Trump: he really meant what he said

The main message from Donald Trump’s inaugural presidential address is that he “really believes the things he said” on the campaign trail, says Fred Kaplan on Slate.com. In his speech, he “explicitly endorsed protectionism”, proclaiming that from now on it would be “only America first”. Instead of evoking the ideals of the founding fathers, he painted a “bleak, dystopian” vision of America, describing a landscape “beset by gangs”, and littered with dead factories “like tombstones”, adds Michael Waldman in The Washington Post. “This American carnage stops right here and right now,” he said. “Yikes.”

In his first few days as president, he has already taken a “hacksaw” to Obamacare, says Ashitha Nagesh in Metro. The Dakota Access and Keystone XL Pipelines are to go ahead. A ban on the US government funding groups that offer abortion advice abroad has been reinstated.

He’s withdrawn from the Trans-Pacific Partnership and wants to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement. He has vowed to stop China’s incursions in the South China Sea (courting “devastating confrontation”, according to the Chinese state media) and promised to cut regulations and taxes for big business. He has ordered the construction of a Mexican border wall. A crackdown on immigrants and refugees from “terror prone” nations is also on the agenda.

Trump’s agenda amounts to slaughtering a “herd of sacred cows” beloved of previous administrations, says Melanie Phillips in The Times. Straight after his inauguration, the White House wiped off its website pages on LGBT rights, civil rights, climate change and health care. The page on civil rights has been replaced by “Standing up for our law enforcement community”. Trump intends to “dramatically shrink” the state, with government spending set to fall by around $10trn over the next decade. All this marks a “counter-revolution” against a “progressive agenda” that has endured for decades.

We should all be alarmed by his behaviour, says Roger Cohen in The New York Times. To say that the “elected representatives of American democracy are worthless is to lay the foundations of totalitarianism”. The new president is effectively saying that “all that counts is the great leader and the masses he arouses”. To speak of “American carnage” (a reference to crime, drugs and economic decline) is to “deploy the dangerous lexicon of blood, soil and nation”.

To boast of a “historic movement, the likes of which the world has never seen before”, is to demonstrate megalomania. To declaim “America first” is to recall the darkest clarion calls of national dictators. To exalt protectionism is to risk a return to a “world of barriers and confrontation”. To lie, directly or through a spokesman (Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, wrongly accused the media of misreporting low attendance at Trump’s inauguration ceremony), is to “foster the disorientation that makes crowds susceptible to the delusions of strongmen”.

Trump is impulsive, narcissistic, belligerent and vindictive – dangerous traits in a president, says Peter Wehner in the same paper. What happens when hard times hit, when other world leaders don’t bend to his will? We cannot foretell the future, but we can “draw reasonable inferences”. In failing to “distinguish between the good of the nation and his own vanity”, Trump may use the “bully pulpit” and the “power of government” to get his own way and “settle scores”. Because Republicans control Congress, they have the “unique ability” and “institutional responsibility” to confront President Trump. They must do so.

Merryn

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