Chaos in the White House became the new normal months ago and scarcely a week passes without something happening that would have brought down any previous administration in hours if not days. In the last week two events — one an executive order and the other Coatgate and both linked — have left observers and commentators gasping for breath. The presidential executive order, the president acting on his own cognisance without reference to the House or the Senate, reversed his policy on separating children who have crossed the Mexican border illegally from their parents. The optics in the end were simply overwhelming, and even Trump was unable to resist the groundswell of public outrage and international condemnation as images of traumatised children swept the media. The futures of the over-2000 already separated and widely dispersed is unclear.
Coatgate. Melania Trump, boarding a plane to go to one of the reception centres for aforementioned separated children, wore a coat with a slogan on the back that produced variously shock, awe, wonderment, horror, anger and exasperation to name but a few of the reactions. ‘I really don’t care, do you?’ Six words that will pin FLOTUS in history. She offered no explanation, continued in her mission of mercy and compassion and flew home later the same day.
And beyond a firestorm in the media nothing happened. To be sure there were protests and social media was incandescent but by Saturday afternoon all the players were still in their places, Trump’s popularity with his core voter base remains as strong as it ever was at least on the surface, though many were uncomfortable with agonised children, and there is no sign that all of this has done anything to shake the presidential foundations. President Trump has reshaped, redefined what an American President can and cannot do and still retain the job — and it is pretty much anything. Thus far he has not started a new war but he is already cooling on North Korea, reiterating the level of threat that NK presents as he sees it and acknowledging that NK is doing nothing to dismantle its nuclear arsenal. Remain afraid. Very afraid.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 25th, 2018.