COLLATERAL damage. The words we normally encounter that describe innocent victims in conflict zones or unavoidable consequences of a military operation.
What is transpiring in the political capital of the world - Washington D.C - today, reminds me of those words again, although the “victims” are still breathing and live to fight for another day.
The latest involved President Donald Trump’s sacking of James Comey as the Federal Bureau of Investigation director. Who will be next on the chopping board may be known in just a matter of time.
Comey found out about his sacking upon glancing at a CNN news report on TV. Outside of the White House, opinions are as divided as the polarity in politics - some say the removal was justified while others disagree - whether one observers the issue as a left or right winger, Republican or Democrat.
Some decry the timing while others say it won't stop FBI’s investigation into Trump’s campaign and its alleged ties to Russia. It is only common sense for Trump to make do without people who might complicate his time in office.
To a certain extent, it feels like we’re witnessing Trump brandishing his dramatised Apprentice-sque “you’re fired” gesture in real life, and on a larger scale.
Two names come to mind immediately; a reminiscent of Comey’s sacking - former acting attorney-general, Sally Yates and Michael Flynn, who was removed as national security adviser after only 24 days of appointment.
Throw in a few judges in the bag, and you will realise it is quite a feat for Trump after a little more than a 100 days in office.
However, two things are clear. One, Trump is warming up to the job as president and after the success of getting Congress to agree to Trumpcare over Obamacare (with a wafer thin majority), things are beginning to look a bit brighter domestically.
Secondly, it is not wrong to assume a bolstered confidence in Trump who probably had realised that just like his predecessors, the nation will rally behind concerning security issues despite any political brickbats at the home front.
For instance, the dropping of the “mother of all bombs” in Afghanistan has by and large ceased some of the negative criticisms lobbed at Trump since the day he entered office.
It makes sense for him then to send 5,000 more boots stomping on the ground there, to force the Taliban meet the Afghan government at the negotiating table.
However, looking at the varied challenges against Trump and his administration both internally and globally, there will be more questions than answers if we use the most frank ever assessment from David Cay Johnston as a guide.
Johnston wrote a book about Trump and alleged that the world should be afraid of Trump’s ignorance in just about everything.
In his piece published by The Guardian newspaper recently, Johnston cited four examples:
- Trump recently said that Andrew Jackson was furious about the civil war, but he died 16 years before it began. Trump seemed unaware that Jackson was also a slave owner and white supremacist.
- Trump when meeting black leaders early February applaud Frederick Douglass’s contributions, and also said he is being recognised more and more. The problem is the guy has been dead for 122 years now.
- Then there’s healthcare. “I don't know healthcare can be so complicated,” said Trump after the early failure to pass the new act in Congress. He doesn’t seem to mind that over 20 million people will be without health protection with Trumpcare.
- On the foreign front, Trump does not have a clue on the difference between Shia and Sunni Muslim, or that China and Korea have relations since thousands of years ago. He had also said: “I'm honoured to meet Kim Jong-un under the right circumstances.”
With all these examples, Johnston described Trump as while being “utterly unprepared” even to hold a job as a city council member, he holds the nuclear launch codes as a president today.
After 100 days in office, there has yet to be a mainstream, all-around glowing love for Trump.
While he has won hearts in battles against rebels and terrorists, he remains behind in the race to win the hearts of a more sophisticated segment. Comey’s sacking is regarded as bizarre and widely unethical.
It is therefore not much of a surprise that after all that has happened in his early presidency. Both Democrats and Republicans continue to call for Trump’s impeachment in relations to Comey’s case.
The situation hovering over Trump becomes more interesting, especially after Comey’s latest memo which says Trump had asked him to end probe on Flynn, concerning Russia.
It looks as if Trump is the one who is trying to not 'Make America Great Again'.
Azman Hamid is Berita Harian Features/Oped editor. He can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org