So, with Donald Trump’s Wonderland starting with his inauguration in just eight days, what are your impressions about the American president-elect and his likely effect on us?
For me, it’s the emerging thought that we’re all going to die – and, possibly, fairly soon. But, looking to the positives, as I always do, we should at least have some laughs on the way.
Watching his first press conference as president-elect yesterday afternoon confirmed, for me at least, the sheer enormity of what the American people have done. God, they must have been angry! Though, given the choice they had, I don’t really blame them.
But now we all have to live with that choice and the omens, frankly, don’t look good. Donald Trump’s Wonderland looks a scary place.
It’s not just that he’s politically inexperienced and is, therefore, more vulnerable to manipulation by the likes of Vladimir Putin. Or that his head could be turned by the assortment of multi-billionaires, fossil-fuel magnates and right-wing ideologues.
It’s not even that he appears to lack a vision beyond that of deal-maker and the vagaries of Making America Great Again. Whatever that eventually means.
It’s all about him
It’s that he’s simply not temperamentally equipped for the task. And without the temperamental qualities, he’s unlikely to learn the lessons and grow into the job. Can he earn the respect to keep the whole shebang going? Will he avoid being impeached or assassinated on the way?
As his first press conference as president-elect illustrated all too clearly, Donald Trump’s Wonderland is all about him. To be fair, the event itself was stupendous entertainment: chaotic, meandering and, in places, unintentionally funny. (Displaying all those piles of business documents – what was that all about?).
So it started with him telling us that he has actually been doing something useful. He’s been working hard to bring all those jobs back to America. But he had the manner of a child seeking acceptance to ensure he received his daily allowance of sweets.
And then, as he turned to the dossier about his links with and activities in Russia, his worst trait came to the fore. He saw everything in terms of a personal vendetta or love affair … for him. Donald Trump’s Wonderland is quite a small place, after all.
If you’re nice to him, then you’re a great guy. Do anything he doesn’t like – which might include simply doing your job – then you’re the scum of the Earth and you deserve to rot in hell. And if thats what you deserve, then there’s a place for you in Donald Trump’s Wonderland.
And so it was with the serried ranks of journalists seated before him – “some of whom haven’t treated me very well over the years”. Trump then thanked a number of journalists for not publishing or reporting on the dossier compiled by former M16 spook Christopher Steele.
For Trump, however, the editorial judgement on covering the dossier farrago was not about whether it was in the public interest. It was about whether it was nice to him.
As it turned out, Buzzfeed, CNN and others decided to publish because it had already gone up the food chain. Barack Obama and the top Congressional leaders been briefed on its contents by the CIA, and Republican John McCain thought it so serious that he passed the dossier to the FBI.
Trump roundly condemned those media outlets who covered the story. He even refused to take a question from CNN’s reporter Jim Acosta because his “news organisations is terrible”, before adding: “You are fake news.” Donald Trump’s Wonderland doesn’t welcome journalists.
Trump is the most thin-skinned of men. And, in his mind, it’s only fair and reasonable to put his own personal interests before the country. Even Fox News presenter Shephard Smith defended Acosta and CNN’s coverage as reflecting due “journalistic standards”.
So here we are. After Barack Obama’s scandal-free eight years in the White House, Trump’s belligerence and disregard for rules was always going to be a shock. But though his public persona has always suggested otherwise, he inability to de-escalate a ‘personal vendetta’ does come as a surprise. He’s a control freak. He just cannot let anything go.
Consequently, though his economic agenda, such as it is, could prove a welcome change, he has surely made too many enemies within his own country to implement them effectively. And that’s assuming his agenda hasn’t already being hijacked by his right-wing Republican colleagues.
Lots of outcasts in Donald Trump’s Wonderland
He has a historically-low approval rating for a president-elect. In addition to journalists, he has also already attacked the judiciary, the CIA, the Carrier workers union leader Chuck Jones and the cast of Hamilton. That’s on top of Mexicans, Hispanics, the Chinese, people with disabilities, women and climate scientists.
And if Steele’s dossier is accurate, then this whole affair shows how Trump’s opportunistic approach and lack of experience makes him vulnerable to manipulation. Whether accurate or not, Putin can use plausible deniability to distance himself from the dossier, happy that he’ll enter Donald Trump’s Wonderland to find a deal on sanctions and Arctic oil.
China, however, could easily be a much more challenging adversary. As could his own voters if he doesn’t deliver on his promise of jobs and a better standard of living.
Ultimately, Trump’s personality faces a stern test. He needs to develop more than the two modes – unctuous appreciation of the goodies and vindictive abusiveness towards the baddies – that we’ve seen to date. That seems unlikely, though.
In his current state, he reminds me of a modern, male equivalent of the Queen of Hearts, from Alice in Wonderland. And no one in their right mind would give her access to all those nuclear buttons.