There is, perhaps, no more fitting analogy for the Trump administration than the rise and fall of Anthony Scaramucci. Day one: controversially hired as Communications Director. Day five: ranting, nonsensical, abuse-filled phone call to CNN. Day ten: fired.
Scaramucci’s incompetence was so dramatic that there is already talk of a Hollywood film deal. This episode demonstrates a consistent trend within the Trump administration; you have to be desperate to consider working there and unqualified to be considered. There has been a slow purge of competence under the guise of “draining the swamp”, Reince Priebus, an establishment Republican, was banished from the White House by the demands of white nationalist Steve Bannon and the now banished Scaramucci.
The President’s staff are – with perhaps two or three exceptions – all horrific choices. A former Doctor with no government experience is Housing Director, a man who wanted to abolish the Department of Energy is now leading said department, and a pro-segregation Southern lawyer with a history of outspoken racism is Attorney General. When the most competent members of the cabinet are an oil baron at Secretary of State and a general literally nicknamed ‘Mad Dog’, it’s eminently clear that something has gone very, very wrong.
This inability to secure even a shred of professionalism extends to legislation as well as individuals. Four separate Obamacare repeal bills, each one more disastrous, poorly constructed and controversial than the last, have failed. Despite being the soundbite of his candidacy, the much lauded “wall” has yet to emerge in any sense. The divisive and discriminatory limits on Muslims entering the US have been smacked down time and time again. From the evidence thus far, it would appear that the only saving grace of America’s disastrous president is his almost impressive inability to get anything done.
Yet the worst part of this unique series of failures is that it’s becoming normal. Every day I wake up to see ‘Trump Advisor Under Investigation’, ‘Journalists Attacked by Trump Spokesperson’ or some other depressing variation of a similar vein. When George W. Bush was in office, he was the subject of daily ridicule and his policies were decried as reactionary, but even he ensured that those hired had experience, and passed legislation after months of development. When Ronald Reagan revealed that he had lied to the American people about selling arms to terrorist groups, he arranged a special broadcast – not to attack or berate the journalists that revealed the truth – but to acknowledge, at least in a roundabout way, his own crimes. These men are both Republicans who embody a brand of self-serving American Conservatism which I find cruel and cynical to say the least. Yet even they possessed two qualities that Donald Trump fundamentally lacks: a bare amount of common decency and a shred of competence.
Unfortunately, it would seem that Donald Trump is starting to change the way we think. The barrage of headlines, the attempts to invalidate or obscure reports from places such as CNN or the Washington Post, the brash and cruel personal attacks, are all building to a fundamental shift in how politicians act. Gone is the civil behaviour of the past; the dignified letter that Bush left for Clinton at the beginning of the latter’s presidency or the friendly rivalry of McCain and Obama. In their place there is the bitter and divisive mantra of Trumpism.
All of this is beginning to strain the President. As of writing he is currently hiding away on a 17-day holiday, adding to the 40 days of golf trips he has already indulged himself in. The Secretary of State is considering resignation, the investigation into his Russian ties is not only gaining steam but has assembled a Grand Jury to begin the stages of prosecution. Never, in the history of the United States, has a President been such a lame duck, so close to impeachment and so hated within his own party – all within a mere six months of taking office. The Trump Administration is circling the drain, but we mustn’t allow it to drag America down with it.
When historians rank America’s leaders, George W. Bush generally appears in the bottom five of all 45 presidents, Reagan in the top quarter, and George Bush Senior somewhere in between. Donald Trump, however, has a reserved place at the bottom of the pile. Alongside historical disasters such as James Buchanan – who helped start the Civil War – and the utterly corrupt Warren G. Harding, Trump will languish as one of the great national mistakes. He is unique, at least in the modern age, in just how incompetent he is – but we cannot let Donald Trump change America or what we should consider the fundamentals of politics. To do so may result in this era of Trumpism lasting long after his years in office.