On the 20th of January Donald Trump will be inaugurated as President, bringing to an end a bizarre and vicious campaign, and an embarrassing and messy transition period. It is no longer possible to blissfully forget that this man has been elected 45th President of the United States. But in the deluge of constant media coverage, it’s almost easy to forget just how bad this is. So without looking at any of his actual policies, any of the people he has appointed to his cabinet, just to who he is and what he does, here are five reasons it really is that bad.
Conflicts of interest
As numerous legal experts have pointed out, Trump is completely compromised by his business interests. Running the country while owning a massive business is an impossible conflict of interest. Is a man clearly obsessed with wealth really going to make decisions on behalf of the country that hurt his own wallet?
Trump knows this perfectly well, but all his efforts to avoid having such a conflict are a joke. His whole plan essentially boils down to “trust me”. His children are going to run his business, while somehow not telling him about what they’re doing. “Trust me.” The profits (and just the profits, he wouldn’t want to make a loss) from foreign diplomats and leaders staying in his hotels will be donated to the government. “Trust me.” He won’t make any foreign deals or let his interests abroad affect his foreign policy. “Trust me”.
The fact that his attempt to deal with these conflicts of interests is so lazy indicates that he knows very well his business will influence his decisions – but just doesn’t care.
Government is not a business
This business past is also another problem – the government is by no means a business. Trump runs his own business along authoritarian lines. What he says, goes, and if you don’t like it…The government is not that sort of swift, efficient, money-making (or losing) machine. There is an entire bureaucracy of millions of civil servants and experts who need to be listened to and consulted. There are numerous parts of the government that do not make money because they aren’t designed to make money. The system does not work to benefit the man in charge, but the people who rely on it. It is impossible to micromanage and cannot be driven by profit. Yet Trump has given no inclination of having any idea of just how complex it is, and just how different from everything he’s ever known. At least if he tries to execute terrible policies he won’t do so effectively.
The Russia connection
Whether or not Russia actually has blackmail material or leverage over Trump is
impossible to say at this point – but he’s certainly acting like they do. It is an absolutely bizarre sight to see a President-elect taking the side of a foreign autocrat above his own intelligence services, his own party members, and his nation’s allies. Putin seemingly can do no wrong in his eyes.
There are two potential motives for this, both of which do not bode well. The first is simply that when Trump looks at Putin he sees a man he’d like to be – a powerful, ruthless ruler who lets nothing stand in his way. If this is his model of good governance, it doesn’t exactly suggest that Trump will cope well running a democracy.
The second possibility is that Russia indeed has something on Trump. The ‘golden showers’ story (which the media have consistently politely described as ‘salacious’) isn’t even the worst potential scandal. If Trump survived admitting sexual assault on tape, he can survive anything. But if Russia could potentially demonstrate that Trump’s team coordinated with a foreign power to undermine the elections – that’s treason, and cause for impeachment. What Russia could do with that sort of leverage is terrifying.
Whether you like it or not, the US is an indispensable part of the world system. Scores of countries rely on it for security, scores more for economic prosperity, and even their adversaries rely on them to at least be fairly predictable in their stances. Again, this is not something that works for profit – international relations is a complex web of dependencies and alliances.
It is also a web that Trump is swinging a big stick through. The only consistency has been his love affair with Putin. First off, he seems to have nothing but contempt for allies like the NATO states. The fact that alliances like NATO strengthen the US escapes him, the fact that small countries in Europe rely on the US for their security does not bother him. How are countries that the US in turn relies on for cooperation supposed to feel when Trump consistently belittles and attacks them?
Secondly though, Trump also does not understand how vital norms, clarity and tact are in creating a stable world. He doesn’t care of course, because he has always enjoying breaking the rules, but this isn’t New York real estate anymore. Sending a threatening tweet could lead North Korea to panic and launch missiles at Seoul. Failing to make very clear that the US stands behind NATO could lead to the invasion of Estonia. Insulting a foreign leader could sink not only political, but also economic relations.
Interesting times lie ahead – which is probably not a good thing.
Finally, despite his claim to have “the best temperament”, Trump manifestly does not. His public personal at least meets all 9 symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder to a scarily accurate degree – not exactly a character trait you want a public servant to have. Just about everyone who comes into close contact with him has said that he is obsessed with himself and his image, and compelled to lash out at anything he perceives as an insult. He has no regard for the truth, and seemingly feels no shame or regret when caught in a direct lie. He consistently belittles and humiliates others, especially women, and seems to be motivated by revenge and destroying his enemies. And, of course, if we are to believe what he himself and 11 women have said, he has repeatedly sexually assaulted women.
This is the man who is taking on a job requiring more patience, more self-control, more dignity, and more of a cool head than perhaps any other.
So let’s not despair or panic, give up on the US and the world watching this inauguration. But let’s not kid ourselves into forgetting just how bad this can get.