Two important meetings, for different reasons, took place this week. The first, and less significant, was the abruptly concluded summit in Hanoi between Trump and Kim, and the second was Cohen’s testimony as he was questioned by the US House of Reps. Both went pretty much as expected, but there are some points that (to my knowledge) haven’t really been spoken about.
I almost considered not writing about the summit that took place in Vietnam simply because the effort of doing so would have been more than the effort that went into it. What changed my mind was the stampede of articles criticising Trump’s complete lack of diplomatic finesse and the wave of agreement from readers. And they’re right – diplomacy is certainly not the Trump administration’s strong suit, and from the perspective of a diplomatic mission the summit was a confusing disaster.
But I don’t believe the summit was meant to achieve anything. There was no objective to the happy little photo op, and so the lack of results can’t really be measured against any possible successes. No, the timing of the dictator dinner coincides too conveniently with heightened media focus on Cohen’s testimony. Coverage of the summit was simply to draw attention away from what was happening back in the US. This objective can be judged for its outcomes, which, to what I can only assume is Trump’s dismay, were actually pretty poor.
Vietnam’s swift conclusion left more time to focus on the damning things Cohen revealed, and outside Trump’s core base and frequenters of Fox “news” sources it seemed the majority of mainstream media actually had its priorities straight this time. While blind supporters will try and justify Trump’s departure from Hanoi as a masterful stroke of genius (perhaps, if that means a genius masterfully gave himself a stroke), many are instead awaiting what will happen as a result of the testimony.
There are three things that stood out from the testimony for me, that received varying degrees of media interest. The first (receiving the most mention, more over the past few years than specifically this week) was the heated exchange instigated by Meadows, a Republican that seemingly just wanted to stir trouble. He referred to a colleague of his, a black woman, who was not even present to affirm to deny the statement, saying “She says that as a daughter of a man born in Birmingham, Alabama, that there is no way that she would work for an individual who was racist. How do you reconcile the two of those?” Cohen’s response was “Neither should I, as the son of a Holocaust survivor”, a shot at Trump’s anti-Semitic behaviour. Rashida Tlaib took a moment to call out Meadow’s use of a woman of colour as a ‘prop’ to be, in itself, a racist act.
The reason this is important is that it totally abolishes the myth that just because some women, some people of colour, some people of minority status support, or in this case work for, Trump, he is therefore not racist, sexist, or just a generally offensive man. Whether a belated realisation or a move to save his own skin, knowing full well Trump had a well-documented history of racism, Cohen has stepped forward merely to add an ‘insider’ voice to the chorus of the obvious. In the same way that supporting Trump does not inherently make someone racist, having black people in one’s workplace does not mean they are inherently pure on the matter.
The second highlight was Ocasio-Cortez’s line of questioning, which, more than simply confirming what we already knew about Trump’s criminal history, opened a few more avenues worth investigating. The young Congresswoman (a funny thing for me to write considering she is almost ten years older than me) has made many headlines since reaching her position, and thankfully not simply because she is a woman, but because she is a woman of strong character and intellect – emphasis on her traits. As some older commentators have said, sure, she may not quite have the experience or knowhow about how Washington operates that her elders do, but she’s the most promising US politician since Sanders made his bid for President in 2016. You have to start somewhere.
The third, and, I think, the most alarming thing to come from the testimony was an ominous quote by Cohen, one that I have seen few people or media outlets comment on. Perhaps because subconsciously people know it to be true, but why it isn’t being shouted out to the masses as a warning is rather baffling. The quote is this: “I fear that if he [Trump] loses the election in 2020, there will never be a peaceful transition of power.” This is basically Cohen outright admitting that should the election not go in Trump’s favour next year that the President may not give up his position. Leading up to the general election in 2016, Trump incited his supporters to revolt if he didn’t win, saying that if the Democrats won it just proved that the system was rigged against him, and “illegal immigrants” became the scapegoat.
The same thing will likely happen in 2020, however contradictory it may be to his glorious wall and border policies that he is so proud of. Trump, or more accurately his base, will likely not accept the results should he lose. Even if Trump himself did back down, there would be some portion of his loyal base that wouldn’t take it quietly. US elections are always divisive affairs, but 2020 may very well collapse into violence if they are not careful. Cohen would not have said what he did if he did not think Trump was capable of, or at least willing, to try and retain power in the face of democracy (or what passes for it in the US).
So I would not be giving the Hanoi shenanigans a second thought, but instead take the time to monitor the progress of the investigations into Trump’s conduct and, should he still be in the White House then, the general state of the US as a whole during the tedious campaigning season. Our politicians here in Australia may be corrupt and incompetent, but I’d rather praise Scott Morrison’s smack-able face than live in the US and deal with their farcical system.
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