In Retrospect

A Tale of Two Presidents

On November 8, the world waited with baited breath, as the American public, was about to choose the leader of the world's most powerful nation. The 2016 US Presidential elections had set a record of many firsts, as for the first time, the US establishment had alleged, that the elections were compromised by the Russians.

The old arch enemy (Russians), hid behind a never ending series of Matryoshka dolls, and the American public, was busy peeling away the layers of the doll, in search of the baby doll, concealed at the core. But on November 8, they found no doll; instead, they found the human equivalent of a Molotov cocktail – Donald J Trump.

Back in 2008, the American public had elected former constitutional law professor, and Senator, Barrack Obama to the White House. Americans had been haemorrhaged by two wars, after the ex-president, George W Bush, broke a series of international laws, and tried to play cowboy and Indians in Iraq, they faced no Indians, but a wave of suicide bombings in the aftermath, that literally drained the economy. Promising an end to the wars in the Middle East and a pivot to Asia, Obama using his oratorical prowess, sold the idea of hope and change.

Far removed from the power brokers at Washington, sitting in the eye-sore of a building, Trump Tower, Donald J Trump, a celebrity businessman, had entered the political scene and had targeted Obama, by claiming that he was not a natural-born citizen of the United States, and was, in fact, a Kenyan Muslim. The birther controversy had catapulted Trump on the national stage, and was soon the butt of all jokes after he wanted to "March to Washington" to "Reclaim American Democracy".

Obama and Trump finally came face to face, in 2011, during the Annual White House Correspondents Dinner. Obama chose the occasion, to roast Trump, as he attacked him in a series of jokes. "He (Trump) has taken some flak recently. But I believe that no one is happier, no one is prouder, to put this birth certificate matter to rest than 'The Donald'. And that's because he can finally get back to focusing on issues that matter. Like did we fake the moon landing? And where are Biggie and Tupac?"

Trump, sat fuming amidst the roar of laughter and could only manage to smile as he was ridiculed by the, who is who of Washington. But against all odds, Trump decided to run for President and ran the most abusive, hate-filled campaign in the history of the United States. He was laughed at, eventually, the joke became a drama, the drama turned into a spectacle and on November 8, nobody was laughing anymore, as the first Black President of the United States of America, passed the baton to a demagogue, propped up by the underclass and White supremacists.

The contrast between the two presidents has left many observers of US politics stumped, however, there were similarities between the two men. They loved their families. The community organiser from Chicago, Obama's family was his greatest asset as Michelle Obama, rather than playing the obedient First Lady, managed to carve out her own following, as Obama said in his final address to the nation, "For the past 25 years you have just not only been my wife, the mother of my children, you have been my best friend. You took on a role you didn't ask for and you made it your own, with grace, grit and style".

Trump too doesn't fail to shower his love on his family, and sometimes the love gets too close for anyone's comfort, as his favourite child, Ivanka Trump, who now holds a great sway in the White House, has been embarrassed on several occasions by her doting father.

When asked if Trump would object, if Ivanka would pose for Playboy magazine, he replied, "She has a very nice figure. I have said that if Ivanka weren't my daughter perhaps, I would be dating her".
However, the two men barely see eye to eye on almost every issue. Trump, who has described himself as a 50's guy, yearns for the good old days of American Exceptionalism, when the American power was supreme and life was simpler, this nostalgic element was exploited to the hilt during his 'Make America Great Again' campaign.

However, for Trump, the simpler times has a different connotation, a time when Black men were not allowed to vote, use public transport and segregation was the norm. When addressing a campaign rally in Las Vegas, Trump, who had already gained notoriety for inciting violence in his rallies, was interrupted by a Black Lives Matter protestor.

"There's a guy, totally disruptive, throwing punches. We are not allowed to punch back anymore. I love the old days. You know what they used to do to guys like that, when they are in a place like this? They'd be carried out on a stretcher folks. I'll like to punch him in the face, I'll tell you".

In a rally addressed by Obama in Fayetteville, North Carolina, when an elderly army veteran tried to disrupt his speech, he told his supporters, "You have an older gentleman, who is supporting his candidate. We live in a country that supports free speech. It looks like he served in the military, we must respect that. He is elderly, and we respect our elders, and lastly don't boo, vote."

Trump's mocking of the disabled, his hate-filled vitriol against Muslims, Mexicans, Immigrants, Women, Liberal values, and finally the promise to build a wall, have won him many detractors, as Meryl Street, and many in the Hollywood establishment sensing a repeat of the Mc Carthian red scare of the 50's, had assailed Trump.

But by then the damage was done, When Romney, had failed to clinch the presidency in 2012, many had blamed the lack of outreach amongst the Asians, Hispanics and Blacks. But Trump, never needed them, and instead was memed into existence by the Alt-right, a fringe network of far-right groups, with the news organisation, Breitbart leading the charge.

The Alt right, was credited with running many right wing conspiracy theories, which turned out be fake news, but Trump used them to score sound bites and much-needed popularity to cut establishment Republicans like Jeb Bush to size. And when the time came the crucial rust belt states, which had voted for Obama remained uninspired by a dull Hillary Clinton and chose Trump.

The intelligence establishment had been issuing warnings of alleged Russian intrusion in the US elections, and have credited Vladimir Putin, with subverting the process to elect Trump, as the Russian intelligence agencies had compromising material on Trump. But that would not stop him from continuing his bromance with Putin. Breaking from tradition, Trump has endorsed the Russian President as a crucial determinant in the fight against ISIS.

He has claimed to shred Obamacare to pieces once he takes office. Rescind the Paris agreement, after roping in climate change deniers in his transition team. Bomb ISIS to the Stone Age, compared to Obama's drone strike and stealth operations involving night raids and assassinations.

Obama's pivot to Asia was a 'complete disaster' to use Trump's catchphrase, as the Chinese state under the Machiavellian Xi Xinping, boldly asserts himself in the South China sea. But breaking from the past establishment tactic of avoiding direct confrontation with an emerging superpower, Trump in a series of tweets had attacked the Chinese establishment and called for an end to the 'One China policy'.

With Obama passing on a massive surveillance state, over to a man who tweets at 4 in the morning, whose campaign staff had to take his phone during the last days of the election, as they never trusted him with Twitter, and now is commander in chief entrusted with the nuclear codes of the country. The liberal establishment had won the culture wars in the US by crying wolf and painting many establishment Republicans as Hitler, but when the time did come, the people did not listen and let the wolf in.

The media had made a spectacle of Trump for viewership, and now faces obsolesce, from a man who brands them as fake news, and barely conducts press conferences and chooses to tweet.

Obama in a one last attempt at salvaging his legacy, played the community organizer, mustering every single ounce of his oratorical skills, he spoke to the American public, "I am asking you to hold fast to that faith written into our founding documents; that idea whispered by slaves and abolitionists; that spirit sung by immigrants and homesteaders and those who marched for justice; that creed reaffirmed by those who planted flags from foreign battlefields to the surface of the moon; a creed at the core of every American whose story is not yet written: Yes, we did. Yes, we can."
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