On Being Presidential And The Judgment Of History


U.S. President Donald Trump arrives to deliver a statement about missile strikes on a Syrian airfield,  at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach

There is in the U.S. a certain notion of being presidential.  Toss missiles at Syria or bomb Afghanistan and everyone reflexively calls it presidential.  Added to warmongering is peace making, visiting foreign countries, meeting with foreign leaders, holding joint press conferences with a slew of foreign reporters, all in a whirlwind of activity eagerly seized upon by the home press and guess what?  The president is being presidential … which as a bonus yields positive publicity, bumping up his favorability rating in the polls.

That the past week has seen a special prosecutor appointed to investigate the Russia connections of the Trump campaign (and collusion if any in election interference) will be forgotten while the president’s travel and hobnobbing with leaders sucks up the media oxygen.

In all the talk of this interference, we tend to forget what it was — nothing whatsoever to do with the November election but a Russian hacking last May (during the primaries)  that identified a corrupt Democratic party leadership trying to scuttle the campaign of Bernie Sanders.

As a result, the then party chief, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, was booed off the stage at the Democratic National Convention which was then run by an interim chair.

It compromised Hillary Clinton yet again, fraught as she is with scandals going back to Arkansas.  Amongst other items in a long list is  her conversion of $1000 into $100,000 in a year’s commodities trading, a risible impossibility with just reading the Wall Street Journal as she claimed.   In such fast moving markets, the overnight information in it is already dated.

It exposed her as far from the clear, untarnished, undisputed, universally acceptable, honest winner of the primaries, and lost her the support of the fervent, impassioned, super-enthused wing of the party — a group intensely active that helps fuel a campaign.  Money alone can often not be enough, as billionaire ex-eBay CEO Meg Whitman discovered when she ran for California governor.

So, is the appointment of Robert Mueller as special prosecutor a problem for Trump?  It will be a distraction certainly but there can be nothing more, not while Republicans hold the reins in congress — they just cannot be expected to spit in their own soup.  For the time being, Plutarch is being vindicated once again:  we are stuck with a naive, mercurial, tendentious president, who the people elected, and a chaotic, marginally competent White House.

On his first foreign trip, an ambitious one, he journeys to Saudi Arabia, Israel/Palestine, Italy, The Vatican, Belgium, and then returns to Italy for a meeting with G7 leaders.  During it he will also have squeezed time for bilateral meetings with Gulf Cooperation Council leaders, and a lunch with the heads of 50 Muslim countries to put forward the need to confront radical ideology and promote a peaceful vision of Islam.

Poor Islam.  Everything hinges on it, never on the disastrous destruction of Iraq with the loss of a million lives, a disaster repeated in Libya and then Syria … not forgetting Somalia, Ukraine, Yemen, or the sorry tale of Afghanistan.  Here is where it all began with the CIA, and the Islamic warrior Mujaheddin recruited and funded to fight the Soviet Union in what was described by President Jimmy Carter’s National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski as … going to be the Soviet Union’s Vietnam.

No one has ever been held responsible for these unspeakable horrors, now left to the judgment of history.  And it is precisely because no one was held accountable that they were able to be repeated with impunity.  It is one reason, and not the only one, the International Court of Justice is scorned by Africa, many parts of Latin America and the developing world … not to exclude the major powers, China and Russia.

Universal justice requires, by definition, universality.

Dr Arshad M Khan (http://ofthisandthat.org/index.html) is a former Professor based in the U.S. whose comments over several decades have appeared in a wide-ranging array of print and electronic media.  His work has been quoted in the U.S. Congress and published in the Congressional Record.



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