President-elect Donald Trump and President Barack Obama spent 90 minutes discussing the handover of power Wednesday and then faced the press with petrified expressions, awkwardly declaring their mutual respect and willingness to cooperate. There are days when the sensible is absurd and absurdity masquerades as common sense.
The early hours after the election of America’s 45th president offer anything but certainty. A heavy fog of uncertainty has spread over the Western world. If the world had a logo, it would be a question mark.
Here are eight answers to eight pressing questions I offer, in a determined attempt at optimism.
1. Will the United States withdraw from the world stage?
Rather unlikely. Trump’s personality and idea of a great America won’t allow him to shift the nation into “splendid isolation.” Like most U.S. presidents, he will want to shine on the international stage for domestic political reasons. As commander-in-chief of the U.S. military with 1.4 million soldiers and more than 7,000 nuclear weapons, Trump can’t possibly abandon world politics. He’s condemned to engage with the world.
2. Will Trump end free world trade?
No. America is an import addict and wants to boost its own exports out of pure self-interest. Its trade deficit at $550 billion between January and September is far too high for it to abandon the free movement of goods.
3. Does Trump have a role model and if so, who?
Trump has evidently studied the biography of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The 32nd president from New York not only led the anti-Hitler coalition, but also spearheaded an imposing and successful infrastructure program. Trump wants to launch a similar big program. Roosevelt won the hearts of Americans when he spoke of “the forgotten man,” a cornerstone of his domestic policy. After his election, Trump assured Americans that “the forgotten men and women” will no longer be forgotten.
4. Will Trump govern for one or two terms in the White House?
His health and the Republican Party will decide. Even an incumbent can face a primary election but is typically spared the show. But if there are signs of dissatisfaction in the rank and file, the party will have no qualms about putting him through primaries: After his first term, George Bush senior had to run against paleoconservative Pat Buchanan. Bush won the primaries but was viewed by many Americans as a weak leader – he lost the presidential election to the newcomer Bill Clinton.
5. Will Mexico get that wall?
Here’s what Trump promised in the campaign: “I will build a great, great wall on our southern border, and I will make Mexico pay for that wall.” There’s already a 1,100-kilometer border fence between the U.S. and Mexico. Mr. Trump will likely expand this monstrosity, which in some places is 3.5 meters taller than the Berlin Wall. But Mexico won’t be paying for it.
6. Is the gun lobby the biggest winner of the election?
Yes. Trump doesn’t regard gun ownership as foolishness – he sees it as every individual’s fundamental right to protect his liberty. His bible is the Second Amendment of the U.S. constitution: “A well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”
7. Will Trump continue to rail against Hispanics, African-Americans and women?
Definitely not. He is bold but not stupid. The new president will tone it down from now on. The strict White House protocol shaped by diplomats will also rein him in. Trump’s new role is as president of all Americans. From now on, insults are verboten.
8. Will he live in the White House?
He must, because he needs to be close to the air raid shelter under the building and the high-tech Presidential Emergency Operation Center that gives the commander-in-chief the necessary security and speed of reaction in a crisis. But if the Trump family feels too confined in the White House, it could spend time in the Trump International Hotel just a few minutes’ walk away. It’s not as white, but golden inside.
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