Under Trump, a world turned upside down (Book Review)
By Vishnu Makhijani
New Delhi, Aug 11 (IANS) Perhaps the most extraordinary aspect of the Donald Trump presidency "is that it truly appears to function according to the strictures of a reality television format", says widely respected journalist and author Alan Friedman in a seminal disection of the current US administration.
"There are always sudden plot changes, unexpected twists and turns, and occasional bouts of chaos and disorder, moments in which the belly pulpit of the White House is used to attack enemies or perceived foes with little regard to the rule of law or the rules of democracy," Friedman writes in "Democrracy In Peril - Donald Trump's America" (Om Books International/pp 301/Rs 395).
Take the latest controversey Trump has been involved in: Suggesting that four Congressowmen "go back" to the countries of their origin if they were not happy in the United States. Quite naturally, the House of Representatives voted 240-187 on July 16 to condemn the remark.
Terming him a "master of falsehood, a congenital liar", Friedman says Trump's "greatest source of power may be the way he impulsively and often dangerously makes use of the ultimate weapon of mass destruction in 21st century American politics - the tweet".
Noting that Trump has sacked "dozens" of his own nominees by tweets, "unceremoniously and often quite aggressively", the book says: "Trump has mastered the art form of combining his Twitter feed with the one skill set he learnt while starring in 'The Apprentice' (TV series) and namely the ability to glare into the camera and bark out his mantra: 'You're fired!'"
Contending that Trump "began turning the world upside down within minutes of being sworn in, Friedman writes: "Sadly, the brunt of the axe is most likely to fall over time on low income Americans, on the poor. The Trump administration's attempted cuts in entitled programs, in line with longstanding Republican proposals, target items such as spending on welfare and food stamps, on social assistance and education."
With Trump likely to give states greater leeway to administer or relocate Medicaid spening on healthcare for the poor, America's "remaining" social security net, already battered and slashed over the decades" by Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, "will soon be dismantled further...millions of poor, disabled and elderly Americans who rely on welfare or Medicaid could well see the floor drop away from beneath them", the book says.
Then, the vision of "new billionaire" Secretary of Education Betty Devos, "shared by Trump", would "favor the rise of profit-making evangelical Christian and predominantly white private schools across America, while leaving inner city minorities and the less mobile rural poor with even poorer schools".
The greatest irony in all this that that "among those who stand to suffer the most from Trump's budget cuts and economic policies are many of those millions of working class Americans who voted for him", Friedman maintains.
In all this, the "greatest risk" posed by the Trump presidency "undoubtedly" lies in the international arena.
"It is here that Trump's unpredictable and impulsive style poses some very real challenges. He tends to attack first, but it is not always clear whether this is an opening gambit in a negotiation or whether Trump is simply allowing his ego to get the better of him. He hits back at criticism quickly and crudely, either in a spontaneous outburst or within the confines of one of 140 characters.
"The Trump style, distilled to its essence, is to shoot first and ask questions later. The style worked well enough during the 2016 elecction campaign, and might make sense in the rough and tumble world of casino construction but it was not the norm in international diplomacy," Friedman writes.
From the diplomatic crisis with Mexico within the first week of the presidency, through NAFTA, banning Muslim refugee immigration, conflicts in the Middle East, lecturing NATO on how it should be run, et al, to the latest trade war with China, "in Trump's approach to the world, you first razz your adversary and then you make friends", the author says.
"In many ways, this great country has already lost its way...the America that is now taking shape is not the America of my childhood dreams. It is not the America of Kennedy or Reagan. This is not the America that we thought we knew so well. This is not America. This is some other place," Friedman laments.
(Vishnu Makhijani can be reached at email@example.com)