Being separated by an ocean allows a certain amount of perspective when it comes to observing American politics. Nevertheless, I found myself increasingly drawn into Trumpworld over the last four years and thanks to YouTube, have become familiar with a gripping cast of characters such as Steve Schmidt, Jon Meacham, Abby Philip, and Neil Katyal.
It has been exhausting trying to keep up with the twists and turns, any one of which in a normal world would have brought the presidency crashing down. Poor old John Profumo’s one transgression leading to a life or repentant service seems quaint by comparison (one for the teenagers). Politicians have learned that if you tough it out, or claim something everyone has seen happen … didn’t … the news cycle moves so fast that there is a good chance people won’t care 24 hours later, even if they do remember.
Trump took this to new dubious heights. A few days after pressuring a state official in Georgia to ‘find’ the votes he needed to win, Trump incited his followers to storm the Capitol. The trouble with obliteration strategy is that the next outrage usually has to be greater than the one before. It started with a lie about the size of the 2016 inauguration crowd and ended with a full scale assault on America’s seat of government.
Out of office, the scandals keep coming and it’s hard to imagine that one day the police won’t turn up at Mar-a-Lago with an arrest warrant. The Donald in the dock? We haven’t seen him put in a position of really having to account for himself. There is a low res clip of a deposition, where he moaned about not having his glasses and desperately asked his attorney whether he was obliged to answer the questions.
The press was unable to get meaningful answers, because as president he pulled rank and controlled the occasion, often shutting down the reporter with an insult. ‘What would you say to those Americans who have lost loved ones?’ ‘I’d tell them you’re a terrible reporter.’
In court, I suspect Trump would cut a pathetic figure. When the sales patter and bravado don’t work, there isn’t much else. Many of the legal problems Trump faces are for his businesses and you can guarantee the prosecutors will come armed with filing cabinets full of paperwork. Trump’s go to defence – ‘I don’t know him’, ‘that was someone else’, ‘I take no responsibility’ – may work in a press conference, but it will not be allowed to stand in front of a judge.
Donald Trump is many things, but essentially he’s a salesman, with himself being the product. It’s disappointing that so many people fell for it. He isn’t the greatest this, the best that, the most successful whatever. Despite default declarations, such as ‘no one has ever seen this before’. They always had. In terms of presidential accomplishments, history will record 2016-2020 as unremarkable at best. The bragging on the other hand …