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The never ending nightmare

December 13, 2016

Last summer I had the great pleasure of playing mischievous Maria in Twelfth Night. One of my lines keeps returning to me: If this were played upon a stage now, I could condemn it as an improbable fiction.” The first time it came back to me was when, post-Brexit,  Theresa May decided to appoint Bojo the Clown as Foreign Secretary.

At the moment, watching the appalling reality TV show otherwise known as the Trump transition unfold, the line returns to me daily.

The last time I wrote on the subject, Trump had picked Michael Flynn, an Islamophobic former general, as his national security advisor (a position requiring no Senate confirmation) and Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, a man rejected for a federal judgeship thirty years ago for being too racist, as his Attorney General.

Since then we’ve had a parade of piranhas nominated for other cabinet positions. In no particular order of atrociousness, here are some of my “favourites”…

There’s Betsy DeVos, a billionaire nominated as secretary of education. This is a woman it is unlikely has ever stepped inside a public school in her life, but who has lobbied for a school voucher system custom designed to undermine public education. (Do click on that link. The agenda of this woman and her co-conspirators is bone chilling.)

There’s his nominee for secretary of labour, Andrew Puzder, owner of a fast food chain who opposes any increase any effort to turn the minimum wage into a living wage and has voiced his wish that he could replace all his workers with robots. (According to Putzder the benefits of robots are obvious: “They’re always polite, they always upsell, they never take a vacation, they never show up late, there’s never an age-, sex- or race-discrimination case.”)

Then we have Tom Price, tipped as secretary of health and human services, whose life mission seems to be defunding Planned Parenthood – and abolishing Obamacare. (If he cannot completely succeed in the latter, he will ensure birth control is no longer covered.

At Housing and Urban Development we have Ben Carson, who turned down an initial offer to lead on health and human services because he “wasn’t qualified”. Carson’s sole “qualification” (not that qualifications seem to have factored into any of Trump’s nominations) was living in the inner city as a child – although never in public housing.

South Carolina governor Nikki Haley may have shown a touch of diplomacy when she decided, in the aftermath of the shooting deaths in an iconic African American church in Charleston, to remove the Confederate flag from the state capitol building, but that hardly qualifies her for one of the most important diplomatic jobs: Ambassador to the United Nations. Yet there she is.

Over at Treasury we have the execrable Steve Mnuchin, formerly of Goldman Sachs (like many Trump nominees), who used the 2008 financial crisis to buy a failing bank (subsequently bailed out, earning him a further fortune) and to foreclose on thousands of people, including a 90-year-old woman who was 27 cents in the red.

To head up the Environmental Protection Agency, Trump proposed Scott Pruitt, a climate change denier involved in serial litigations against the EPA. Pruitt would like nothing more than to shut the agency (and all its pesky regulations) down.

I confess I grinned involuntarily this morning when I discovered Rick Perry had been nominated to head the Department of Energy. The man is a Dubya-grade idiot. This had to be a joke. Nope. Perry will be in charge of a department that four years ago he vowed to shut down (although he couldn’t remember its name).

The grin was wiped off my face when I read this article and discovered that, in addition to energy policy, Perry would also be in charge of the nation’s nuclear weapons program. Jesus.

And then there’s the ultimate terrifyingly bad joke: Exxon chairman Rex Tillerson, a man with zero experience in policy or diplomacy, a climate change denier who’s spent his entire working life with the giant oil company, and a man who’s best friends forever with Vladimir Putin.


This is the man Trump wants appointed as Secretary of State. This jaw-dropping, tear-your-hair-out nomination has been widely denounced by everyone from Greenpeace to Fox News. (Yes, Fox News.)

You know those nightmares – the ones in which you dream you’ve woken up, only to have the nightmare start again? That’s what this is like. The never ending nightmare and it hasn’t even properly begun yet.

I’d almost like to believe that Trump is treating this as a giant joke, asking himself how much he can actually get away with, who the worst possible person could be for each cabinet position, then gleefully picking that person. All of which is leading up to the moment on January 19 when he sends out this tweet: “Fooled you! Never wanted President job. BIG hassle. Voters are so stupid! Screw you, Obama.

Other than the fact that this would leave the deeply misogynistic Mike Pence in charge, that’s the best case scenario, isn’t it? April Fool’s comes early and the world sighs with relief.

The votes have been recounted in the Rust Belt. Hillary Clinton, despite her lead of nearly three million ballots in the nationwide popular vote, is not going to magically be named the next President of the United States.

The only remaining obstacle to the inauguration of Trump is the normally rubber stamp vote of the electoral college, that bizarre body created by the founding fathers. Alexander Hamilton, a major proponent of the electoral college, described it as a failsafe measure to prevent unqualified candidates or those under the influence of “foreign powers” from becoming president. If ever there has been a case for this failsafe measure to kick in this is it. In theory they could refuse to cast their votes for Donald Trump, thus ending this nightmare. In reality they almost certainly will not.

It is possible the Senate will refuse to confirm some of Trump’s nominees. Republican voices are already rumbling about Tillerson. I hope his appointment will be rejected. (Then again, I hoped, nay believed that UK voters would reject Brexit and that there were enough sane people in the United States to prevent this current nightmare. So what do I know?) But the days of killing off nominations with a filibuster – a call for a three-fifths majority vote – are gone (ironically, thanks to the Democrats). How many Republicans will vote against Trump’s other GGG (Goldman Sachs, Generals and Gazillionaires) candidates? Not enough to save the gutting of Planned Parenthood and the Environmental Protection Agency, I fear.

Would that I could simply dismiss this as an improbable fiction, but, honestly, the greatest novelists in history could not make this shit up.

From → Columns

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