President-elect Trump: The leopard does not change its spots

Poll finds Americans have major concerns about his temperament and the direction in which he will lead the country

 

Any hope that the office of the US presidency would begin to transform or moderate its new incumbent’s tone or rhetoric, or infuse him with some appropriate dignity, were disabused yesterday when president-elect Donald Trump met the press for the first time since his election.

What we got was more of the same with bells on, pure campaign mode: on the attack, partisan, a succession of generalisations bearing only passing association with the truth, a mix of hyperbole, lack of specifics and personal abuse. A new meaning to Theodore Roosevelt’s description of the White House as the “bully pulpit”.

His team, he said, was already transforming America, making it great again, they are “fabulous”, “great, great, great”, “brilliant”... he would build a wall, and “Mexico will pay for it” ... businesses are already returning in droves ... and he himself, he assured journalists, was “going to be the greatest jobs creator that God ever created”.

The press conference came after, and was dominated by, news reports of a leaked, classified document delivered to president Obama and Trump last week by the intelligence services. It includes unsubstantiated claims that Russian intelligence services have sexually compromising material on Trump’s personal life and on his finances. It suggests his aides encouraged the Russians to hack the Democratic Party’s servers and promised in return to moderate the candidate’s critique of Russia over Crimea during the campaign.

“Fake, fake, fake,” he roared. “Fake news”, “nonsense.” Its leak and publication, a “disgrace”. And, indeed, there has been considerable controversy within the much despised “mainstream media” about the publication by Buzzfeed of the uncorroborated claims.

Although it would certainly have emerged by other means, there was a broad consensus, even acknowledged by Trump, that the site had stepped over the ethical line. “Even Donald Trump deserves journalistic fairness,” tweeted David Corn, Washington bureau chief of the news magazine Mother Jones.

But Trump’s indignation is rich. It was he who spent years repeating just such “fake news” about Obama’s birth and “ineligibility” for the presidency. He shamelessly repeated the claims with a “where there’s smoke there’s fire” reasoning. As Hamlet put it, now “hoist with his own petard”.

Trump, who will be inaugurated next Friday, will apparently stress “unity” and “bringing the country together” in his address, but will begin his term with historically low approval ratings for a new president.

A new poll from Quinnipiac University finds that he has reverted to his pre-election standing, with Americans having major concerns about his temperament and the direction in which his presidency will lead the country. Some 51 per cent now have an unfavourable view of him.

The nightmare begins.

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