So, I talked Trump on Indian TV back on February 14th. It all started when a former student of mine arranged for me to give a presentation at a leading New Delhi think tank, the Observer Research Foundation. This led to what we thought would be a subsequent five-minute televised chat, which turned out to be a 30-minute interview on the Indian network WION.
Though the Observer audience and WION interviewer were all very sharp (no surprise there), their questions still struck me as uninformed about Trump in a crucial way that reflected not on them but on the nature of foreign news coverage of Trump. That is, they understandably focused on how the new administration would handle China or terrorism or H1B visas, by which many India tech workers come to the United States. What they didn’t seem to get, and what I tried to educate them about, was how this president differs from all others in terms of his personality, his views on democracy and what those might mean for the United States and the world.
Feeling pretty good about the defeat of Ryancare…or Trumpcare…or the Gut-Health-Care-Coverage-for-24-Million-People Act? Hoping this is the start of a long-term slide for the president?
Such hope is helpful and such a slide would be super. But there’s still a respect in which we should watch what we wish for. As Andrew Sullivan speculates, a Trump slump could lead us into a wag the dog scenario:
A president hobbled domestically by his own party’s divisions and the opposition’s new energy may be tempted — Putin-like — to change the subject in a way that vaults him back to popularity. A foreign altercation from which he will not back down? A trade war? A smidge likelier, I’d say, is an over-the-top response to an inevitable jihadist terror attack in a major American city. A demagogue loses much of his power when he tries to wrestle complicated legislation through various political factions, in the way our gloriously inefficient Constitution requires. He regains it with rank fear, polarization, and a raw show of force. Heaven knows what the Constitution will look like once he’s finished.