Did Trump Really Want to Be President?
Cast your mind back to the moment when Donald Trump announced that he was running for President. Like most people, no doubt, you were bemused, entertained and intrigued, but at that point his chances of actually reaching the White House would have been rated at zero. The possibility of a President Trump seemed very remote.
The doubters might well have included the newly announced candidate himself. Indeed, there were, and are, many commentators who believe that Trump never contemplated the possibility of actually becoming President, but launched his candidature as a means of burnishing his image and thereby promoting his business interests, which were apparently in need of resuscitation.
Even if, in his more optimistic moments, he had actually rated his chances, it seems likely that he would have looked forward to the trappings of power rather than the burdens of actually exercising it. His performance since taking office suggests strongly that – armed only with the few improbable campaign slogans that served him well with the voters, and handicapped by virtually total ignorance of how government works and of the actual role of President – he was totally unprepared for turning those slogans into policy or into anything vaguely resembling a programme for government.
He will also have found that, however pleasing to the ego it may be to be greeted by “Hail to the Chief” wherever he goes, it is less pleasant to find that his fumbling efforts at making good his campaign promises are scrutinised, opposed and frustrated at every turn by the machinations not only of his opponents but of all those who believe that he is simply not up to the task.
And he will now realise that there is no hiding place or comfort zone, even though his frequent recourse to campaigning mode suggests that he is desperately seeking one. Everything he does and says – spot-lit and amplified – is now in the public domain and is the subject of analysis and comment not only in the United States but around the world. Because he is someone who has assiduously courted publicity throughout his career, he cannot expect to turn it off when it suits him.
His election victory has, in other words, ensured that he will now be judged at every turn according to criteria with which he is unfamiliar. His role as a reality show television star, his probably inflated reputation as a successful businessman, his unexpected success as a political campaigner, no longer count for anything. He has now launched himself into a completely different orbit – one in which he is quite likely to crash and burn.
The qualities that worked for him in other contexts are now seen as weaknesses and handicaps. The bluster, the braggadocio, the cavalier attitude to the truth, the almost infantile sensitivity to criticism, are all obstacles to the careful consideration of consequences that is required at the top level of politics. And who can predict the toll that will be taken on him by the realisation that his inadequacies cannot be hidden and make him the object of ridicule and derision?
Most worryingly, the quality of his decision-making seems likely to nose-dive further. The appointments he has made to top positions in his administration, the sometimes ill-judged foreign policy decisions he has taken, the fights he has picked with the courts, the wild allegations he has made about those he regards as his enemies, the impact he threatens to have on world trade and the global economy, all point in a direction that suggests that worse is to come.
There will be those who celebrate what they will see as poetic justice, that Trump’s efforts to promote himself have served only to expose his frailties to a wider public. But, for the rest of the world, the implications are less welcome. The “free world” is now led by an incompetent, and we are all the weaker and more at risk as a consequence.
19 March 2017