The Republican Party are like their kin in Argentina were in those dark days. They either refuse to see that a narcissistic, racist liar is leading their republic astray, or come up with pathetic excuses for his behaviour.
Former editor of the Buenos Aires Herald (1968-1979).
Six months before he was elected president,
Donald Trump warned that if he didn’t win the
White House, the United States would become
a “totally different country – like Argentina or
Venezuela.” Prophetically, since his election
the United States has become a totally different
At the time, Mr. Trump was chatting on one
of his favourite television shows, the appropriately named
Squawk Box on CNBC, and he was warning that a Democratic
administration would appoint liberal judges to the Supreme
Court. That, he said, would wreck the economy and turn the
United States into one of his favourite clichés,
“a third-world country.” That, apparently, is how
he sees Argentina.
In fact, under President Trump’s leadership,
the United States has become like a third-world
country – through its rapid decline into degeneracy.
This fact is vividly illustrated by the latest
revelation of Trumpian debauchery. On Tuesday
Michael Cohen, the president’s long-serving
(and long-suffering?) personal lawyer, told
The New York Times that he paid US$130,00 to
Stephanie Clifford. She was described by the
Times as “the pornographic-film actress known
as Stormy Daniels, who says she had an affair
with Mr. Trump.”
The “affair” allegedly happened many years
ago, around the time when the newly married
third Mrs. Trump (Melania, now the first lady)
was giving birth to their first child together. But
in 2016, Stephanie Clifford, in her persona as
Stormy Daniels, was threatening to launch a tell-all book about
the “affair” just as Mr. Trump was launching his campaign for
She had to be hushed up. So Mr. Cohen dipped into his own
pocket and paid the hush money to the porn star. It was, as the
lawyer noted, a private transaction. “The payment to Ms.
Clifford was lawful, and was not a campaign contribution or
campaign expenditure by anyone,” he said. In other words, he
got the future President Trump off the hook, legally, at least.
The moral of this story is that it demonstrates that the current
leader of what undoubtedly was once “the most
powerful country in the world” – another cliché
that comes easily to the lips of the president
– has no moral authority.
He is both immoral and amoral. That
was made clear during the campaign
when a tape recording surfaced in
which he can be heard describing the
Trump technique for sexually abusing
women. He said that “when you’re a star,
they let you do it, you can do anything. You grab
them by the pussy.” Those words may well have
helped set off the avalanche of sexual harassment
claims that have followed, in which celebrities
have been denounced as serial sexual abusers by
women who have decided not to suffer in silence
There is another illustrative declaration that
fixes the Trumpian personality like a butterfly
pinned in a collector’s showcase. In a burst of
euphoria at a Trump rally in January, 2016, he
said: “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue
and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.” With
his narcissism in full bloom, he was suggesting that
he could get away with murder.
And he may even believe it. He certainly believed
Orrin Hatch when, according to President Trump, the
senator for Utah told him that he is the greatest president
ever: “Orrin is — I love listening to him speak …
he actually once said I’m the greatest president in the
history of our country.”
Here is where some similarities with Argentina may be
discerned. What worries me most is the silence of conservatives
in the United States. I remember a typically brilliant
article or editorial (I forget which exactly) by former Buenos
Aires Herald editor James Neilson, written at the height of
the terror during the 1976-1983 dictatorship. He called upon
“conservatives with a conscience” to speak out and condemn
the atrocities which most people were refusing to see, although
they were taking place under their noses. Argentine conservatives,
who are inexplicably called liberals, sold their consciences
to the beasts and goats who led the Armed Forces.
Some US conservatives have remained
in touch with their consciences, however.
Indeed, the response of conservative intellectuals
has been heartening. Political
commentator George Will, for example,
is a withering critic of Trumpery. But the
Republican Party as a whole and most
(lower-case) republicans are like their kin
in Argentina were in those dark years.
They either refuse to see that a narcissistic,
racist liar is leading their republic
astray or, alternatively, come up with
pathetic excuses for his behaviour.
Things aren’t as bad – yet – as they were
in Argentina, of course, but he and the
flock of sheep he is leading astray have
caused the United States of America to be
reclassified as “a flawed democracy.” That
failing grade does not come from me, it
was reluctantly posted by the Economic
Intelligence Unit (EIU), which drew on reliable data from organisations
such as the Pew Research Center. The EIU report
emphasises that the downgrading of democracy in the United
States began before Trump was even a candidate for president.
In my view the consecration of Mr. Trump as the GOP’s candidate
and his election as president were a consequence of the
rise of authoritarianism and the polarisation of politics. President
Trump personifies the worst in the United States. The best
have lost their democratic convictions.
Here in the US, we haven’t replicated Peronism. There is,
as yet, no ‘ism’ to add to the name of Trump. There is highlevel
corruption, but outright robbery from the
public purse would still not be accepted here.
US institutions have proven not to be as
strong as generally believed, but they are
still holding the nation together.
Unlike Argentina under the dictatorship,
when the press collapsed, the US
has a vigorous press. Hilarious satire
keeps those who are unhappy with
Trump laughing uproariously and
helps us to maintain our sanity.
The multitudinous flood of antiTrump
jokes tends to suggest that
he is a clown, a fool. He may appear
to be a clownish fool, but he has a
formidable animal intelligence. That
causes some of us old Argentine hands
to worry that he may one day wake up
and decide to emulate General Leopoldo
Galtieri by trying to invade North
Perhaps he will be satisfied if he is granted
the massive display of military hardware in a
huge parade in Washington that he has been pining
for since he witnessed the Bastille Day parade
in Paris. It is to be feared, however, that such
a stirring and totally undemocratic outburst of
aggressive nationalism might encourage him
to take a step too far.