The all-American president

Under US Presdient Donald Trump, Lady Liberty no longer welcomes the tired and the poor but asks them for a photo ID.

A screencapture of the campaign video to re-elect President Donald Trump (photo credit: screenshot)
A screencapture of the campaign video to re-elect President Donald Trump
(photo credit: screenshot)
More than 200 days into his presidency, political commentators, journalists and sociologists remain baffled by the election of Donald Trump. The prevailing sentiment traces the roots of Trumpism to the disillusioned white middle class that awoke from its American Dream to learn that globalization had robbed it of its livelihood. The elections of 2016 were thus dubbed the elections of the angry white man.
Now was the winter of American discontent made glorious summer by this son of New York.
Since his inauguration, a growing number of Americans feel that Trump is not their president, that he does not share the fundamental values and aspirations that have defined America since its birth. His attacks on the media, his contempt for other world leaders and his desire to entrench America behind anti-immigration walls all make him un-American in the eyes of some. Under Trump, Lady Liberty no longer welcomes the tired and the poor but asks them for a photo ID.
Yet is it possible that the opposite is true? That Trump is the most honest and the most “American” president in recent history? For over the past months, Trump has finally narrowed the gap between American rhetoric and American policies.
As it emerged victorious from the Cold War, American power stood unopposed. Neither the bankrupt Russia nor the emerging China or fledgling EU could counterbalance Washington’s foreign policies.
And what did American presidents do with this awesome power?
George W. Bush used it to unlawfully invade two countries, destabilize entire regions, detain and torture foreign nationals and cement American support for Arab dictators. Bush spoke of the struggle for truth, justice and the American way while establishing the Guantanamo Bay detention center, a fortress of unimaginable solitude.
Under Bush, the only thing greater than America’s lust for power was Wall Street’s lust for profit. American financial institutions and regulatory bodies adopted an “America first” financial policy which brought the world to the brink of financial ruin.
The election of Barack Obama was supposed to signal a return to American ideals. The great orator would not only “talk the talk” but also reaffirm America’s commitment to its core values. Symbolically, he began his presidency by addressing an auditorium in Cairo University calling for a new beginning in the relationship between America and the Muslim world.
Obama’s vision for a new Middle East was so grandiose that it was only rivaled by his abandonment of the region’s inhabitants. Under the Obama presidency, America continued to support Arab despots, it allowed the Egyptian military to squash the spirit of the Arab Spring, it betrayed the cause of Palestinian statehood and it supplied various dictators with intelligence collected by the most advanced surveillance systems in the world, systems that egregiously violate human rights on a global scale.
When not supporting those who oppress freedom, Obama dangerously destabilized Pakistan and Afghanistan through his affinity for drone strikes. Here was an “America first” defense policy. Why risk the lives of US soldiers for a few hundred “Afghans”?
Most importantly, Obama’s America allowed Syrian President Bashar Assad’s murderous regime to butcher its own population.
The bodies of men, women and children still buried under the rubble of Aleppo are a testament to the gap between American rhetoric and American polices during Obama’s tenure.
Unlike his predecessors, Trump neither promises freedom nor advocates democracy. He honestly states that America will come first, and the world second, if that. He is a vocal supporter of despots that promote local and regional stability; he is happy to dance with Arab leaders after refurbishing their militaries and ensuring their oppressive powers and he does not bother to curtsy before other world leaders. Trump does not rely on the kindness of foreign leaders, he bullies them. The only difference is that he does so in plain sight while other presidents have done it in private.
Above all Trump is honest about the kind of peace he seeks. Not a Pax Americana, enforced by weapons of war, but a Rex Americana, enforced by Exxon Mobile. A global order meant to preserve American financial affluence. Trump is Gordon Gecko unhinged, a devout follower of that all-American maxim; greed, for lack of a stronger word, is good.
Trump is not un-American but too American. As outrageous as Las Vegas, as grandiose as Hollywood blockbusters and as decrepit as American highways. He is Obama without the preacher’s voice; he is Bush without the pretense of global coalitions. He is a president who forgoes the façade.
He is America, naked and unabashed.
The author is a PhD candidate at the University of Oxford. He blogs at