Belfast Telegraph

Alban Maginness: At a time of crisis the world needs a safe pair of hands in Washington... trouble is, we're stuck with Trump

Given his complete lack of political experience it is no wonder that the president is struggling, says Alban Maginness

The world is in a volatile state, suffering from crises like North Korea, Afghanistan, Syria and even Brexit. All of these problems are exceptionally complex and require the attention of a steady hand and skilful diplomacy. At the very heart of the international system lies the United States of America, which, with its enormous military and economic superpower status, has the capacity to contain, or mitigate, or solve, these global problems.

However, at the centre of the American system is the president, whose role it is to give effective leadership abroad on behalf of the American people. Unfortunately for the US (and, indeed, the rest of the world) there is a major problem and that is that the current president, Donald Trump, is so dysfunctional and inept that the current international crises are being made worse.

Without a competent American president, the whole system is in danger of sliding close to a very dangerous cliff edge.

The difficulty with Trump is that he is incompetent and incapable of managing the complex governance of the US. It is not that he is ideologically to the Right or that he is a racist. Indeed, it might be a relief if he actually held some political beliefs and had some discernible and predictable political agenda.

The fact is that he is not capable of governing in an efficient, or effective, manner.

Take his latest outrageous decision to pardon 85-year-old former Sheriff Joe Arpaio, convicted of ignoring a court order to stop detaining Hispanics on suspicion of them being illegal immigrants. His actions were deemed illegal, as it amounted to racial profiling of Hispanic people.

The pardon has rightly outraged American public opinion and, notably, the Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives, Paul Ryan, who is by no means a cuddly liberal politician.

He said: "Law-enforcement officials have a special responsibility to respect the rights of everyone in the United States."

This scandalous decision follows on from his disastrous comments about white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia. After the death of an innocent anti-fascist protester, Heather Heyer, during a lawful public demonstration, he publicly stated that many sides were to blame for the violence. After severe criticism from politicians - including his own Republican Party supporters in Congress - he specifically condemned the white supremacists, but again repeated shortly afterwards that there was blame on both sides.

What marks out this incident is his incapacity to appreciate that what he was saying is politically damaging and divisive in racially polarised America. Everything points to his inability to be a competent politician.

Virginia is only the tip of the iceberg. Since his election, there has hardly been one political decision that he has taken that could be regarded as a success.

His attempts to reform Obamacare have failed on a grand scale. Twice he tried and twice he failed to get a new, reformed medical care Bill through the Senate that his own Republican Party controls.

He has publicly criticised and humiliated his own attorney-general, the highly respected ex-senator Jeff Sessions. And, if Sessions were to resign, he would have a serious problem getting a replacement through a wary and suspicious Congress.

In addition, his serial sacking of top presidential aides has become like a soap opera. His administration appears to be split into warring factions and has become a public laughing-stock.

His relations with the media remain hostile and counterproductive. The media were, of course, negative and hostile towards him during the election campaign, but his failure to make peace with them after his election has been a major failing.

His recent announcement that he will not withdraw American military personnel from Afghanistan is a huge policy reversal, given that he promised to do so during his campaign.

The fact is: Trump is not a politician. Unlike his predecessors, Trump has never held a public office, such as Governor or Senator. Given his lack of experience, it is no wonder that he is not up to the job and that his administration is chaotic. Therefore, in the Oval Office in the White House is a man who is grossly inexperienced in public affairs, but holds the most powerful political office in the world.

He reminds me of the drunk on a Friday night in the pub, who buttonholes you and tells you how the world should be run.

The problem here is that the drunk has been elected and has sobered up, but is incapable of carrying out the task of governing.

It would not be surprising, given the level of public anxiety about President Trump and his shambolic administration, that he might be forced to resign. Alternatively, impeachment lurks ominously in the background over his election campaign's alleged Russian connections.

His future is doubtful.

Belfast Telegraph

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