“Watching Donald Trump take the oath of office is like seeing Bobo the Clown Photoshopped into the Last Supper,” writes the ABC’s Simon Royal. Many Americans are equally shocked. A narcissist with no concern beyond himself and his wealth, a political simpleton, with no experience in public life and little understanding of public issues, an egoist who poses as a populist reformer, a redneck who made his contempt for tradition, protocol and taboo his byword, the 45th President of the United States is a shocker.
Could Americans have chosen a more divisive, more unfit figure? The inauguration, 20 January of the seventy-year-old, reality TV star, real-estate hustler, former beauty pageant entrepreneur, six-times bankrupt and one time professional wrestler installs a president with a 40% approval in opinion polls, the lowest on record.
Trump gained 3 million popular votes less than his rival, Hilary Clinton. It shows. Washington public transport figures reveal fifty per cent fewer locals turn out for Trump than Obama. Protesters take to the streets.
Trump already has half the population offside – and not just in the USA. Eclipsing the inauguration crowd, half a million women in pink knit “pussy hats” march on Washington, the following day in the largest protest demonstration in US history while around the world 1.5 million more march in support in 161 cities across all seven continents. “You can’t comb over misogyny reads one sign.” “Make America compassionate again” reads another.
“It’s been a heart-rending time to be both a woman and an immigrant in this country, says activist America Ferrera. “Our dignity, our character, our rights have all been under attack and a platform of hate and division assumed power yesterday.”
“You are really special, amazing people” Trump tells the CIA the next day, ignoring the Women’s March. He makes a beeline for the CIA HQ in Langley Va; after the National Prayer Service. He’s going to need to build some bridges, at least, with the CIA, having trashed their reputation in dismissing evidence Russia intervened in his election.
The “amazing special people” will require more persuasion than empty flattery, however. Sadly, it’s all Trump knows – along with contesting the truth of anything unflattering to himself.
The newly inaugurated president has already gone to work on his attendance figures, attacking reports of poor attendance. The media’s lying, he says of estimates of 250 thousand. He’s sure it was over a million people. His media people are working on it. Give them a few weeks and it will be at least a million and a half.
White House press secretary, whining Sean Spicer uses his first White House briefing to lecture the press on its “deliberate false reporting” for ten minutes before walking out without taking questions. This administration will be holding the media to account, he says.
It’s an alarmingly adversarial start to the Trump Presidency’s relationship with the press, yet it continues the Trump campaign theme that bad news is fake news and the tactic of disputing all reporting which may be critical or hold Trump presidency to account.
Trump can, however, count on a Mexican wave of support down under. Luckily for the new president and for the “ordinary Strines” she claims to represent, (while consistently voting with the government), Pauline Hanson’s One Nation Party has sent its envoy Brian Burston to give the 45th president its own special blessing.
Burston’s already in the press with his endorsement of the new type of One Nation candidate and how they are heaps better than the 1998 train wreck, QLD PHON party. For starters, this time the party is way smarter. Any fool can see that unlike today’s breed,
Hanson’s too busy, herself, she says with state election matters involving travel which she books up to her federal government account, unable or unwilling to see when challenged that this is a rort. Burston pays his own way to the US Trump mother ship.
Busy indeed. Hanson assembles her WA candidates but refuses to speak about them, in a Trump-style attack on right of the press to scrutinise public life. “I’m not going to have trial by media here, with all of my candidates. If this interview is going to be all about the candidates that represent me, I’m sorry, but this interview is finished,” Hanson says.
Piquing interest, is One Nation’s candidate for Dawesville, Pastor Lawrence Shave, whose Bikini Baristas business plan will enable consumers to ogle women in swimwear while they satisfy their caffeine fix. Pastor Shave also professes divine, healing powers but Hanson stops the presser.
Hanson’s new WA breed of candidate is a step up from the old guard including former PHON Senator, stand up comedian Rod Culleton whose latest routine is to refuse to accept the Federal Court and Senate ruling that he should be removed from his seat because he is bankrupt. He says he is solvent and will not leave his office. He could now face prosecution for impersonating a government official. It’s a sobering prospect. Yet Pauline’s distracted.
A Trump-struck Hanson shuns the former sheep farmer to put tickets on herself.
So keen is PHON to be invited to Trump’s big bash, empiricist Malcolm Roberts badgers DFAT to find them some spare tickets. Later, these are flourished as evidence of One Nation’s hotline to The Donald and of PHON’s clout in US-Australian relations. Now all Strines can see how big PHON is. Earlier Hanson, or James Ashby on her account, tweets:
“Would you believe it? I have been gifted tickets to the Presidential Inauguration Ceremony of Donald Trump – What an honour!” Of course it’s not. Reports quickly emerge of masses of discarded tickets at the under-subscribed ceremony. “Gifted”, also, is a big stretch.
SBS journalist, Lee Lin Chin is quick to attack Hanson’s grandstanding: “Who hasn’t got tickets? No actual Americans want to go so they’re just inviting everyone. I’ve got a +8 for my man harem,” the pint-sized presenter replies.
The Donald’s Oz cheer squad extends beyond One Nation, or Lee’s man harem, however. It’s a mile wide and an inch deep before you even consider Corey Bernardi.
Never to be upstaged, former Labor PM and UN leadership hopeful, Kevin Rudd calls for a fair go for Trump. Patronises him. Like a child with a tantrum, Trump, should “calm down” his dangerous talk on China and Taiwan, seize our help with nuclear disarming North Korea and bring back the TPP, suggests “One Kevin” Rudd ever bubbling with practical ideas.
Always at arms’ length from practicality, PM Turnbull is upbeat about the TPP. Why, he’s been on the blower to The Donald, jumping the Trump shark, thanks to Greg Norman. Bill Shorten says it’s “a waste of time” and “a distraction” from a PM who has no plans for jobs.
Shorten is proved correct on the time-wasting when an unusually coherent White House statement that is not a lecture or a tirade confirms Trump’s promise to withdraw from the TPP is one of the Administration’s first acts. So much to undo, so little time.
Oz-media’s made itself look silly smoothing the way for Trump, the vulgarian at the gate. The ABC’s inauguration commentary is saccharine with mindless Coalition optimism, which is quickly revealed as so much wishful thinking from a government caught on the nod.
The official ABC spin seems to be that now he’s thrown his rattle out of his playpen and he’s got what he wanted, The Donald will morph into a sensible and moderate monster who only wants our constant undivided attention and who has the nuclear codes to do it with.
Nothing in the Donald’s inauguration speech, not even an echo of Batman, The Dark Knight Rises “…and we give it back to you, the people,” suggests that Trump will soften his campaign rhetoric in favour of more statesman-like role once in power. Everything he says about isolationist foreign policy, in his “dark and inward-looking” fourteen minute speech, his “America first, only America first” is an alarming departure from US interdependence.
So much for the Turnbull’s government’s agility. Its foreign policy, like its domestic planning is rooted in inertia; do nothing, or as little as possible, repeat mindless Abbott era slogans, bag Bill Shorten and see what evolves.
Now it’s caught flat-footed. Foreign Affairs light-weight Julie Bishop says she’s been on the job, briefing Trump’s team on Australia’s requirements but that could mean anything and besides, there’s no evidence whatsoever anyone’s listening. Or ever will. Even the national broadcaster struggles to spin that.
To be fair, Aunty is distracted by the shock resignation Friday of Director of TV’s Richard Finlayson which comes at a time of deep unrest within the ABC, under former Murdoch executive, Managing Director Michelle Guthrie, a Turnbull appointee, whose reign is mired in job losses, cost cutting and ringing accusations of “piss poor management”.
Guthrie is critical of Four Corners-type programs and seems not to understand the role of investigative reporting at all; wants to do “more about successful businessmen”. It’s a work in progress. Already ABC news is lurid with tabloid stories; sensation displaces information.
Expect a puff piece soon on Mr Donald Trump, the people’s president and the inspiring business types who comprise his cabinet. When it’s properly run down and ready to be privatised as the IPA wishes, the ABC could be flogged off to an American. Rupert Murdoch is reported to be currently enjoying Malcolm and Lucy Turnbull’s harbour-side hospitality.
Other media outlets are also complacent; Donald-conciliatory. The least predictable presidency, the least qualified and most divisive figure on the world stage ever is spun as more of the same. Nothing to see here. Business as usual.
“The fair-minded thing is to give the guy a go,” a folksy Rudd tells Seven’s Sunrise on Friday, aglow with sanctimonious hypocrisy given his undermining of Julia Gillard. Rudd’s voice upstages Turnbull as intended – briefly- but fails to quell what is reported to be hundreds of Americans who try to block the entrances to the Inauguration. Dump-Trump demonstrations take place in other cities in America and throughout the world.
“Illegitimate, bastard” shouts Code Pink women’s rights organiser, Madea Benjamin, who makes it into the section reserved for honoured guests and journalists and Joe Hockey before she is thrown out by police. A protestor gets dangerously close to the new president, if not quite in The Donald’s orange face, at least not far below it.
“Trump is not going to be stopped at the top, he’s going to be stopped from the bottom, from people rising up,” says Ben Allen, a thoughtful 69-year-old retired teacher from San Francisco.
“We support the right of everybody in this country, no matter what nationality, what religion, the colour of their skin, to be respected as a human being, and this guy doesn’t respect anybody.”
As he speaks, removed from the web is the Department of Labor’s report on the rights of lesbians, bisexuals, gays and transgender people. The White House’s exposition on climate change and efforts to combat it are also excised. Police hurl flash bang grenades to banish protestors from the inauguration parade route. The smell of tear gas wafts over K street, the heart of Washington’s lobbying district. So much to undo. So little time.
To borrow a Trumpism, its 45th president is bigly disliked already – before he’s even had time to” bomb the shit out of ISIS” or leave NATO or reverse Obama’s sanctions against Russia for hacking the election. He’s yet to slash corporate taxes, bring back water boarding, dismantle Obamacare or lift a brick to wall out waves of Mexicans.
Civil Rights leader, veteran Democrat Congressman John Lewis boycotts the inauguration also because Mr Trump is an “illegitimate” President, he says. Thin-skinned Trump takes this personally, as he does all criticism- even working into his speech an “all talk no action” gibe at “politicians” to echo his earlier tweet that “Congressman John Lewis should spend more time on fixing and helping his district, which is in horrible shape and falling apart (not to mention crime infested) rather than falsely complaining about the election results.”
“All talk, talk, talk — no action or results. Sad!” Trump dismisses Lewis’ role in the protest movement which led to the landmark voting rights act of 1965 and the end of racial discrimination in voting in the US. Lewis has already achieved more for his people and for human rights than Trump ever will.
Malcolm Turnbull may not have been certain Tuesday just who would represent Australia at Trump’s swearing in but Ambassador Joe, Big Noter, Hockey clears that up with tweets that he, along with “all the chiefs of mission”, would attend all the events. We don’t hear that much from Joe: it’s good to know he’s still alive and tweeting. Doubtless he’s been busy saving the TPP and working on that people-trafficking asylum-seeker swap deal.
A messianic figure, in his own eyes, at least, Trump vows to be the greatest job producer that God ever created, a feat he will achieve by cutting taxes for corporations, a trickle-down con trick familiar to Australian voters deceived by similar promises. It’s a key detail in a fact free speech which is stuffed over-full of dreaming big and winning.
“We must think big and dream even bigger,” he says. “America will start winning again, winning like never before.” There’s no explanation of how this will be achieved or even what it means, just echoes of a former casino operator philosophy overlaid, perhaps, with the mindless Neoliberal cruelty which divides all human endeavour into winning and losing.
“We will bring back our jobs, we will bring back our borders, we will bring back our wealth and we will bring back our dreams.” Trump fist pumps. But expect delays. His transition team has only two of its fifteen cabinet members approved and has made only 29 of 660 executive appointments. Trump Inc. is nowhere near ready for government.
Big business is investing heavily in bringing back its wealth. Trump’s inauguration is awash with corporate donations. Chevron ($660,000) and Boeing ($1.3 million) are some of the big business donors who help the Trump team raise more than $131 million for their inauguration hoe-down — double any previous President’s send-on. A big donation secures an intimate dinner with the President and First Lady.
Doubtless, Trump aims to invest heavily in himself, (as did Turnbull with his $2 million donation to his own campaign.) Of course, he claims he won’t. Yet delegating his business affairs to his sons is no substitute for a blind trust. One expert on corporate governance warns that Donald Trump will be a “hopelessly conflicted president” whose unprecedented swag of commercial conflicts of interest will undermine his presidency.
“Parliament is set to return in just over a fortnight but why are they even bothering?”, asks Fairfax’s Adam Gartrell, who points out that MPs have little or nothing on their plates. The government’s legislative list is minimal. The new travel allowance and expenses bill shouldn’t take up more than six months.
As luck would have it, a new president of a newly Disunited States and a new world disorder will afford plenty of distraction, even if it’s only reading The Donald’s tweets. And being terrified.