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Trump and the New Orangemen

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Well, Northern Ireland has the Orangemen, and now it seems that Washington, D.C. does, too. The Irish version celebrates William of Orange, who took the throne from the Catholic King James and returned it to Protestant rule.  The U.S. version consists of Cabinet members, and celebrates the accomplishments of U.S. President Donald Trump, and praises him for selecting them, unworthy creatures that they are, for the privilege of serving him.

The U.S. Orangemen became public on June 12 at the first Cabinet meeting of the Trump administration. This was an unusual event; such meetings usually begin with a few words from the president, and then the press is banished while the president and his Cabinet members do whatever it is they do, behind closed doors. But the U.S.’s new swamp-drainer, Mr. Trump, decided to allow the press to remain.

He began the meeting by praising his favorite American – himself. As usual, he astonished his listeners with these pearls of wisdom: “Never has there been a president, with few exceptions — case of FDR, he had a major depression to handle — who has passed more legislation and who has done more things than what we’ve done.” He didn’t bother to list his accomplishments, which is a good thing, but we will look at those we are able to discern.

Health care: he has been successful (almost) in keeping a campaign promise to deprive 21,000,000 people of access to affordable health care. However, this is not a done deal; as House Members confront angry constituents at home regarding their vote to repeal ‘Obamacare’, members of the Senate seem a tad hesitant to jump onto this particular rickety bandwagon. So perhaps we are premature in listing this as an ‘accomplishment’.

Tax reform: This, too, hasn’t yet happened. But when it does, if Mr. Trump gets his way, the rich will rejoice, as their bank accounts grow.

Travel ban: In his misguided attempts to allegedly keep the nation safe, Mr. Trump has twice attempted to keep visitors from mostly Muslim countries from entering the U.S. without ‘extreme vetting’. Unfortunately for him, various courts throughout the nation have been less than thrilled with his executive orders, believing, instead, that they have an obligation to respect and adhere to the Constitution (you remember that old thing).

Climate change: Mr. Trump did successfully withdraw from the Paris climate agreement, in which the U.S., and several other nations, recognized the human causes of climate change, and vowed to work within their nations to slow down this existential threat. So, one can look at that as an accomplishment, although doing so requires that one see it from a different angle than this writer.

International reputation: It is true that Mr. Trump didn’t exactly disgrace himself on the world stage during his first trip abroad as president. And that, for this president, is a major accomplishment. However, criticizing the London mayor for statements he made after a terrorist attack in that city probably didn’t endear the president to many Britons. But let’s just focus on the fact that he didn’t do anything too awful in the Middle East, or the Vatican. We will ignore for the moment his weapons deal with the backward, repressive regime of Saudi Arabia. That is a topic for another essay.

Mr. Trump referred to having “passed more legislation” than any other president. This one is more difficult to explain, since none has been passed.

Following his amazing statement about his most amazing self, Mr. Trump then asked all his cabinet members to introduce themselves and say a few words. Now, one might think that the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development might comment on the challenges of providing affordable housing for everyone; the Secretary of Agriculture might make a short statement on the challenges facing the nation’s farmers; the Health and Human Services Secretary might briefly discuss the challenges of people without health care. But no, these were not the thoughts that were first and foremost on the minds of the people who establish U.S. policy. We will see what they actually said:

Ben Carson – Housing and Urban Development: “Mr. President, it’s been a great honor to — to work with you.

Tom Price – Health and Human Services: “Mr. President, what an incredible honor it is to lead the Department of Health and Human Services at this pivotal time under your leadership. I can’t thank you enough for the privileges you’ve given me and the leadership that you’ve shown. It seems like there’s an international flair to the messages that are being delivered. I had the opportunity to represent the United States at the G-20 Health Summit in Berlin and at the World Health Assembly in Geneva. And I can’t tell you how excited and enthusiastic folks are about the United States leadership as it relates to global health security.”

Sonny Purdue – Agriculture: “I want to congratulate you on the men and women you’ve placed around this table. … This is the team you’ve assembled that’s working hand in glove with — for the men and women of America, and I want to — I want to thank you for that. These are — are great team members and we’re on your team.”

It might have been Vice President Mike Pence whose words were the most puzzling, although they closely reflected Mr. Trump’s own assessment of himself. The illustrious vice-president said this: “It is just the greatest privilege of my life is to serve as the — as vice president to the President who’s keeping his word to the American people and assembling a team that’s bringing real change, real prosperity, real strength back to our nation.”

What real change, prosperity and strength Mr. Trump is bringing ‘back’ to the nation is not something of which this writer is aware. The U.S. continues bombing innocent people around the world; no change there. Racism and xenophobia are growing, but one wonders if that could really be the change Mr. Pence is praising; perhaps it is. This writer isn’t aware of any great change in prosperity; unemployment numbers are low, but it is questionable if the president can take credit for that; since he has signed no legislation into law, one wonders how he can feel he has accomplished this task. And if strength means proposing an even more bloated military budget at the expense of the poor and middle class, this would be another interpretation that this writer simply can’t accept.

But what is any of that, when the Cabinet members all feel such joy and rapture at the opportunity of serving the Great Orange One? Who really cares about ‘accomplishments’, when one can bask in the orange glow, secure in a job that pays much but requires very little? Think of the photo-ops!

That it has come to this in the United States should surprise no one. The two major parties long ago merged into one, with some cosmetic differences but no real choices offered to an apathetic electorate. So the fact that a narcissistic blowhard with no experience has wound up in the White House is only the logical, although dismaying, conclusion to a decades-long trend.

Where will this end? Only the most naïve among us think that a transfer of power to the Democratic Party, likely to happen in the House and Senate next year, will reverse the damage currently being done, since that damage is only a continuation of the damage that party did. Bernie Sanders? Let’s not forget his wholehearted endorsement of Hillary Clinton. Tulsi Gabbard? Another shill for Israel  won’t represent any change. Elizabeth Warren? Please see comments about Mr. Sanders and Ms. Gabbard.

This writer is not optimistic about any positive change in the near future.

More articles by:

Robert Fantina’s latest book is Empire, Racism and Genocide: a History of US Foreign Policy (Red Pill Press).

CounterPunch Magazine


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