America’s leadership in crisis and Merkel now in charge

US President Donald Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel meet in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, on March 17, 2017.<br />SAUL LOEB / AFP

President Trump was supposed to be the transformative President, the chosen one to “make America great again” and unequivocally stamp its pride of place and unrivalled position on the global stage as “The city upon the hill.” So far he has failed to deliver on any of the key issues of his campaign pledges which were to pave the pathway into the Promised Land. He has succeeded, however, in making jest of the office and gravitas of the President of the United States of America and calling into question his moral fibre, credibility and leadership role. Thus far he has earned several monikers pinned on him by his compatriots in the established media including liar-in-chief and juvenile, these being the more charitable and less colourful of a litany of labels. Controversial cornerstone policies such as “repeal and replace Obama health care’’ and the “International Muslim ban” are in dire straits.

Furthermore, his boisterous campaign pledge to build a border wall with Mexico and invoice Mexico for the cost is dead in the water, as Mexican President Pena Nieto has forcefully proclaimed his disavowal of the arrangement. Consequently, the conventional wisdom is that U.S. taxpayers would have to foot the bill, a proposition which is not even supported by members of his Republican party. These political setbacks are obviously viewed as harbingers of “poor ratings” from his electoral base, which for President Trump would amount to an untenable situation and the cause of great personal distress. At his first “National Prayer Breakfast” in Washington D.C., an annual solemn, dignified gathering convened to seek divine guidance in moving the country forward and set a sombre tone for the government in power, President Trump gave the world a window into his mind when he asked for prayers to be offered to improve the ratings of Arnold Schwarzenegger, his replacement on “The apprentice”, a reality TV show. His tenuous grip on reality is evidenced by his innumerable glib, potentially dangerous and remorseless lies. When confronted with irrefutable facts from multiple official sources which dispel his untruths, President Trump and his fawning apologists and obstreperous mouth pieces individually and collectively retreat to their “safe place” of phantasmagoria, denial and hubris, often times behind the visible and sacred seal of the Presidency. They are more than content to live in this alternate universe of alternative facts and are insistent on foisting this world on the whole planet.

In February 2017, President Trump spoke openly about a terrorist attack perpetrated by Muslim refugees in Sweden which was supposed to have occurred the night before. However, no such attack took place and the concocted, fear mongering story provoked wide scale confusion and ridicule in Sweden. Former Swedish Prime Minister, Carl Bildt was so incensed at the spurious claim that he publicly mocked President Trump by asking what he had been smoking. The latest incident embroiling President Trump and by far the most explosive and damning to date, is his factually devoid claim that former President Obama mounted an illegal surveillance campaign on him during the 2016 presidential race. Senior members of the Intelligence Committee on both sides of the political aisle have denounced the claim, as has the U.S. Department of Justice and the concerned government intelligence agencies. When confronted with the stubborn truth which inevitability affirmed that his vitriol was baseless, he stuck to his guns citing a Fox news commentator who is supposed to have implicated a British Intelligence Agency in the underhanded Obama plot to conduct surveillance on him. In the exercise of his best judgment, President Trump determined the situation warranted that Britain be publicly accused of espionage and conspiracy to commit espionage on U.S. soil at the bidding of and in cahoots with his immediate predecessor. Astonishingly, he was prepared to impair bi-lateral relations with Britain, arguably a quintessential, long term U.S. partner and ally in regional and world affairs, based on random, unsubstantiated information garnered from a commercial news outlet. Members of the viewing public may have found the allegations titillating and would have no doubt been on the edge of their sofas in eager anticipation of further revelatory episodes. Needless to say the British were not amused and hotly remonstrated with the “Trump White House” referring to the charges as “ridiculous” and “nonsensical.”

President Trump is doing his level best to entice and engulf the world into a reality of his making and alarm bells should be sounding everywhere. In furtherance of this Orwellian goal he puts in extra time to coach and condition us on which ubiquitous news outlets are purveyors of “fake news” and are not to be trusted and which are in the business of disseminating “genuine news” and can therefore be relied on. His guiding principle and rule of thumb appears to be that media outlets giving him favourable press coverage are honest and anything else is fake. Due to the omnipresence of Western media, it is impossible to remove one’s self from the unprecedented aberrations occurring in Washington D.C. As a Nigerian, based in Lagos I am fully aware of and entrenched in our monumental national scale challenges. We have our own turbulent reality that we not only need to come to grips with, but find a way out of, for the betterment of all Nigerians. Our “real” circumstances are not only onerous and soul wrenching but tragically now include the threat of large scale famine. Consequently, to be seduced by President Trump into a world of “make believe” is not only “sad and bad” to borrow a turn of phrase from his lexicon, but adds another layer of stress as do the accompanying hysterics and histrionics.

Contextually, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the longest serving and most powerful European leader is now being hailed as “the leader of the free world”. Interestingly, when she became the recipient of TIME magazine’s “Person of the Year Award” in 2015, she was selected from a field of candidates that included Trump, at the time a U.S. presidential hopeful. He ungraciously begrudged her victory and took to twitter to rail against the decision, stating that” TIME magazine would never pick me as person of the year despite being the big favourite….” In hindsight it would appear the selectors had remarkable prescience of her future relevance and role on the global stage as President Trump vacillates on policies and careens from one public scandal to the next.

Ms Irene Fowler is an international lawyer

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