After an embarrassing state visit, Rupa Huq ponders whether the future’s orange
The whirlwind known as the Trump bandwagon – consisting of El Presidente, his legions of bum-wipers, family members including offspring of various wives along the way and security detail – has now left our shores. The man is certainly an enigma but the break from the norm that places him firmly outside even the usual Republican Party tradition is worrying on many levels. George W Bush expressed his disgust for the man and didn’t vote for him.
Times change and Bush Junior choking on a pretzel seems to be an incident from another era, notwithstanding its prelude to an unnecessary and ill-judged, if not illegal, war. We appear to be in the age of right-wing hard-men with the likes of Putin, Orban, Bolsanaro and Farage. Many thrive on demonising vulnerable and minority communities in their path to power. There certainly is a long list of categories Trump’s offended: his mocking of a disabled reporter, his comments on grabbing women by the nether regions, his caging of Mexican kids that he separates on the border from parents, the Muslims which he banned from the US… these have all raised eyebrows as well as opprobrium.
Nothing is off-limits: he’s insulted royalty in Meghan Markle, who he called “nasty”; Theresa May, for her handling of the EU; and has little regard for the international rules-based order, be it NATO, the UN, EU or Paris Climate Change agreement. For those desiring a no deal Brexit, his trashing of the WTO is most unwelcome too.
He tends to give jobs to friends and family: the middle east is now subject to a redrawing of its boundaries by his son in law in what is promised to be the “deal of the century”, but scepticism abounds after unilaterally moving the Israeli embassy from Tel Aviv to shared Jerusalem and withdrawing funding from UNWRA, the UN’s human rights arm which funds Palestinian refugees amongst other things. Trump prefers to put up walls rather than build bridges. The sabre rattling over Iran after tearing up the nuclear deal, causing hardship and suffering to innocent civilians via punitive sanctions, is not the action of a man of peace.
In the end, this latest visit went off as the one the year before, including audience with the Queen, angry protests, balloon shaped like a Trump-baby and awkward pics with Theresa May. In 2018 he’d had to swerve to avoid London from his route. This time a day’s recess was contrived so that he didn’t have to address Parliament, which John Bercow was dead set against. The PM, who rushed over with indecent haste to suck up to him on his election in desperation for post Brexit trade deals, is now a lame duck alas. Indeed the most controversial moment was his revelation that the NHS ‘would’ be up for grabs in a future trade deal. He didn’t seem to be the world’s biggest expert on our health service. When “America first” is his mantra, and he’s a businessman good at sealing deals to his benefit, he’s not too fussed about world-class treatment for all free at the point of use. Indeed when questioned on the NHS he seems to not even have a vague acquaintance with the initials, but he did stress how everything would be on the table.
I was never for banning Trump outright but felt allowing him the rarity of a state visit was wrong – he was only the third ever US President in history to get one. Jeremy Corbyn was right to boycott the state dinner and right when he said before Trump’s election, when the orange faced one was blathering on about no-go zones of London, that he ought to come and see Finsbury Park Mosque. Had I entertained him I’d have taken him to Ealing’s synagogues and its mosques, our Quaker meeting house, Polish church and other ecclesiastical community to demonstrate the multi-faith patchwork harmony locally.
Twice in a row now Britain has become a part of Trump’s ego trip and now increasingly imminent re-election campaign. Apart from the first George Bush and Jimmy Carter it’s very rare for US Presidents not to get a second whack. Let’s just hope that the sad slogan from the early days of mobiles ‘the future is orange’ doesn’t come to fruition.