LONDON – With all the skill of an experienced arsonist, US President Donald Trump is preparing America for a firestorm. His actions have heightened insecurity, instability, and fear, while potentially making populations elsewhere in the world even more susceptible to political fire-starters. Voters in the United States who thought they were supporting the only capable firefighter around have been played.
But Trump has a knack for manipulating perceptions. To deflect attention from potentially incendiary policies, he launches baseless accusations against his supposed enemies – beginning with the media. Portraying negative coverage as “fake news” has helped Trump to distract from scandals big and small: his family’s conflicts of interest, his dodgy business deals around the world, white supremacists among his senior staff, the rejection of ethics training for senior White House staff, and much else.
Perhaps the most prominent such scandal concerns the string of revelations tying Trump’s administration to Russia, including the resignation of National Security Adviser Michael Flynn over “misleading” the vice president about the nature of his pre-inauguration conversations with Russia’s ambassador to the US. When the charge of “fake news” proved inadequate to silence the whispers, Trump pulled out the big (still imaginary) guns, tweeting that former President Barack Obama had Trump Tower’s “wires tapped” before the election.
Amid the bread and circuses, Trump continues along his path of demolition. His first proposed budget would slash funding for social programs, efforts to reduce drug use and trafficking, the arts, climate science, medical research, education, Meals on Wheels (food delivery for the elderly), financial assistance for low-income college students, the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, and much else. He is determined to eliminate environmental protections as well: one of his first major actions was to eliminate a rule restricting coal companies from dumping mining waste into streams. In the meantime, Trump will pursue his goal of drastically increasing defense spending, even as his policies put some members of US military families at risk of deportation.