Thank you, Donald Trump, for making “conflict of interest” a popular political term once again. I confess I was losing faith in modern-day democracy, as it seemed anyone with a fat bank account and decent track record in business could take a nation’s helm unopposed.
But then you came along. You and your multibillion-dollar empire riding on a sizeable chunk of debt.
Every American media outlet is sounding the alarm bell. And who wouldn’t be worried? The US presidency’s relationship with financial institutions, bankers and fund managers – who play key roles in national and global economies and have always been viewed with deep public suspicion – is complicated already. Your arrival in the White House on Friday will multiply the complication tenfold.
You have asked everyone to cool down, explaining that your businesses have been transferred to your sons. Well, my deja vu will be complete if your empire is found to be engaged in tax hanky-panky or if it is eventually sold to a foreign buyer, a Russian maybe. As leader of the most powerful nation on earth, things could go in your favour or turn against you. In other words, the whole system could cover up or trivialise tax evasion, or the media and your opponents could turn over every stone in the search for a missing payment here or an act of nepotism there, no matter how minuscule.
The good news for me and the bad news for you is that it’s looking like the latter. Google “Donald Trump + conflict of interest” and nearly 10 million hits come up. Your policy towards Bank A, no matter how straightforward and sincere, will unavoidably be linked to the debt owed by your empire and/or lead to the question of why you aren’t treating Bank B the same way. And trust me: never, ever let your empire get anywhere near government-related projects, auctions or whatever.
I liked your first press conference as the president-elect, though. Four years will fly by with that press corps, your dismissive gestures and your relentless attacks on certain media groups. Wouldn’t it be nice, you suggested, if you and Vladimir Putin liked each other. Some US journalists thought the remark “childish”, but who says US and Russian leaders have to hate each other?
Film stars, novelists and other artists have lined up against you, but you have kept silent and let your tweets do the talking. It’s a cool move, but let me remind you that they are American too. Do you really want to end up like a certain, now-exiled Thai politician who once infamously said that those who voted for him would be “served” first by his government.
The fuss over your removal of Democrat-appointed ambassadors all over the globe is something I don’t understand. You are utilising the essence of democracy and they are attacking you for that? And now that we are at it, why are they criticising your choices of appointees. Let them work, for crying out loud. (To the critics who think Trump’s appointees are
terrible, come to Thailand.)
And your promised wall at the Mexican border is being ridiculed as well. What a shame. Isn’t democracy about selling and implementing ideas that your opponents don’t have? Your pledge to have Mexico fund the wall is the bravest diplomatic policy I have read about in a long, long time.
In one tweet, you called CNN news “fake” and suggested that the network’s rating is “tanking”. That’s beyond bravery; I wish Thailand’s prime minister, bold as he is, could muster the same courage to say similar things. Yet your swipe at CNN pales beside what you said about the Central Intelligence Agency.
Going after the CNN is brave. Lambasting the CIA is bold. But lashing out at both of them at the same time? I don’t know what to call it. CIA director John Brennan used the word “outrageous”, although he didn’t describe you directly. He was referring to your remark that a highly unusual number of “leaks” affecting your upcoming presidency was nothing short of a “Nazi” campaign.
“If he doesn’t have confidence in the intelligence community, what signal does that send to our partners and allies, as well as our adversaries,” Brennan said. That’s CIA-speak for “Could you please shut your mouth?”
Now, everyone agrees that your four-year term will be stormy. But I don’t get how a US president kept in check by the media and not seeing eye to eye with the CIA can be a bad thing. It’s the opposite – a president in cahoots with the likes of CNN and the CIA is not healthy for world democracy.
The very best part is you haven’t even officially taken office yet. It will be spectacular. I’m not sure if you need any prompting, but take it to the limit, Don.