Washington is getting ready to welcome the 45th president whose inauguration will he held on January 20. The US capital is also getting ready to show a face to the new president that would be most unusual. Various groups with a wide range of political objectives such as civil rights, women issues, etcetera, etcetera have already gathered in Washington for a week-long vigil and demonstration to show their disapproval of him on issues related to his character as well as his politics.
In fact, no US presidential candidate in living memory has been received with such public demonstration of disapproval, as was Donald Trump's after he had pulled off a win that amazed the majority of the Americans as well as the rest of the world. There were days of public protests in the major cities of the country against his victory in the election on November 08, 2016. For some time, it even appeared that many members of the Electoral College could break with custom and become "faithless Elector" and stop Donald Trump from becoming the president by voting against him.
As the president-elect, Donald Trump continued to act as unhinged as he had done during the campaign. His often-despicable tweets that had been a significant factor in his victory became more offensive and divisive. He did not help his own cause against the rising tide of opposition by selecting to his new administration, individuals with connections to the alt-right or the extreme right as well as with anti-Muslim and anti-civil rights bias.
Donald Trump's problems in becoming a likeable president with some degree of bipartisan support in the country worsened as his Russian connections became a major topic in the media. During the campaign, there was always the suspicion that the Russians were involved in the election in a committed manner to defeat Hillary Clinton. Donald Trump helped the suspicion grow by openly expressing adoration for the Russian President and describing him as a superior leader than his own president!
The suspicion about Donald Trump's Russian connection became deeper in the public mind when recently a dossier prepared by a former MI-6 operative in England and released in the US media by CNN suggested that Donald Trump had direct contacts with Russian agents and Internet hackers during the campaign. The charge is unsubstantiated but US intelligence agencies have nevertheless stated that they have proof that Russians have directly interfered in the election. As for the charge of the British MI-6 agent, it is a charge so serious that if it is established it would not only force Donald Trump to resign but also to face serious legal consequences.
Donald Trump, aware of the gravity of the accusation, was so upset and angry about it that in his only press conference as president-elect he was offensive not just towards the CNN journalist because CNN had broken the story in the media but also the US media. In fact, where there is no argument that to succeed as president Donald Trump would need a friendly media, he has chosen the path to offending it as an establishment of forces unfriendly towards him and his incoming presidency.
Some of his nominations for key posts in his administration have hit snags with the Republican-dominated Congress that is clearly uncomfortable with him. With the Russian connection hanging like a dark cloud over him, his choice of Rex Tillerson for the important position of the Secretary of State was perplexing. Rex Tillerson has very well-known connections with President Putin and had openly opposed US sanctions against Russia following its invasion of Crimea in 2014.
If all these are not bad for the incoming president and the image he would be bringing to the most powerful office in the world, there is also unconfirmed news in the media that the Russians may be in possession of compromising videos about Donald Trump. Given what Americans saw in the Access Hollywood video during the campaign, these suspicions unconfirmed as they are, are nevertheless creating a huge negative image of the new president. Many Americans fear that if the videos are really in the hands of Russia, the United States could end up as a tool in the hands of its worst enemy - a doomsday prospect for all Americans.
In the United States, paying one's income tax is one's personal commitment to the country. Therefore paying income tax is a second habit of all Americans. Donald Trump has an unresolved problem with his income tax returns. He is the first presidential candidate in history who has arrogantly refused to release his income tax returns during the campaign. Documents of three years of his returns leaked to the media during the campaign have shown that for nearly two decades, he has not paid the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) a single cent in income tax!
There is no indication that he would release his income tax returns as president. That is adding to the negative perception of him - that there must be explosive information in those documents that he cannot even consider releasing and remain in office. As the candidate, Donald Trump was under no obligation to speak the truth or voluntarily impose upon himself the limits of the law and the constitution. Thus he pretty much said and did on the campaign trail what suited his intentions and his objectives, a great deal of which was not honest.
As the president, it would be a totally different scenario for Donald Trump. His every action, including his tweets, would henceforth be under scrutiny from legal, constitutional, moral and ethical standpoints. He would as president have to be conscious what had happened to President Nixon. Given the baggage which he would be bringing with him to the White House and given his well-known volatile and unpredictable temperament, that would be a very big task. This is why Oscar-winner filmmaker Michael Moore, who had predicted Donald Trump would win, has said he would not last in office for more than two years and would perhaps be impeached.
Donald Trump would, however, be inheriting a healthy economy. But so had President GW Bush who did not take long to push the country into its worst economic recession. Unfortunately for the new President in terms of his inheritance, though, his predecessor would be leaving office at a time when the United States is no longer the Superpower that the rest of the world would be waiting for leadership. Russia has begun to dominate in the Middle East, China is dominating international trade and the developing world, backed by Europe, is giving leadership on the critical climate change issues leaving little space in between for Donald Trump's leadership and his misplaced ego.
In any case, most of the European countries were unfavourable towards Donald Trump during the election. They feared that his victory would encourage the extreme right forces in Europe to rise against liberal democracy. With Donald Trump still courting the extreme right forces, it would be natural that the European leaders would now be more cautious and apprehensive to give to Donald Trump the leadership of the western world that the USA had enjoyed in world politics thus far.
Donald Trump recently warned the UN to prepare for his wrath after the Security Council had passed the unanimous resolution against the Israeli settlements. The world body paid no heed to his request not to pass the resolution and the anger of the president-elect after it was passed. Little does Donald Trump realize that having followed him for over a year, there is no reason for the UN or, for that matter, the rest of the world to be unduly worried about his threats because meanwhile as he does not know or is not willing to acknowledge, the United States is today the world's only Superpower by courtesy and not in reality.
Donald Trump would no doubt soon face that reality after he sits in the Oval Office. He does not, however, seem prepared for that reality. He would find that his threats, his tweets and all else he has done successfully on the campaign trail have suddenly become largely useless that should leave the Americans thinking and worried whether they have shot themselves in the leg in electing him their president.
The writer is a former Ambassador.