Mr Trump and Mr Biden

This is an english version of a piece that appeared elsewhere in Turkish:

The controversy surrounding the election of the 46th US President reached its conclusion today with the ceremonial “swearing-in” and a poll that suggests President Biden personally commands slightly more approval than did George W Bush at the same point and certainly more than his predecessor Donald Trump scored when he became President (however large the inaugural crowd)- and Mr Trump has entered the record book as the only post World War 2 president never to achieve a positive approval rating at any time during his tenure. The public response to Biden, however, is perhaps more positive than we might have expected especially because there remains a growing belief throughout the US since the 2008 financial crisis that things have gone wrong. Biden’s call to “end this uncivil war that pits red against blue” was wise, as was the intense security around the Capitol. He has to move fast and to be seen to be in control after so much chaos. He has followed up the oath of office with a hasty move to issue 17 executive orders that will reverse key features of the outgoing administration. One of these will see the US rejoin the Paris Climate accord, and another will halt the ban on visitors from certain muslim countries- this latter may be an academic exercise in the light of pandemic travel restrictions but it is an important diplomatic signal, as also is Biden’s plan to visit the UK in the near future, and to meet the Prime Minister who had openly supported Trump.

I hope we shall see a reversal of the zero-tolerance policy on immigration and I hope the horror stories of children taken from their families and forced into immigration camps in the US will become a thing of the past. Only today, the story of a 9 year old Haitain boy, Vladimir Fardin, hit the British press and his incarceration, as well as scant news about his current location, is shocking. A lead from Biden on this issue may send a message to our own Home Secretary as borders tighten following Brexit.

The big question is whether Biden will lend his active support to plans to put Mr Trump on trial before the senate. One of the great bits of advice from Winston Churchill is to be “magnanimous in victory” but equally the same Churchill text goes on to vow “defiance in defeat”, something his predecessor has certainly taken to heart. But there is a practical issue:  a Trump trial will delay Biden’s ambitious agenda as well as further embitter a disturbingly loyal, vocal and active following which has so far shown little sign of backing down, has stormed Washington and has interestingly shown an unwavering level of support over the 4 tumultuous years of Trump’s presidency.

At the same time, and despite that support base, Mr Trump is an image of bitter defeat, even if reluctantly he finally conceded. In this, Trump, like the tennis player Serena Williams, sets a bad example- she called the umpire a “thief”, he said the election was “stolen”.

It is easy to paint Trump, who exploited national grievances, disinformation and his own celebrity cult, as the villain in this story, but of one thing we can be sure- he did not coin the phrase “Stop the steal” which can now be heard around Washington. That goes back to 2016 and there are two competing stories: one is Ted Cruz’s attempt to grab the Republican nomination from Trump and the other is Hillary Clinton’s defeat by Trump. Mrs Clinton was questioning the validity of the electoral process long before Trump.

Last night, I was delighted to meet Eliza Orlins who is one of the candidates for the upcoming race to be the New York District Attorney and to replace an increasingly unpopular Cy Vance. What was clear from our conversation was that none of the candidates doubt that Mr Trump’s tax situation appears irregular. Whatever happensto him in the Senate, therefore, Donald Trump is almost certain to come to court in New York whoever wins the DA race. This will be a sensational postscript to his presidency.

But Eliza went further and criticized Cy Vance for dropping cases against the Trump family. Had they been pursued, and had there been less cronyism and less pandering to the New York elite, she believes a Trump presidency could never have happened.

Mr Trump’s one-term presidency began in January 2017 with ominous reference to “American carnage” and that carnage was delivered on 6th January with 5 people dead on the steps of the Capitol. Until that point, many International observers may have been egging him on as “the devil you know”, but his behaviour after Biden’s victory has been shameful and it will be very difficult now for an American presidency to ever again voice concerns about contested elections in other parts of the world or, indeed, to claim that America is the bastion of democracy whatever Biden may have asserted when he said that “Democracy has prevailed”. One thing is abundantly clear to his administration and to the watching world: America’s international reputation has been gravely injured by this election.


Author: timewilson

animator director and teacher

One thought on “Mr Trump and Mr Biden”

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