Donald Trump’s unfiltered Twitter activities have frequently got him into hot water during his relatively short political career, with one such incident occurring during last year’s Republican presidential primaries when Trump retweeted a quote from the wartime Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, causing his liberal critics to compare the New York billionaire with Il Duce. There are certainly many who regard The Donald as a fascist demagogue in the mould of Mussolini, and for them this tweet confirmed their long-held suspicions about the man who would go on to become the 45th President of the United States. However, the truth is somewhat different; Donald Trump has far more in common with another Italian leader, the disgraced former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, than he does with Mussolini. Far from being the right-wing tyrant of liberal imagination, he is instead an utterly incompetent buffoon with little knowledge or understanding of the mechanisms of government, something which has become apparent during the first two months of his presidency.
Like the media mogul Berlusconi, Trump’s background is in business rather than politics, and the colourful pair share a variety of other characteristics, from their luxurious (some may say vulgar) personal tastes to their misogynistic and racially insensitive rhetoric. Both are also lousy politicians, and if the parallels continue into the future then Americans can expect the Trump presidency to come to an unhappy ending, even if a Berlusconi-style child prostitution scandal seems like a fate too grotesque even for The Donald. Despite having been President for less than ten weeks so far, Trump already looks way out of his depth as he struggles to convert his simplistic campaign trail utterances into meaningful policies, whilst his personal conduct has been staggeringly unpresidential, an image which was reinforced last week by footage showing the President pretending to drive a stationary truck during a White House reception for the American Trucking Association.
This truck-driving incident came at the end of the most difficult week yet for the Trump presidency, as he was forced to shelve his flagship policy, a new healthcare bill to replace Obamacare. The bill, known as the American Health Care Act (AHCA), was the brainchild of House Speaker Paul Ryan and somehow managed to alienate both the entire Democratic caucus and many Republicans, with GOP moderates and hardline right-wingers coming together to declare that they could not support it. No amount of cajoling from the White House was able to win over these Republican rebels, and so the bill was ditched after it became clear that it lacked the sufficient number of votes; indeed, the only people who seemed willing to defend it were members of the administration and the GOP leadership in Congress.
President Trump has been quick to slam those Republicans who sealed the fate of the AHCA, claiming that the right-wing Freedom Caucus faction was giving a green light to the continued funding of abortion provider Planned Parenthood, and in a tweet today he stated that ‘Democrats are smiling in DC that the Freedom Caucus… have saved Planned Parenthood and Obamacare.’ By attacking his right flank in such an outspoken way, claiming that these ardently pro-life members of Congress are helping to prop up the abortion industry, Trump is playing a risky game and demonstrating his complete incompetence when it comes to dealing with Capitol Hill. The Freedom Caucus contains some of the GOP’s most hardcore and uncompromising conservatives, tough lawmakers who have always been suspicious of Trump for his liberal past and questionable morality, and by alienating them he risks squandering his congressional majorities and jeopardising any future legislation.
All of this shows that the image of Trump as some kind of genius dealmaker has always been completely fictitious; after all, he didn’t even write The Art of the Deal, the ghost-written business classic published under his name. Trump has always been a con man, relying on self-confidence and showmanship rather than competence and talent throughout his business career, and blaming others when things have started to go wrong. He has now imported these same tactics into the Oval Office, and the healthcare fiasco is set to be first of many policy debacles for this administration.
With the AHCA dead in the water, the President resorted to some incredibly underhand tactics in order to subtly transfer the blame for the bill’s failure away from the Oval Office, imploring his Twitter followers to tune into last night’s episode of the Fox News show Judge Jeanine. The show’s host is Jeanine Pirro, perhaps the most hysterical member of a news network that is certainly not lacking in hysteria, a bombastic former prosecutor whose idea of news is to scream at the camera about the evils of liberalism and all who dare to oppose the new President, and last night she used this platform to call for the resignation of Speaker Ryan. Although Trump insists that Ryan has his full support, it is hard to believe that he did not know about the contents of Pirro’s opening monologue before taking the unusual step of plugging her show; the whole episode stinks, proving that no course of action is too low or classless for this President.
With every day that goes by, this administration looks more and more absurd, a phenomenon that is reinforced by the clown show that is the Trump White House. Many had feared that a President Trump would pack his government with sinister figures from the shady alt-right universe, and the appointment of former Breitbart News boss Steve Bannon as chief strategist instantly set alarm bells ringing. However, Bannon has proven to be a powerful yet isolated figure, one of the few Trumpian true believers in an administration packed with people who are far too incompetent to be a serious threat to the Republic.
There’s senior advisor Kellyanne Conway, the truth-averse Queen of Alternative Facts whose propensity to lie has caused her to be banned from several TV news shows; Press Secretary Sean Spicer, the snarling star of the White House daily briefing who may never recover from Melissa McCarthy’s merciless impersonations on Saturday Night Live; and the invertebrate former RNC Chairman Reince Priebus, who has been completely emasculated since becoming the most powerless Chief of Staff in living memory. The orange-tinted Court of Trump has more than its fair share of jesters, presided over by a vain and unprepared commander-in-chief who has absolutely no understanding of how to run a country; as with Berlusconi it seems only a matter of time before the whole saga comes to a crashing halt, as people begin to realise that beneath all the bluster and bravado this Emperor is wearing no clothes.