Sunday, 22 January 2017

In Trump we trust: the accidentally good President.

The era of Trump has begun. 4 years of first-rate madness shall take the helm of the highest office of the land. I should therefore constantly remind myself to stop wishing for a morally sanitized president of the US of A. To borrow Romans 3:10: "There is no one righteous, not even one".

In fact, leaders at the highest office are the pick of the litter here. What the pariah democratic cat drags in should be the best we can hope for, for now, and let's make do with make do please. If you think about it, what is a 4-year short stint in the Oval Office? They come and go. Just pretend he is doing some internship in the White house. A small dent here, a quick fix there, and it's time's up. Before you know it, one term is done, good riddance right?

Well, I can think of another re-election surprise in 2020. But then, let's take one term at a time please. Life is too short for catastrophe prediction. Or maybe things might just surpass all our critical expectations? You never know.

Now, there's no denying that President Trump is what he is. He makes no apology for his buffoonery, even if half of the world thinks he is wrong (and the other half are practically brain dead to his antics). He is morally indefensible, incredulous even. He belittles, insults and mocks women. He is obnoxiously rude. He relishes in outrageous boast. He is as humble as that pharmaceutical mogul, Martin Shkreli, who raised the price of a vital drug used to treat Aids by 55-fold. He thinks he is the smartest man alive. He is filthy rich and makes sure you never forget about it. In fact, he took a journalist to court for questioning his net worth.

At most times, he is tactless, witless, shameless, and clueless. He lies. He misleads. He wants to bed a married woman. He backtracks. He defrauds. He pays no taxes. And oh yes, he gropes too with panache. But now, he is the President of the United States. So suck it all up please.

John Adams once said that "Public virtues cannot exists in a Nation without private Virtue." Well, obviously the 2nd US President has not met the likes or equivalent of the 45th US President in his time.

Nevertheless, at least for President Trump, his enduring virtue is that he's the least hypocritical of all the 44 presidents (playing with semantics here). His public and private lives differ little. Apart from his taxes and his close relationship with Putin, he hides nothing from the public. He is one with himself whether he's before the crowd or in his private room. He will tell you what's in his head – no filter whatsoever. Raw honesty. Mind you, what he reveals in public, however distasteful or detestable, is what he is in private, and that is what endears him to his supporters. One fan at the inauguration said: "I was always a big fan. I like how he is forward with people, tells it like it is."

Trump’s candidness, however annoying and brain-numbing, is his strongest suit next to his mindless, twitter-triggered, brutal honesty. This is the same Twitter-in-Chief who tweets this in 2013: "Sorry losers and haters, but my IQ is one of the highest - and you all know it! Please don't feel so stupid or insecure, it's not your fault."

You could almost hear this as the back-masking message in his inauguration speech yesterday. It is like what Bart Simpson would say: "Eat my shorts losers!"

I guess the only time his forthrightness falters a tad bit is when he gave his uncharacteristic inauguration speech where he extols the people more than himself. That's definitely a rare feat for the newly minted POTUS who is known to have singlehandedly elevated narcissism to a household virtue.  

Now, while Pastor John Piper calls President Trump "morally unqualified" and I do not disagree with him, I am stuck with a mirror reflecting my own image and telling myself to define what is morally unqualified. I guess John Piper had in mind a life that is unrepentant because it lacks self-reflection.

Yet, isn’t it all a matter of degree here from one person to the other? This reminds me of when Jesus admonished the anger crowd with these words: "Let those who are without sin cast the first stone."

Sure, Jesus is not telling us not to judge and I will shamelessly do so here (ah, a Trump moment!), but he is telling us to guard our hearts, for the straight and narrow way has many unexpected twists and turns that lead us astray too.

Even bearing that in mind, I’m further reminded of the many Commander-in-Chiefs before Trump who were morally questionable, if not ambiguous. An infamous example is Richard "I am not a crook" Nixon. And we all know about JFK's monstrous libidinal Presidency where he would "engage in extensive sexual activity, including visiting prostitutes and probably contracting venereal diseases." He is thus highly energetic, charming and hypersexual.

Along this promiscuous line, we have Bill Clinton and his sexcapades with his interns, the most famous one being Monica Lewinsky. And apart from sexual indiscretion, we also have past presidents and leaders who are neurotic, maniacal, egotistical, tyrannical and even suicidal. They also suffered from bipolar depression, terrible melancholy and borderline psychosis.

Every President therefore has a closet full of skeletons in the White House. They bring it with them at the start of their term and take it back with them when their term ends. That's the part of history that will never change. The difference here is that President Trump just needs a little closet space than his predecessors, that’s all. No biggie.

Martin Luther King once said that "human salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted" and LKY rather be "unreasonable" than reasonable because the latter group of leaders shakes up and transforms the world. And let's not forget what Abe Lincoln said: "It's my experience that folks who have no vices have generally very few virtues."

I guess if we want a perfect government, we should consider theocracy instead of democracy? Just kidding…terrible joke I know.
My point however is captured in the plea of Trump's daughter, Ivanka. She said: "My father is an incredible unifier. For every critic, I would say give him time. Let him come into office. Let him prove you wrong. I say, give my father a chance."

Well, who can resist the earnest plea of a daughter for her dad right? Save for the "incredible unifier" part, maybe the anti-Trump in us should give him a chance to prove us wrong. Maybe President Trump is good for America at such unprecedented (or “unpresidented”) time. They say in time of crisis, we need a raving mad leader to shake things up and not a mentally sound one to mollycoddle the status quo. We therefore do not need a pat of the back in time of crisis, but a push off the cliff.

Professor in psychiatry, Nassir Ghaemi, once wrote that “the best crisis leaders are either mentally ill or mentally abnormal; the worst crisis leaders are mentally healthy.” I guess Americans got theirs just right. Are we then in his good stubby hands?

In the same way that Obama asked for a change 8 years ago, Trump is asking for his too. And while Obama's call for change tends to put a smile on your face, Trump's call for one is just in-your-face.

His obnoxious personality is mostly foisted on us by the sheer force of the ballot box of disillusionment. But it is obvious that the people are the least bothered by the alleged lurid sexual details in Moscow, the rape accusations from women (one as young as 13 who dropped the suit), his recent $25 million settlement of the Trump University fraud lawsuits, and his numerous bankruptcies filed on behalf of his casino empire since 1991. He in fact took pride in using the bankruptcy law to outwit, outsmart and outdo his lenders. He said, “These lenders aren’t babies. These are not the nice, sweet little people.

The problem is that many small American businesses suffered because of the exploitative and predatory ways he did business with them. He simply refused to pay them. Over three decades, his companies were involved in more than 3,500 lawsuits, mostly from ordinary Americans.

Yet, despite all that, Trump still prevailed and got the coveted golden ticket to the White House. Just for that alone, I think he should be heartily congratulated – that’s worth more than a Nobel Prize that Obama got!

I guess what the people like about Trump is that he is a man of action, and action brings hope, and hope brings people together, and this rally of the spirit is what America desperately need right now. Whichever way you slice and dice it, we are suckers for novelty and anything new (rather than have another 4 years of "same o' same o'") feeds on our sense of thrills, excitement and adventure.

Now, it is obvious that people didn't vote for Trump on his moral strength. They voted for him on his promises concerning bread and butter issues like jobs, pay, security, equality and neutrality - he is not from the political establishment, full stop.

So, for the sake of this collective declaration of action and hope, maybe we should just forget about his character or the lack of it for the next 4 years.

Let me end with this. Roosevelt was once asked why he asked political opponents to serve in his administration and he said: "You know, a man will do a lot of right things for the wrong reasons." (this quote will come in handy as my conclusion).

I think Trump, who boasts about being the smartest man in the room, has met his match, that is, the Presidency. Before this, he was king of his castle, ruler of his business empire and imperial lord of the duff star (sorry, suffering from withdrawal symptoms of trumpititis). At that time, he was only accountable to himself and his bottom-line is profit, profit, profit.

Now, he faces a different test, his personal furnace of fire – that is, the Oval Office and everything sacrosanct about it. Unlike in a totalitarian regime, where dictators like Kim, Saddam and Gaddafi could do everything with impunity, all eyes will be watching Trump for the next 4 years in the democracy founded on a fortified constitution and based on life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

He may be a real estate billionaire, but there is one estate he has yet to, and will never, conquer, that is, the fifth estate (the social media and the outlier press). They will be taking notes feverishly. They will be there for good or bad. And they will be asking difficult, tough questions.

So, instead of changing the world by riding high in golden tassels on the Office of the Presidency, Trump may just be humbled by the same Office he’d fought so hard for as it may now be demanding more from him over the next 4 years than he wishes to offer, accede and negotiate with.

Let’s just hope that the integrity of the Oval Office would be able to make an honest man out of Trump. Let’s just hope it would be a taming-of-the-shrew experience for him. And if it is not meant to be, well, I guess that Roosevelt's observation would come in handy as Plan B, that is, President Trump may just do a lot of right things for the wrong reasons. A consolation prize?

Alas, if we can't get a morally improved President at the expiry of his term, it is hoped that we can at least end up with an accidentally good one. Cheerz.

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