Saturday 22 October 2016

If we decide to snub The Donald, he might not be that perturbed

Gerard O'Regan

Published 04/06/2016 | 02:30

Doonbeg owner Donald Trump is expected to make a visit later this month (PA)
Doonbeg owner Donald Trump is expected to make a visit later this month (PA)

As if Enda Kenny doesn't have enough problems, he has now got himself into a bit of a pickle over Donald Trump.

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Only a few days ago in the Dáil he took some pot-shots at possibly the most divisive politician in American history. He also clearly signalled Hillary Clinton is his preferred choice to be the next US President. If the Taoiseach has made the wrong call, he will certainly have to bring an extra-large bowl of shamrock to the White House come St Patrick's Day to try and make amends.

Meanwhile, it has emerged that Trump intends to pop over and visit us later this month - and do a bit of a check-up on his golf course in Doonbeg, Co Clare. We don't know if the Trump campaign centre is monitoring comments by the Fine Gael leader and sundry other Irish politicians who have been firing verbal exocets in his direction, but stranger things have happened.

What has traditionally been labelled 'the Irish vote' in America is not as cohesive as it used to be in the glory days of the Kennedys, although the old, emotional links to the Democratic party endures in various forms. However, many of our more successful young emigrants who have attained US citizenship now find certain Republican Party policies, such as lower tax rates, much more to their liking than what's on offer from the Democrats.

A visit by Trump to Ireland at such a pivotal time in his campaign is obviously intended to try and woo some of that floating vote, and to soften his image at least a little with Irish-America. He will no doubt remind us all of the jobs he is creating in the west - with possibly promises of more to follow.

If he is seen to be snubbed by some of our political heavyweights during this stopover in the Emerald Isle, it's unlikely to cause him any loss of sleep. It's all grist to the mill for a campaign that is built on aggressive confrontation, where he is painted as the perennial outsider, ignored and insulted by establishment politicians.

One way or another, images of his time here will stir plenty of media coverage back home. We might even see 'The Donald' getting a bit teary-eyed as he stares out at the Atlantic on the edges of the Clare shoreline. That's not a bad image for American coast-to-coast TV.

Many people in this country and elsewhere figured he was some kind of well-heeled buffoon when he began his run for the Presidency of the United States. It looked like he was just another kind of extremist weirdo who would soon disappear into political oblivion. But this maverick, spewing out so much bile and hate, has wooed millions of those classified as 'middle Americans' to his way of thinking.

Meanwhile, on this side of the Atlantic we compete with ourselves in repeating what an obnoxious individual he is. Racism, sexism, intolerance of almost every kind, mouthing endless insults towards his enemies, and picking fights with the weak and vulnerable, are all part of his stock-in-trade. Yet we simply don't know how much of this is electioneering. How much of it is a carefully calculated strategy -firstly to get him noticed, and subsequently to tap into a pressure point in the American psyche, which is simply fed-up with more and more down-the-middle politicians.

We know all too well from our own recent political history that much of what is said pre-election is no longer relevant once polling day is over. The all-consuming question must be what will Trump be really like if he is elected to the most powerful job in the world? There is the relatively recent precedent of Ronald Reagan, who was a fairly verbal right-wing roughneck prior to reaching the Oval Office. But the reality of power tempered his more hardline instincts and, in the opinion of many, he emerged as one of the more effective US Presidents.

If Trump makes it to the White House we can certainly predict he will be pro big business and tough on immigration. But plans to repatriate millions of illegal workers in the US back to their countries of origin is just not feasible, and the madcap plan to build a wall between the US and Mexico will be quietly dropped.

The great unknown is how he will approach those he dubs 'America's enemies'. He must know a certain Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin is a volatile, ruthless and dangerous foe, and not to be trifled with unless there is due thought for possible consequences. 'Whuppin' the ass' of the Russians, and anybody else perceived to be a threat to the US, will be a much bigger deal if there ever comes a time he has to stare at those nuclear codes.

But lost in all this Trumpism is the fate of Hillary Clinton. How come she is not romping to victory in an election which has been hers to lose from the outset?

Scott Fitzgerald famously wrote: "There are no second acts in American lives." Maybe that's how it will be with the Clinton drama. Bill was undoubtedly the star of Act 1 and, despite everything, he never had to leave the stage.

But for the Clintons' follow-up performance, Hillary has a big-time problem. No matter how she plays her part, far too many in the audience simply don't like her.

Irish Independent

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