Tuesday, March 7, 2017


In six weeks President Trump has set many records. He alienated allies, he shell- shocked a large majority of Americans, he alienated the media, he reversed civility and legitimated alternative facts. Besides, he is surrounded of a cabinet of mostly angry men who openly profess wanting to euthanize all they are supposed to manage:  environment, climate, schools, equal opportunity, health care, justice, housing, non-discrimination, essential ingredients of foreign policy. Not a day goes by without an embarrassing tweet, leak or odd body language. This so-called president is a gift for analysts of behavior misdemeanors. 

The United States is now the realization of a Joan Didion prophecy, a country divided, heading into a "not lite" cultural war between red and blue states. Trump chooses to be his own Potemkin, addressing adoring fans in between stops in friendly territory on his weekend trips to Mar-a-Lago.  He acts as Steve Bannon's mouthpiece, considering a holy war against Islam and taking the East or West coast "elites" for de facto agents in undermining real American values. 

While North Korea tests his mettle, Russia and China play cat to this dumb Mickey Mouse, the Europeans look for shelter and the world watches with disbelief at the roof collapsing. The new immigration rules are as unnecessary and insulting as the former ones, but etiquette or respect do not figure in this White House vocabulary. 

One can now be tempted to write America off from the world order. Logic and rules do not apply any longer. The American secretary of State is a non-entity both in person and in words while the president's worldview or historical references do not reach further than the branding of a name in some indifferent, paying country. This president and his administration are already pariahs in the eyes of former US unconditionals. I bet that the British P.M. must regret the invitation she too hastily extended to this troublemaker-in-chief. 

Unfortunately, four years is a long time. I am not even sure if Trump's base will find out it has been cheated. Coal waste gets a free ride, health care becomes a political organizational nightmare, Dodd/Frank sits in a funeral urn, LGBTQ rights are left in the waiting room, pro-life's dictatorship rules.  The war against the media is in full swing under the baton of i.a. Boris Epshteyn and Kellyanne Conway, who continue to "entertain " the faithful. No wonder there is no time left for consideration of what to do seriously about trade, the Middle East, Asia, the EU, NATO, Latin America, the Paris climate change agreement, the Iran dossier, the Korean peninsula, the NPT, the various strategic agreements with Russia, Ukraine, the South and East China Seas...and one can go on! The State Department has become a funeral parlor! Putin the Hacker, got upgraded to super stardom without having to lift a finger (well...) or to invade, thanks to the Trump machine.  The cover page of the New Yorker tells it all.

La nature a horreur du vide. One should beware of overdosing on sarcasm when the American roof is leaking. The West needs US co-leadership. The US needs the "other" from abroad if they do not want to return to a provincial, bigoted provincialism. American culture is a glass half-full.  If spilled, there is no longer an inspiration for excellence. The great American culture saga has been threatened before and, as was the case elsewhere, it returned with a vengeance. The difference is that it is now under fire from a kind of Bannon-organized conter-reformation assault which seeks to replace "messy" creativity with flat American Gothic. The president has no clue but doesn't really care as long as he keeps his toys and his cult remains fooled/happy. Similar forces are active in parts of Western and Eastern Europe. Since the American mirror no longer reflects but deflects, the overall picture becomes dangerously blurred. The West grinds on for now, but for how long?

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