that President Trump has achieved a majority disapproval rating in a record-breaking 8 days, by far the the shortest of any of his predecessors - by a margin of over 560 days. Whilst his White House attack dogs won’t care, he almost certainly does and is doubtless itching to complain but can’t think how to tweet to his advantage, other than by ridiculing the polls.

One would expect Congress to be more than a little concerned by this new style of government by executive order - photo opportunities ever hour on the hour, it seems. It’s all about showmanship, of course. Never mind the ill-conceived content, feel the power I can exercise! Chief among the baying hounds of hell is the President’s Chief Advisor - he of the blunt razor, Stephen Bannon, formerly at the helm of extreme right commentary website Breitbart News. Between them, Trump - the narcissistic, manipulable man-child, lacking experience and empathy in equal measure - and Bannon - the offensive arch provocateur and purveyor of hate - have already shown how bumpy a ride this administration will be for the US and the world. One would once have nurtured the hope that these two were the last people any sane person would want in positions of power and yet here they are in the Oval Office.

Moreover, that Bannon should have been granted the President’s ear to the extent he has and nominated as a permanent member to the National Security Council (NSC) and its ‘principles committee’ positions him to wield unprecedented power, regularly to the exclusion of the National Security Advisor, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the director of National Intelligence. His hand can be seen in a number of the contentious executive orders signed thus far, including the catastrophic seven countries Immigration ban that was cobbled together with bigotry and malice, ignoring the department of Homeland Security and legal counsel. Designed, it appears, to maximise hardship and inconvenience, it was Bannon’s idea to include green card holders, when common sense dictated that was indefensible and. And to have imposed the ban immediately, while people were in the air to the US, was a cruel nonsense and indicative of the what can happen when an ungifted amateur and a worst-nightmare extension of a troll, peddling his own agenda, combine forces. How could anyone believe the resultant shambles was good for the US or that the international uproar simply pointed to other countries being out of step?

Defending his Order at last week’s annual National Prayer Breakfast, attended by politicians, faith leaders and guests, Trump said he wanted to prevent a "beachhead of intolerance" from spreading in the United States. He went on the argue that "The world is in trouble, but we're going to straighten it out, OK? That's what I do - I fix things.” The arrogance is typically colossal but the distortion of truth is both stupefying and frightening. When learning from mistakes is alien and with no one to ground him or temper his or Bannon’s excesses, we can expect more of the same. Thankfully, on the evidence of his first fortnight in office, the millions targeted by his policies or who just find them objectionable and totally unacceptable are prepared to be counted like never before. Where opposition in Congress may be ineffective against the Republican majority, the counter-balance will come in the form of a now ever-watchful majority and sustained protest within the US and around the globe; inevitably, the effects of this are likely to become increasingly far-reaching.

Of course, the ruling by a Washington state federal judge suspending Trump’s travel ban as unconstitutional is already being challenged in the Court of Appeals but not before Trump announced his own verdict on Twitter, doing what he always does best and resorting to insulting the “so-called judge”. We have to keep reminding ourselves this is the President of the United States of America and the so-called leader of the free world. It’s enough to convince that the concept of parallel universes is more than just a theory …and that we’re all now in the wrong one.

Nigel Austin 

author of The Robin Gibson series