'I misspoke': Another astonishing display of "leadership" from Donald Trump

‘I misspoke’: Another astonishing display of “leadership” from Donald Trump

Throughout Donald Trump’s political career – from aspiring Republican candidate, to Presidential candidate, to President-elect to President – we have become accustomed to the shocks.

To the unfathomable, inexplicable and inexcusable: from announcing he could “shoot someone” on Fifth avenue and still get elected, to attempting to ban all muslims from entering the US, to firing the director of the FBI, to criticising a serviceman’s widow, to refusing to shake Angela Merkel’s hand, to engaging in a unique and often personally vicious version of ‘diplomacy’ over Twitter, at every step Donald Trump has marked new territory.

But even against this erratic terrain, in which he has consistently rendered the unfathomable fathomable, his meeting with Russia’s president Vladimir Putin and his remarks afterwards stand out.

Trump’s public statement of support for Putin over his own intelligence agencies in regard to meddling in the 2016 US election has been met with fury.

“There is overwhelming evidence that our president, for the first time in our history, is deliberately or through gross negligence or because of his own twisted personality engaged in treasonous behaviour — behaviour that violates his oath of office to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States”,” Thomas Friedman wrote in the New York Times.

Senator John McCain dubbed it “one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory”.

Even his most rusted-on supporters couldn’t publicly support him.

The former National Security Council spokesman Michael Anton cancelled a CNN appearance about Trump’s meeting with Putin “because he said he can’t defend it”.

“President Trump must clarify his statements in Helsinki on our intelligence system and Putin,” Newt Gingrich wrote on Twitter. “It is the most serious mistake of his presidency and must be corrected — immediately.”

Despite initially digging in and describing the fury as ‘fake news’, Donald Trump retreated.

In a breathtaking display in which he confirmed his extraordinary capacity to underestimate the intelligence of Americans (and all the global citizens playing along at home, Trump explained he had merely misspoken.

“I thought it would be obvious, but I would like to clarify, just in case it wasn’t,” Trump said. “At a key sentence in my remarks, I said the word ‘would’ instead of ‘wouldn’t’.”

When discussing Russia’s potential meddling in the 2016 election Trump actually said, “I don’t see any reason why it would be Russia”. Apparently he meant to say “I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t be Russia.”

It was a “double negative”, if we like. A simple misunderstanding that took 27 hours of sustained bi-partisan fury and disbelief to clarify.

It shouldn’t be shocking. It is totally characteristic and consistent because with President Trump the only certainty is unpredictability with a dose of petulance. And yet it is shocking.

It is shocking that this passes as “leadership”: that an individual so evidently lacking in vision, so driven by personal vanity, so obviously ill-prepared, is in the hot seat.  It is cause for genuine despair and as each day passes and presents further proof of his inadequacy as president it grows.

Thankfully The New Yorker’s David Remnick has offered us, the ‘outraged and dispirited’, a “glimmer of hope”.

It comes in the form of a 28 year old, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez from the Bronx, who he says is almost certain to become the youngest woman ever elected to Congress in November.

At the end of June she “pulled off a political upset in the Democratic primary for the Fourteenth Congressional District, soundly defeating the incumbent, Joseph Crowley, the most powerful politician in Queens County and the fourth-ranking Democrat in the House of Representatives”.

A few months ago she was waiting tables but today? “She is the embodiment of anti-corporate politics and a surge of female candidates in the midterm elections.”

Her success to date is born from the seeds of discontent Donald Trump has spread. With this latest display we can only hope that more and more Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s will emerge. Surely sanity will soon prevail once more?

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