Ian Payne is Leading Britain's Conversation.
2 March 2017, 12:33
David Mellor skewers the idea that Trump has "turned a corner" with his speech to Congress. Look under the surface and it's clear nothing has changed...
When Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, a former Alabama Senator, gave evidence on oath before the Senate at the beginning of his confirmation hearings, he denied having any recent contact with the Russians.
It has now been disclosed, in another well-timed leak that strikes at the very heart of the Trump White House and his credibility, that he had two meetings with the Russian ambassador. The first last September, just as the FBI – which Sessions is now responsible for – began to investigate Russian interference in the American election campaign, and the other earlier on last summer.
Sessions tried to wriggle out of what otherwise seems to be a blatant and deliberate lie, by saying he met with the Russian ambassador in his capacity as a member of the Senate Armed Forces Committee, not as a member of the Trump campaign. It’s the way he tells them!
Already, the Democrats are up in arms, suggesting he should stand down. I imagine there will be no shortage of Senate and House Republicans who will be equally dismayed.
The spider’s web of lies that Trump and his gang are having to weave to try to prevent full details of their connections with the Russians coming out, just like all the Nixon White House’s lies during Watergate, will ultimately be Trump's undoing.
How can you be responsible for the FBI, which is investigating illegal contacts with the Russians, when you yourself have had such contacts?
Just like Watergate, history is repeating itself. Those trapped in this spider’s web will be no more capable of wriggling out of it than Haldeman and Ehrlichman (remember them?) and all the other Nixon conspirators were.
In the meanwhile, Trump has garnered, at least from some, praise for his speech to Congress. But the praise seems to be confined to the fact that he managed to make a speech, read from an autocue, didn’t abuse anyone, wasn’t paranoid, made no further threats against a free press, and appeared, at least on superficial analysis, to be vaguely Presidential.
However, the reality is rather different. Indeed the reality was very typical of Trump the businessman.
It was full of glib promises of the kind Trump used to make when, for instance, promising to make Atlantic City the greatest gambling resort in the States. He failed. And he will fail again.
One example must suffice. "Our terrible drug epidemic will slow down and ultimately stop", said Trump. How? No details are given. But, it’s going to happen. "Just like that!" as the late Tommy Cooper used to say.
But the real Trump fingerprints on this speech were the repeated promise to spend money, without any explanation of where that money is going to come from.
Trump was one of the great borrowers business has ever known. That’s why he got away with paying so little tax over more than a decade, because of the losses he racked up on reckless loans. And, that’s why, despite his protestations of great wealth, for most of Trump’s career it was actually impossible to know if he had five billion dollars or owed five billion.
He’s going to increase military spending by over $50 billion a year. And he has pledged a trillion dollars for infrastructure investments. It reminds me a bit of Groucho Marx, who famously intoned in the 1930s, "A million here, a million there, and soon you’ll be talking real money!"
Not a word about how this programme is going to be paid for. And no details that would give any prudent person confidence that chucking money at all these problems will actually work.
I’m almost back where I started with these commentaries on Trump. This is snake oil salesmanship. Trump is exactly like the guy who in pioneer America drove his wagon into town with bottles of coloured water, purveyed, with highly-eloquent salesmanship, as cure-alls for every human problem and condition.
In the end, the snake oil salesman was invariably driven out of town.
And the same will happen to Trump.
Just give it time.