Toby Manhire is a Wellington-bred, Auckland-based journalist.

Toby Manhire: Why President Trump has so far been mostly fine in one simple sentence

President Donald Trump arrives in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington. Photo / AP
President Donald Trump arrives in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington. Photo / AP

In September last year, I explained in this very newspaper "Why a President Trump will probably be okay", and while it is not seemly to blow one's own brass, in the face of incessant warbling from haters and wreckers, snowflakes and bad dudes, I feel impelled to compose a sequel of sorts, to underscore just how vindicated that position has been by the first 20 days of President Donald J Trump, which, when regarded with the advantage of sobriety and distance, can be reasonably judged, apart from the immediate aftermath of the swearing-in, when Trump lurched around the place like Baby Huey the Giant Duck, quacking furiously about the size of the throngs who watched his big day, with press guy Sean Spicer issuing the already infamous balderdash that it was "the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period", backed up by a bizarre, tone-deaf diatribe delivered by the President himself at the CIA, against a backdrop of a continued refusal to honour undertaking to release tax returns and failure to disassociate from his business interests, ongoing speculation over the gobsmacking, if unverified, allegations contained in a private intelligence dossier, published earlier in January, on suspicions Trump is beholden to Putin's Russia, and a bull-headed, evidence-free insistence that there was massive, three-million-plus voter fraud at the election, in spite of the absence of any evidence to suggest as much and the fact that he won the election, and obviously notwithstanding the border ban on people from seven majority-Muslim countries, an initiative described at best as hopelessly clumsy, at worst as shamefully racist, which was originally conceived by Trump, according to his ally Rudy Giuliani, as a "Muslim ban", and sparked massive protests at American airports and chaos for travellers and governments the world over, as well as condemnations from businesses and political and NGO leaders everywhere, before being halted in the courts and triggering a string of constitutionally alarming anti-judiciary attacks from the President, not to mention being widely regarded as a golden recruitment tactic for terrorist groups, with Isis, for example, dubbing it "the blessed ban", and if you're willing to overlook the resignation of the State Department's entire senior management team, the image of Trump signing an anti-abortion executive order while surrounded by seven men, or the sight of Trump autographing an order initiating the reversal of financial regulations put in place following the global financial crisis, watched over by former Goldman Sachs executive Gary Cohn, and justified because, in Trump's words, "I have so many people, friends of mine, with nice businesses, they can't borrow money", and if you quietly paper over the staggering scale of stories piping out of the White House, which, in the summary of Talking Points Memo, "casually leaks the most intimate and humiliating details about the President: hurt feelings, ego injury, childlike behaviour, self-destructive rages over tweets, media failure to credit his own grandiosity", and apart from the bizarre, briefly-comical-then-downright-frightening utterances spilling from the mouths of his media flunkeys Sean Spicer and Kellyanne Conway, who have scrambled to translate into human language Trump's garble, given us "alternative facts" and wholly fabricated massacres, and the surprise promotion to the National Security Council of his chief strategist and wingman Steve Bannon, the former head of far-right website Breitbart who thinks the media should "keep its mouth shut ", who last year predicted the US would go to war with China "in five to 10 years", and who has identified as a "Leninist", insofar as "Lenin wanted to destroy the state, and that's my goal, too, I want to bring everything crashing down", and a bunch of terrifying appointments including conspiracy-theory-propounding National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, climate change denier Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency and, as Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos, who is keen to "advance God's kingdom" via American schools along with big-oil honchos and a range of others that amount to a gigantic flipping of the bird at his own "drain the swamp" rhetoric, and as long as you ignore the continuation of Obama's approach in Yemen, with Trump signing off a botched raid that killed as many as 30 civilians, including 10 women and children, an 8-year-old American girl as well as one US Navy SEAL, prompting Yemen to withdraw permission for US ground missions and Trump's reiteration of enthusiasm to reintroduce torture, as well as the list of 78 terrorist attacks that Trump insisted the "very, very dishonest press" had failed to cover in spite of the fact that the press had covered almost all of them extensively, and were it not for the string of bizarre conversations with other world leaders, not least the reported threat to the Mexican president, who cancelled a trip to Washington, that unless more was done to deal with "bad hombres down there", he was ready to send in US troops, nor the exchange with the boss in Canberra, described in a White House readout as "the Australian President" and by Spicer as "Malcolm Trumble", in which Trump seems to have wailed like a teenager over a refugee placement scheme, declared it "the worst call by far" and hung up 25 minutes into the scheduled hour, all of which led to New Zealand's Bill English being praised by media for "lasting" his own 15 minute natter with the new President, as if such a thing should be the equivalent of riding a bucking bronco lathered in engine grease, and apart from the mind-boggling stream of rabid consciousness the President pours forth on to Twitter like a Lucozade soufflé, much of it reportedly dispatched while wandering the White House in a bathrobe, such as the Ministry of Truth tribute howl asserting that "Any negative polls are fake news", or the astonishing suggestion that any terrorist attack should be blamed on the judge who blocked the visa ban, or the pitifully adolescent jabs at Arnold Schwarzenegger, or yesterday's effort, in which Trump attacked department store Nordstrom for its decision to drop its range of his daughter Ivanka's branded clothing, which on the face of it is just ridiculous but when you think about it is kind of terrifying, not least because according to White House schedule it was posted 20 minutes into his daily intelligence briefing, and if you're happy to brush off the dreadful public approval ratings or the fact Trump had been named in more than 50 lawsuits within a fortnight, 10 times the average of his three predecessors, and, if I'm honest, apart also from the dozens of other bone-chilling stories emanating daily from this Ubu Roi impressionist in the White House and the general feeling the world is therefore on the precipice of some new, ineffable crisis, or if you've been in a coma or a cave or on a colossal bender for these past 20 days, then, for goodness sake, calm down everyone, President Trump has so far been mostly fine.

- NZ Herald

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