It would not be surprising if we found out that US President Donald Trump retreats to his room at night and has a big laugh about the ride he is taking the world on. You can imagine him prancing about in front of the mirror, flexing his muscles like Popeye and bragging to the long-suffering Melania about yet another day spent toying with the planet’s future.
Trump’s antics at the UN General Assembly and the UN Security Council this week, and his handling of sexual assault accusations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, showed that he’s a guy who doesn’t give a flying toss about the damage he may cause.
On Tuesday, Trump used his second address to the General Assembly, a forum to discuss global issues, to boast about what a good job his administration has done in the 18 months it has been in office. Trump told his fellow world leaders and tens of millions watching around the world that, “in less than two years, my administration has accomplished more than almost any administration in the history of our country”. This statement, which drew mocking laughter in the usually austere chamber, was a message suitable more for a rally of his redneck, racist support base than this audience.
His assertions that “America’s economy is booming like never before” and “we’ve added more than 4 million new jobs and we’ve secured record funding for our military” were ably demolished by fact checkers, most notably the Washington Post, which described Trump’s chest-beating exercise as “exaggerated or false”.
Like a belligerent Friday evening barhopping drunk, he used the speech to pick fights with almost anyone who dared to look at him for more than five seconds. He attacked ally, foe and neutral with equal ferocity. Reminding them that the US was the strongest guy around, he challenged people to a fight and vowed to defeat whomever stood up.
The next day, Trump had changed taverns, but was still pulling the same stunts. When he turned up at the Security Council, he was the drunk who was dissatisfied that nobody had been prepared to stoop to his level on Friday night and so spends Saturday searching for action elsewhere. Ostensibly meant to discuss the world’s worst security, he turned into another session of “ek gaan julle wys”.
Unhinged as ever, he veered away from his new favourite enemy – Iran – and launched a bizarre attack on China. The man who has expended so much energy on debunking the beyond-doubt story of Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election went on to accuse China of doing the same in the upcoming US midterm polls.
“Regrettably, we found that China has been attempting to interfere in our election [in November] against my administration. They do not want us to win because I am the first president to challenge China on trade. And we are winning. We are winning at every level.”
Ever the child who lacked affection in his formative years, Trump interrupted his belligerent tone to tell the world that “I also very much appreciate what [South Korean President] Moon [Jae-in] had to say about me last night in television interviews”.
Unfortunately, this lowly newspaperman can’t do that expressive nasal sound that women make when they see a cute baby, but this was really the moment to do so. (Note to womenfolk: Offers of free lessons welcome.)
Another of Trump’s multiple battlefronts this week was one that may not necessarily lead to conflagration or cause economic meltdown, but was just as serious – acting in defence of Kavanaugh, who has been accused of being a serial boor of the worst kind. Trump’s denigration of Kavanaugh’s accusers, and thus his confirmation of what he thinks of women, would have been enough to make even King Mswati and Lolly Jackson cringe. He stopped just short of calling the accusers lyin’ bitches who should be slapped, and told to sit down and shut up.
We all know that this is vintage Trump – the misogynist, racist, xenophobic bigot. But there are times that he just outdoes himself – like the time he seemed to be openly backing police killings of black men in his country.
It has been said before that Trump is one of the most dangerous leaders to emerge in the modern era. This week, he proved this to be true. He is not only threatening to use his “tremendous” power to undo a multilateral political and trade order that has been stitched together and delicately nursed over eight decades, he is actively doing it. And he is also enthusiastically undermining what it means to be a modern, civilised human race. He is throwing all notions of racial and gender equality out of the window and is relishing in “othering”.
Tolerance is an epithet for this demagogue, who has mainstreamed bigotry and let the world’ worst elements feel normal, and he has let their views and behaviours gain acceptability.
Trump is really enjoying keeping the world on a knife edge and letting everyone feel the revenge of buffoonish bullies. We laugh at him at our peril, for we do not know how far he will go on this joyride. His sabre-rattling this week gave the clearest indication yet that this petulant brat may just be preparing to fulfil the adults’ worst nightmares.