Make no mistake about it: America has elected Marine Le Pen, Joseph McCarthy and Bull Connor as President. It’s actually happened.
The wall may or may not be built, but the authoritarian crackdown promised in the election was no idle threat. Trump’s cabinet, as his campaign was, will be littered with what’s worst about America, with Newt Gingrich already dreaming of getting the band back together at HUAC. Some who should have known better were asleep, claiming that a singularly sociopathic bully in the Oval Office would be pinioned by law, somehow not realizing how much evil this aspiring war criminal could accomplish between the lines.
One such person was James Baker. While it’s no surprise Donald Rumsfeld spouted his tortured word salad in favor of Trump, the former Bush 41 Secretary of State should have been alarmed by what he was hearing. He was not.
In a Financial Times profile written by Lionel Barber in June, Baker didn’t take the opportunity to chide Trump for his racism, xenophobia, Mussolini-ish machinations, mockery of the disabled and military veterans, megalomania and spoiled-brat behavior, focusing instead on questions of power and policy. Such pragmatism may not be surprising for a lifelong political operator, but it’s still disappointing. An excerpt:
As a Bush loyalist, Baker is too discreet to talk about the abject failure of Jeb Bush’s campaign. Insiders say he was disappointed that the former Florida governor spent so much time talking about the past and the Bush dynasty rather than his own plans for the future. Trump’s “low energy” jibe struck a chord with voters, like his invective about immigration and blue-collar workers losing out in the age of globalisation. “That’s the thing about Trump. As much as we might disagree with his position, the voters don’t.” he says. “The question is whether a ‘faceless’ establishment decides where our party goes or do the voters.” …
The number one foreign policy challenge for the US is China, he says.
“We have to be smart enough to manage the differences,” he says.
And how might a President Trump manage those differences, I ask. Baker offers general advice only.
“Isolationism and protectionism won’t work. Don’t talk no trade deals; make a better deal. Don’t talk about making Japan and South Korea nuclear powers. Don’t talk about negotiating down the American debt.”
I try one last shot. Are America and its institutions strong enough to survive any shock, even one as seismic as Donald Trump in the White House?
“Yes,” declares Baker, emphatically.
“I won’t get my panties in a wedge because of what I am hearing from the political candidates. What they say in the campaign and what they do once they are in the White House are not the same thing.”•