Number 35 would have been painfully-embarassed by Number 45.
Every human-being on the face of the earth must someday come face-to-face with their moment-in-history. That turning point of their life where the choice they make at that moment, determines the trajectory of the rest of their days. Shakespeare captured it beautifully in his epic, Julius Caesar, that:
“There is a tide in the affairs of men which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life. is bound in shallows and in miseries.”
Often, circumstances such as place of birth, family background, race helps to position us in making the right choices when those turning-point moments come. But make them we must at one point or the other in all our lives.
Where am I going with all these? Please bear with me.
For Donald J. Trump, that moment came on January 7th, 2020. As the curtains are now coming down on his chaotic time as the 45th President of the United States of America, Trump will look back on that day as his moment-in-history which he missed; and as such, with devastating consequences for him and millions of Americans.
On the morning of that day, Trump received the Daily Security Brief (DSB) from a galaxy of intelligence agencies lined-up behind the CIA, which all American presidents get as the first thing on their desk. The briefing contained a note that a very small number of people arriving from mainland China had gone to their doctors to report a “flu-like” irritation that was making it difficult for them to breathe. The report mentioned that these people were just seven in number.
Subsequent daily security briefings kept mentioning this “flu-like” irritation and by the end of the month of January, the World Health Organisation had given it the name of COVID-19. Of course, Donald Trump ignored it. Of course, he later confessed to the celebrated American journalist, Bob Woodward in August. that he wanted to downplay the virus in order not to create panic. By the time of that confession in August, the number of Americans who had died from the “flu-like” irritation had ballooned to over 175,000! As I’m writing this, that number has further exploded to over 252,000 dead Americans and is still climbing. On TV screens everywhere, CNN keeps a daily tab of people in America infected by the virus and it now sits at 12,249,528 million. Two-and-half times the population of New Zealand.
New Zealand fits into this narrative because it is one of the few countries in the world that has successfully managed the spread of the coronavirus. It did that thanks to its Prime Minister, 40-year-old Jacinda Ardern who acted fast on the same security report given to Trump in January. She immediately put together a team of scientists who gave her expert advice on the still-mysterious disease; shut down all airports leading in and out of the country and started contact-tracing testing everyone. Everyone!
On October 17, Ardern won re-election in a landslide for another four-year term as PM. Her quick response to the coronavirus, which has only claimed 25 New Zealand lives was clearly the major reason why New Zealanders voted overwhelmingly for her again.
On the other side of the world, Donald Trump is fighting a lost battle in American courtrooms; in a desperate attempt to take away the votes of millions of folks who voted him out on November 3. An election that looked like a stroll for him in January, descended into a struggle, then an arm-wrestle and ultimately a red card from fed-up Americans suffering the consequences of his poor decision-making and lack of leadership. Trump missed his moment-in-history. Along with it, a presidency was thrown-away and what is now left is a legacy in tatters.
On January 20, 2021 when the baton will inevitably be handed-over to Joe Biden, Trump will forever be judged harshly. And rightly so. Already-infamous for all the wrong reasons such as being a businessman who cheated the system but still went bankrupt four times; a serial womanizer; an adulterer; a tax dodger; a racist; a client of pornstars while married; a nepotist who filled the White House with his adult children; peddler of conspiracy theories; vindictive; disrespectful; lacking humility (take your pick), he still had the chance to turn his story around and leave a legacy as a President who rose to the occasion. Instead, he persisted in his trademark under-handed style of name-calling, shirking responsibility, corrupt, divisive, lying unashamedly and cozying-up to cold-blooded killers like Russia’s Putin and North Korea’s Il Sung.
How a man like Trump emerged to become President of a country like USA, must be one of the most-shameful failures of the American electoral system. His dirty politics would certainly have broken America if he was re-elected. Once was too much.
Today, America is in deep trouble socially and economically. It’s so bad that over 21 million Americans are now queuing-up at foodbanks, for free food! It’s a superpower brought to its knees both by an invisible plague it never saw coming and a President who abdicated his duties at the most-crucial time. Racially, it is bitterly-divided; a toxic coat of many colors. And the man who almost broke America as its 45th President, stands in stark contrast to its 35th president, the beloved John Fitzgerald Kennedy. JFK had been in the White House for just 2 years and 10 months when an assassin’s bullet brutally ended his life on November 22, 1963. In that short space however, he established himself as a statesman; an iconic leader in troubled times; a respected voice for America on the global stage; a friend to emerging African countries gradually gaining their freedoms and an example of what an American president should look and sound like. He wasn’t perfect of course, but he saw his moment-in-history and embraced it seriously.
Today, 57 years after his death, historians count over 700 memorials around the world named after JFK. Statues, avenues, high schools, a university in Argentina, buildings, stadia, museums, the busiest international airport in New York, five other airports around USA, a space exploration site in Florida, scores of parks and open spaces, two US postage stamps, the 50 cent coin, a US Navy aircraft carrier, two municipalities in Brazil, two cities in Colombia and Honduras, streets in 71 countries including unlikely places such as Burkina Faso, Mauritius and even in the country that refers to America as the ‘Great Satan’, Iran.
For a man who was President for just 34 months, No.35 made quite an impression in such short space of time.
For the man who became No.45, the dustbin of history as well as 13 charges for fraud, racketeering, tax evasion, defamation and rape awaits.
In the words of Michelle Obama, the wife of the man who came before Trump, “being president…doesn’t change who you are, it reveals who you are”. It indeed exposed all the vices in Donald Trump. At 74 now, the old dog clearly is unwilling or unable to change its ways.