Wednesday 29 January 2020

Trump better have an appetite for humble pie

The Observer from 50 years ago
The Observer from 50 years ago
Ian O'Doherty

Ian O'Doherty

How does the old saying go again: the more things change, the more they stay the same?

I couldn't help but be reminded of that pearl of wisdom during Trump's latest catastrophic efforts at diplomacy.

A friend of mine, while cleaning out a relative's house, discovered a 50-year-old copy of The Observer under one of the old carpets and the headline is a doozy - 'Has the Kremlin elected America's next President?'

No, it wasn't some freaky bit of prophecy from the late, great Anthony Howard. It was a piece invoking long forgotten names from American politics - Hubert Humphrey, Eugene McCarthy and Richard Nixon (okay, Nixon may not be quite as forgotten, but you get my drift).

It would be tempting, and not entirely incorrect, to say that history has a habit of repeating itself, and that was certainly my first reaction to this fascinating historical titbit.

But as ever, the truth is more opaque and much more interesting.

It has now become increasingly clear that Donald Trump's biggest and most ferocious enemy is Donald Trump.

He talks when he shouldn't, and stays quiet when he should be louder - his lack of immediate criticism for the alt-right rioters being one prime example of a man who can shoot himself in the foot even when he keeps his mouth shut.

What we refuse to acknowledge over here is that the people who voted for Trump are very happy they voted for Trump - the economy is on the up, illegal immigration is down and they have a few extra bucks in their pocket thanks to the recent tax cuts.

But perhaps the only thing, other than tanking the economy, that could turn his base against him would be showing weakness to the Russians.

After all, the whole point of Make America Great Again was to avoid the humiliations of the so-called apology-tour taken by Obama and to restore America to its rightful place at the head of the global table.

Yet the president's bizarre and submissive performance alongside Putin was exactly the kind of lily-livered weakness so despised by Trump and his followers.

What was worse, he genuinely didn't seem to realise the sheer scale of the blunder until even his own cheerleaders on Fox News started to freak out.

People can bitch and moan about the man all they want - yeah, we get it. He's rude and obnoxious and surly and uncouth - and up until this week he has done the one thing we don't expect from politicians, he has kept his promises. Whether you liked those promises is neither here nor there, but he's a shoo-in for the next election.

Or he was - he has an awful lot of humble pie to eat before he will be forgiven for this gaffe.

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