Just in case you missed it, only 22 percent of people surveyed in 37 countries around the world have confidence in President Trump, according to the reputable Pew organization. That’s five points less than Russian dictator Vladimir Putin. Only Israel and Russia have more confidence in Trump than in his predecessor.
It comes as no surprise to most Americans, now seeing a reincarnated Mussolini in the White House. Like Benito, Trump thrusts out his chin, stiffens his jaw, scowls and struts, mimicking the would-be Caesar who strong-armed Italians before they hanged him upside down in 1945.
Our president is laughed at abroad, ridiculed by Europeans, mocked by Australians, scorned by Germans, disinvited by Britons, and reviled by Mexicans.
Every week brings embarrassing news of how the unpolished American president is perceived as boorish, indulging in childish and churlish tweets. His compulsion is such that a celebrated television legal analyst has called on him to use spellcheck to avoid bloopers that confuse miners with minors.
This is a leader who is notoriously addicted to television, especially Fox News with its jaundiced propaganda masquerading as balanced news. He dislikes reading, demanding brief summaries presented in easily formatted bullet points. Trump’s scant attention to pressing matters of moment is evident in his belittling of the intelligence agencies, their former leaders, and the top-secret presidential press briefings. Not once has he forcefully backed seventeen intelligence units concurring that Russia intervened to undermine the election.
During the presidential campaign, candidate Trump lashed out at President Obama for taking time off to play golf, saying he would have so much work to do in the White House that he would have no time to do the same. Now he spends about as much time swinging the clubs at his own golf courses as he does on shunning the nearby presidential retreat at Camp David in favor of his plush Florida resort at Mar-a-Lago.
His natural bent to trash others spares none, not even his exalted predecessor, judges, legislators, journalists, celebrity actors, and anyone else he wants to tarnish and diminish.
The worst of his tirades are reserved for those deemed indispensable by the founding fathers when drawing up the Bill of Rights. They are the journalists whom Madison and others regarded as the ultimate foil against authoritarian rule. It was for this reason that they wrote the First Amendment, declaring, “Congress shall make no law …. abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press…”
Notwithstanding this enshrined protection, President Trump continues to incite against reporters, fuming that they are “the enemy of the American people,” driven by “hatred” and “dishonesty.” Already a Republican pleaded guilty in court to body-slamming a journalist the day before his election to Congress. Only in the aftermath of his victory did the Congressman offer an apology and admit he was to blame for the outrage stemming from a dutiful question.
The latest disgrace came from the ventriloquist’s deputy press secretary, who railed against “the constant barrage of fake news,” while in the same breath telling reporters to watch an anti-CNN video, “whether it’s accurate or not, I don’t know.”
Observers of Trump’s open season on the media are aghast at his unrelenting froth against the Fourth Estate. What began with an initial berating of the White House media by the press secretary has evolved into a stern limitation of their traditions and a curb on their constitutional rights.
Cameras have been banned at press briefings. Questions have been randomly forbidden where the president appears with foreign leaders. Correspondents with seniority have been deliberately frozen out in favor of representatives from small but politically favorable news outlets. In a particularly offensive instance, American media were excluded from photographing Trump cozying up to the Russian Foreign Minister and his ambassador to the USA, while only a Russian photographer was allowed into the Oval Office.
Muting the media would be a throwback to the rise of the Nazis in pre-war Germany.
Trump can yell “hoax” and “fake news” till the cows come home but the megalomaniac is vulnerable. The mid-term elections are only seventeen months away. If Russian hackers are blocked from interfering, and Wikileaks is prevented from being their lackey, maybe Trump will get the comeuppance he has brought upon himself.
Anthony S. Pitch is a former journalist in America, England, Israel, and Africa, and author of 12 non-fiction books including, Our Crime Was Being Jewish.