Trump’s Chaotic First Couple of Weeks
On Saturday in its front cover page the German weekly magazine Der Spiegel posted an illustration of the U.S. President Donald Trump beheading the Statue of Liberty. It depicts a cartoon figure of Trump with a bloodied knife in one hand and the statue's head, dripping with blood, in the other. It carries the caption: "America First". The cartoon says it all as to the direction Trump is trying to take America.
The artist who designed the cover, Edel Rodriguez, a Cuban who came to the United States in 1980 as a political refugee, told The Washington Post: "It's a beheading of democracy, a beheading of a sacred symbol."
No wonder that just weeks into the new administration, a new survey has found that about half of voters in the U.S. wished Barack Obama was still in office. This result was announced by a group called Public Policy Polling, or PPP, which asked registered voters at the end of January, "Who would you rather was President: Barack Obama or Donald Trump?"
Of the 725 participants, 52 percent responded with Obama, 43 percent preferred Trump, and 5 percent weren't sure. The group's press release also revealed that 40 percent support Trump's impeachment.
According to Dean Debnam, president of Public Policy Polling, "Usually a newly elected President is at the peak of their popularity and enjoying their honeymoon period after taking office right now. But Donald Trump's making history once again with a sizeable share of voters already wanting to impeach him, and a majority of voters wishing they could have Barack Obama back."
The issues that voters appeared most unhappy about included Trump's recent immigration order and his team's handling of it in addition to the growing influence of controversial adviser Steve Bannon.
The USA remains a divided country and rather than closing the gaps Trump is widening this division with his authoritarian behavior. Not only has he surrounded himself with hateful and highly polarizing guys like Bannon he is behaving like an autocrat who has no tolerance for any criticism, esp. from the media. Anyone who does not agree with him is deemed a foe by the White House who must, thus, be shut down.
Trump issued an executive order - travel restriction order (TRO), more commonly called the ‘Muslim Ban’ that barred citizens of seven Muslim majority countries to entering the United States. The travel ban, which Trump says is needed to protect the United States against Islamist militants, sparked travel chaos around the world. Millions of concerned citizens around the globe – from the USA to Europe to Australia to Asia in places such as New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Seattle, Miami, San Francisco, Atlanta, St. Louis, Denver, Salt Lake City, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., Austin, London, Paris, Berlin, Barcelona, Sydney, Jakarta and Manila - rallied against the ban condemning it as racist and discriminatory. “We say no to a ban on immigrants and we say no to walls,” read one poster in Berlin, referring to Trump’s vows to build a wall on the Mexican border.
Trump’s actions and tough talk on a number of issues in his first two weeks have deeply unsettled many world leaders. In France, where President Francois Hollande has spoken out against Trump, saying the new U.S. administration is “encouraging populism and extremism,” about 1,000 demonstrators and a large group of American expats took part in a march against Trump in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
In the Philippines, protesters burned a giant portrait of Trump at a rally outside the U.S. Embassy in Manila, the capital. Some protesters carried a large banner that read: “Fight Trump! Resist fascism and imperialism!”
Last Saturday a Seattle judge blocked the executive order saying that it was unconstitutional. The Washington state lawsuit was the first to test the broad constitutionality of Trump's executive order. Judge James Robart explicitly made his ruling apply across the country, while other judges in similar cases have so far issued orders concerning only specific individuals. The challenge in Seattle was brought by the state of Washington and later joined by the state of Minnesota. The judge ruled that the states have legal standing to sue, which could help Democratic attorneys general take on Trump in court on issues beyond immigration.
Judge Robart probed a Justice Department lawyer on what he called the "litany of harms" suffered by Washington state's universities, and also questioned the use of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States as a justification for the ban. He said no attacks had been carried out on U.S. soil by individuals from the seven countries affected by the travel ban since that assault. For Trump's order to be constitutional, Robart said, it had to be "based in fact, as opposed to fiction."
Washington Governor Jay Inslee celebrated the decision as a victory for the state, adding: "No person - not even the president - is above the law."
Trump tweeted, “The opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially takes law-enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned!” However, his government moved swiftly Saturday to comply with a federal judge's order halting his immigration ban -- even as he denounced the judge.
Democrats immediately hailed Robart's decision, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Trump's criticism of the judge will be cited in the Supreme Court nomination of Neil Gorsuch.
"The President's attack on Judge James Robart, a Bush appointee who passed with 99 votes, shows a disdain for an independent judiciary that doesn't always bend to his wishes and a continued lack of respect for the Constitution, making it more important that the Supreme Court serve as an independent check on the administration," Schumer said in a statement.
"With each action testing the Constitution, and each personal attack on a judge, President Trump raises the bar even higher for Judge Gorsuch's nomination to serve on the Supreme Court. His ability to be an independent check will be front and center throughout the confirmation process."
The judge's decision was welcomed by groups protesting the ban.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection told airlines they could board travelers affected within hours of Friday's ruling. Qatar Airways was the first to say it would allow passengers from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen to fly to U.S. cities if they had valid documents. Air France, Etihad, Spain's Iberia and Germany's Lufthansa all followed suit after the federal judge's ruling. The White House late Saturday filed a notice of appeal of the judge’s order and has said that the president’s actions were lawful.
Tech companies, which rely on talent from around the world, have been increasingly outspoken in their opposition to the Trump administration's anti-immigrant policies.
The world is in a mess for quite some time. And Trump’s presidency is not easing growing tensions anywhere.
One reported contender for the post of Trump’s envoy to the EU, businessman Ted Malloch, has already stirred controversy. In a BBC interview last month, Malloch appeared to liken the EU to the former Soviet Union, suggesting that “maybe there’s another union that needs a little taming.” He later said the comment had been tongue-in-cheek.
Trump is indifferent to Russia’s belligerent behavior in Ukraine and Syria (although her US Ambassador Nikki Haley had some harsh words for Kremlin).
He has been accused of war crimes. On January 29, Anwar al-Awlaki’s eight-year-old daughter, American citizen Nawar Anwar al-Awlaki, was murdered, along with about 30 other civilian non-combatants, in the course of a raid by the US Navy’s SEAL Team Six in Yemen.
Tensions between Tehran and Washington have risen since Trump took over office. Trump's national security adviser Michael Flynn said the Washington was putting Iran on notice over its "destabilizing activity," and Trump tweeted Tehran was "playing with fire".
What triggered this virtual ultimatum from the Trump administration? Iran-backed Houthi rebels, said Flynn, attacked a Saudi warship and Tehran tested a conventional missile. It should be noted that the 2015 U.N. resolution "called upon" Iran not to test nuclear-capable missiles. It did not forbid Iran from testing conventional missiles, which Tehran insists this was.
“The Saudis have been bombing the Houthi rebels and ravaging their country, Yemen, for two years. Are the Saudis entitled to immunity from retaliation in wars that they start?” asks Patrick Buchanan. “Where is the evidence Iran had a role in the Red Sea attack on the Saudi ship? And why would President Trump make this war his war?”
Iran brushed off the US threat. "We are working day and night to protect Iran's security," head of Revolutionary Guards' aerospace unit, Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh was quoted as saying by Tasnim news agency. "If we see smallest misstep from the enemies, our roaring missiles will fall on their heads," he added.
Despite the heated words, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Saturday he was not considering raising the number of U.S. forces in the Middle East to address Iran's "misbehavior," but warned that the world would not ignore Iranian activities.
Mistrust of Trump runs very deep in Europe. Both before and after he took office, Trump has been vocal in his support of Britain’s vote last June to exit the European Union, and has made repeated and almost offhand references to the likelihood of the bloc breaking up. He has also called NATO “obsolete”.
Mainstream European political figures — already worried about populist challenges and the specter of Russian interference in their own upcoming elections — have been rattled by a rapid-fire series of controversial presidential directives and combative behavior, including a getting-to-know-you call with Australia’s prime minister that reportedly ended abruptly when Trump became irritated over a refugee agreement.
In Valletta, the ancient fortress-capital of the Mediterranean island nation of Malta, leaders arriving for the EU’s first gathering since Trump’s inauguration had some sharp words for the Trump administration — some centering on policy disagreements, and some on the president’s unorthodox style.
Trump’s remarks have been read by many in Europe as a sign that the new U.S. president has little regard for international institutions widely credited with underpinning decades of peace and economic progress. French President Francois Hollande, who spoke with Trump last weekend, was perhaps the most openly combative in his view of the U.S. leader.
“It is unacceptable that there should be — through a certain number of statements by the President of the United States — pressure on what Europe should or should not be,” the French news agency AFP quoted Hollande as saying as he arrived at the informal summit.
EU President Donald Tusk had taken the unprecedented step of warning in a letter to European leaders that Trump’s policies posed a potential “threat” to the bloc.
The prime minister of Luxembourg, Xavier Bettel, said the U.S. president’s values were “not the values I’m fighting for.”
If Trump does not rein upon his authoritarian tendencies, instead of making America great again, he will be held responsible for just doing the opposite, which was so aptly displayed when the protesters in Paris held a big poster with Trump’s tongue hanging out like a dog that said, “Make America hate again.”
- Asian Tribune -