More Trumpery

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Dictionary meaning of trumpery:

1. Showy but worthless finery, bric-a-brac.

2. Nonsense; rubbish.

3. Deception; trickery; fraud.

“Trumpery” is a strongly pejorative word. Some American politicians in the past have used similar language to describe the persona of Donald John Trump. Let me hasten to explain myself: I have used it mainly as a catchy title to this blog without necessarily subscribing to its severe putdowns of the 45th president of the United States. The reason is that the above mentioned politicians probably had firsthand knowledge of President Trump in his previous incarnations in Reality TV and real estate. My appreciation of Trump is secondhand based on his demeanor, his mannerisms, and what he says about other people, friend or foe. Some persons that he has appointed to the Cabinet, he has praised lavishly. The repetition of the word “great” and “fantastic” for them appears insincere although loaded with generous dollops of treacle. On the other hand, about his opponents, Trump uses description and words aimed at arousing strong passions usually of revulsion and hate. The media which has been generally critical of his doings has been called the “enemy of the people”. This kind of terminology appears to be from the playbook of previous demagogues particularly of 20th century vintage, who did succeed initially in beguiling and befooling the masses, but whose political end was ignominious. Such oratorical mastery proves successful for a while but eventually the hollowness shows through the mask. Here I am reminded of the first stanza of the masterly poem by T.S. Eliot:

We are the hollow men

We are the stuffed men

Leaning together

Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!

Our dried voices, when

We whisper together

Are quiet and meaningless

As wind in dry grass

Or rats’ feet over broken glass

In our dry cellar

One thing creditable about Trump is that like the British bull dog breed, he keeps trying to implement his agenda even when thwarted. I refer to his recent executive order – the second one, the first having been dismissed earlier by the judges – banning travel from six Muslim majority countries. Interestingly, Iraq has been taken off the list in the latest order as someone in the Trump administration probably realized that annoying Iraq at this stage when the US, Iraq, Russia, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, the Kurds and perhaps other groups are all invested in driving the Islamic state out of Mosul, would be significantly counterproductive.

I happen to be watching the BBC recently which was interviewing Trita Parsi, the well-known and respected President of the National Iranian American Council. Parsi made the point that he could not understand why the six countries (Sudan, Somalia, Libya, Syria, Iran, Yemen) had been included in the travel ban when not a single citizen of these countries had taken part in terrorist activities in the United States. Instead, Parsi revealed that around 94% of the attacks on US soil have been perpetrated by nationals of Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf States. Parsi also said that the ban while couched in more benign lawyerly terms still could be accused of religious discrimination. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and other well-known advocacy groups will mount a legal challenge to this ban as being against the US constitutional provisions. The affected countries concerned have not unexpectedly condemned the ban. Trump’s standing in the Islamic world is likely to take a serious hit as many informed analysts suggest that the ban will not make America safer than before.

Another interesting news in the media concerned Khizr Khan whose harsh criticism of Trump at the Democratic National Convention last summer, had made international news. Khan belongs to the category of Gold Star parents who have lost a child while defending the United States in its wars abroad. Khan’s 27 year old son Army captain Humayun Khan, had died fighting in Iraq in 2004. Khizr Khan, according to the media, had to cancel a speaking engagement in Toronto on March 7th after he learned that his “travel privileges are being reviewed”. The media further stated that it was not clear why the US authorities had decided to review Khan’s travel privileges (whatever that implies), but legal experts say his “trusted traveler” status, and not his travel rights were under review. The focus on Khizr Khan by the Trump administration might be seen by some observers as a continuation of the vendetta between Trump and the Gold Star parent which began at the time of the Democratic Convention. Trump is now the President and if these reports are accurate, it does not behoove him to embarrass or punish Khan for being his political opponent. Adverse publicity such as this one could possibly affect his already low ratings.

Some knowledgeable observers who may be friendly to Trump have advised him to change his policies and tactics if he wants to emerge into more tranquil political waters. The $64,000 question, however, is whether Donald Trump is capable of reinventing himself.

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