Favorite

No one in charge 

The American president has long been described with the honorific "Leader of the Free World." No more.

The American president has long been described with the honorific "Leader of the Free World." No more. Donald Trump basically surrendered the title during the recent G20 summit in Germany.

Even the Russians were offended by Trump's pointless abandonment of the Paris climate accord — pointless because it's a purely voluntary agreement with no enforcement mechanisms. The president imagines a worldwide scientific conspiracy, which most educated adults recognize as impossible.

Trump's Polish speech was also seen as problematic. By endorsing a Manichean, good vs. evil defense of "the West" — defined, Putin-style, entirely in racial and religious terms — Trump was widely suspected of scorning multi-ethnic European democracies like Germany, France and Great Britain. Not to mention Asian ones like Japan, South Korea and India.

The West, so defined, excludes most of the world's population, although it definitely includes the Confederate States of America.

However, relatively few thought Trump actually grasped the full implications of the tribalized worldview he expressed.

Somebody wrote a speech; Trump read it. Our allies can only guess who's in charge at the White House: traditional defenders of NATO like Defense Secretary James Mattis and National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster?

Or blood-and-soil "populists" like Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller, the author of the Warsaw speech defining ISIS as a grave civilizational threat? — an all-but-defeated terrorist organization with no army, navy or air force.

In reality, of course, the single greatest threat to the integrity of Western democracy is the Kremlin. But hold that thought.

The correct answer to who's in charge of U.S. foreign policy is nobody. And certainly not Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who served as the president's minder during his ballyhooed meeting with Vladimir Putin.

At the White House level, the U.S. doesn't have a foreign policy. Trumpism is best understood as a cult of personality with a worldview rooted in WWE professional wrestling, where race, ethnicity and tribal loyalties prevail. 

But equally important, where long-nurtured enmities and alliances alike can be reversed almost overnight.

Everything depends upon protagonist's whims — that is to say Trump himself. In the WWE, the operative term for these scripted melodramas is "kayfabe" — possibly what the president meant when he tweeted the nonsense word "covfefe."

Wikepedia defines it thus: "portrayal of staged events within the industry as 'real' or 'true,' specifically the portrayal of competition, rivalries, and relationships between participants as being genuine and not of a staged or predetermined nature."

Just so Trump's meeting with Putin, which for all the hullabaloo was basically a made-for-TV spectacle of little real import. One day Trump boasted that he and his new best friend Vlad were going to set up a U.S./Russian cybersecurity task force. But after Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) described it as maybe the dumbest idea he'd ever heard, the president abruptly dropped it.

Just kidding!

Otherwise, the headline on Russian expatriate Masha Gessen's New York Times commentary said it all: "Trump gave Putin exactly what he wanted." Specifically, a co-starring role, along with no serious criticism for such Kremlin pastimes as executing journalists and cyberattacks on other countries' elections.

Otherwise, Putin got little in real-world terms apart from the ego-boost of occupying center stage with the president of the United States, whom, like an ambitious prostitute, he was clever enough to flatter.

Loosens Trump up like WD-40.

Every single time.

However, the good news is that even a GOP congress won't let the president give Putin anything concrete, such as a free hand in Ukraine, or redress from economic sanctions. Russia holds Crimea, but at a cost Trump can't relieve. Otherwise, Putin's scheming has pretty much backfired.

But what really seems to animate Trump himself is his ongoing feud with CNN — the cable network that basically made him president. Following the president's recent tweeting of a WWE video showing him pummeling a figure labeled CNN — not so much an incitement to violence as to stupidity — I was struck by this from a Washington Post profile of correspondent Jim Acosta:

Covering this White House, Acosta said, is like "covering bad reality television."

No kidding. Also, however, by White House spokesman Sean Spicer's appraisal of Acosta: "He's the prime example of a [reporter in a] competitive, YouTube, click-driven industry ... . He's recognized that if you make a spectacle on the air then you'll get more airtime and more clicks."

Who better than Spicer to understand?

So were you aware that CNN President Jeff Zucker personally masterminded Trump's program "The Apprentice" when he presided over NBC Entertainment? And that Trump received an estimated $5.8 billion in free coverage from CNN and the rest — more than twice that of any other candidate — while cable news ratings and profits soared?

Also that ratings continue to grow for CNN as the Trump/Comey/Putin kayfabe drives news coverage? You may disdain professional wrestling, or, like me, never seen a single episode of "The Apprentice."

But we're all watching it now.

Favorite

From the ArkTimes store

Comments (5)

Showing 1-5 of 5

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-5 of 5

Add a comment

Readers also liked…

  • Not again

    This just in: Nothing boosts circulation or enhances ratings like a sex scandal.
    • Jan 14, 2016
  • Never wrong

    Quite a few people make noises about leaving the country if the wrong person gets elected president. I've been making discreet inquiries in the vicinity of Kinsale, County Cork, myself — from whence my people emigrated after 1880.
    • Apr 21, 2016
  • Hillary hit jobs

    It's always been my conviction that if Hillary Clinton could be appointed president, she'd do a bang-up job. Getting elected, however, might prove more difficult.
    • Jul 28, 2016

Most Shared

  • So much for a school settlement in Pulaski County

    The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette's Cynthia Howell got the scoop on what appears to be coming upheaval in the Pulaski County School District along with the likely end of any chance of a speedy resolution of school desegregation issues in Pulaski County.
  • Riverfest calls it quits

    The board of directors of Riverfest, Arkansas's largest and longest running music festival, announced today that the festival will no longer be held. Riverfest celebrated itsĀ 40th anniversary in June. A press release blamed competition from other festivals and the rising cost of performers fees for the decision.
  • Football for UA Little Rock

    Andrew Rogerson, the new chancellor at UA Little Rock, has decided to study the cost of starting a major college football team on campus (plus a marching band). Technically, it would be a revival of football, dropped more than 60 years ago when the school was a junior college.
  • Turn to baseball

    When the world threatens to get you down, there is always baseball — an absorbing refuge, an alternate reality entirely unto itself.

Latest in Gene Lyons

  • Turn to baseball

    When the world threatens to get you down, there is always baseball — an absorbing refuge, an alternate reality entirely unto itself.
    • Jul 20, 2017
  • Blaming Obama

    A couple of months ago, on May 10, President Trump invited two Russian diplomats into the White House to celebrate his firing of FBI Director James Comey.
    • Jun 29, 2017
  • Megyn vs. Alex

    As vigorously hyped broadcast events go, Megyn Kelly's televised confrontation with internet conspiracy cultist Alex Jones proved something of a dud.
    • Jun 22, 2017
  • More »

Event Calendar

« »

July

S M T W T F S
  1
2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
23 24 25 26 27 28 29
30 31  

Most Viewed

  • Pay attention

    If anyone thinks that a crisis with the Power Ultra Lounge shooting, then he hasn't been paying attention to Little Rock.
  • Turn to baseball

    When the world threatens to get you down, there is always baseball — an absorbing refuge, an alternate reality entirely unto itself.
  • Another Jesus

    If you follow the logic of Jason Rapert and his supporters, God is very pleased so many have donated money to rebuild a giant stone slab with some rules on it. A few minutes on Rapert's Facebook page (if he hasn't blocked you yet) also shows his supporters believe that Jesus wants us to lock up more people in prison, close our borders to those in need and let poor Americans fend for themselves for food and health care.

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Turn to baseball

    • I have trouble watching baseball on TV. I fall asleep but that's not the fault…

    • on July 20, 2017
  • Re: Turn to baseball

    • Great column, and terrific response from Vanessa. Everyone has baseball memories. Here's mine, from a…

    • on July 20, 2017
  • Re: Another Jesus

    • Did I miss Bill Clinton's admission to sexual assault? @Investigator - can you help with…

    • on July 20, 2017
 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation