Victoria Ngozi Ikeano
Bitterness. Jealousy. Revenge. These are words that are reverberating from the United States of America (USA) in the aftermath of the failed impeachment of President Donald Trump. The days following senate impeachment verdict of ‘not guilty’ turns out to be one of the most factious in America’s democracy or more specifically, between the executive and the congress or still more pin pointedly, between the president and the congress. President Trump is at the centre of this fight. The world is only now getting used his strange, unpresidential manner of speaking and acting. Hitherto, the norm is for presidents, heads of states and other political leaders to carefully weigh their speech and actions in public; in brief to behave in ways that are considered diplomatic, dignified, in sync with their high offices as people look up to them as role models and as pace setters for cordial inter personal, intra country relationships and world peace. In particular the US had long been viewed as setting the standard for democratic norms and democracy in general, so much so that it is often cited as the example to follow in any democratic journey.
Truly Trump evinced his character from the very beginning. Remember that as a presidential aspirant vying to become the Republican party’s flag bearer at the primaries he had nothing but harsh words for those who turned their backs against him to side other aspirants. He also tongue lashed some prominent artistes who ditched him to perform at Democratic candidate Hilary Clinton’s campaign rallies. During the presidential debate preceding the election proper itself, he was combative, quarrelsome in contrast to a cool headed Clinton. Since stepping into the White House as US’ 45th president, Trump has breached virtually all known presidential protocols by way of conducts. He has feuded publicly with the American media, leaders of other countries, etc., calling them names. It is not that world leaders do not have disagreements among themselves, but these usually happen behind closed doors and they hardly use unsavoury words on one another in public. President Trump is no respecter of such etiquettes. Ask Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau or the Mayor of London (Khan), among others, who have been at receiving end of Trump’s vitriolic tweets. Trump tweets via his personal account @realDonaldTrump rather than the official @Potus45. He is a twitter freak. You could say that that is what is required in this 21st century – a digital-compliant leader. The president’s favourite words appear to be ‘horrible’ and ‘terrible’. Not infrequently has he described high ranking people as a horrible or terrible person.
Rivalry between Democrats and Republicans which should be based strictly on ideology has grown into animosity since Trump became president, reaching a crescendo with Democrats’ takeover of Congress and Nancy Pelosi simultaneously emerging as Speaker. The ‘war’ between the Democrats and Republicans came to a head late last year when the US Congress impeached him for “abuse of power and obstruction of Congress”. He was recently acquitted by the Republican-controlled senate, 53 votes to 47 and so remains in office. An obviously ‘pained’ Pelosi faulting the senate’s verdict because according to her they did not admit witnesses or documents maintained that the president “remains impeached forever”. President Trump calls Pelosi a “scum like her fellow democrats”. In his usual braggadocio, President Trump proudly displayed at a gathering, the front page headlines of major newspapers (which he had previously dubbed fake news peddlers) that read, “President Trump acquitted”. He quickly sacked two federal government employees who testified against him at the trial, one of whom is US ambassador to the European Union.
The lone republican that voted against him in the senate is being threatened with expulsion by the party. It is alleged in some American circles that majority of Republican senators believe that President Trump is guilty of the charges preferred against him but fear being punished by him should they vote otherwise. While Trump was characteristically beating his chest and mocking the democrats, the opposition led by Pelosi were sulking.
Both parties or, better said, both President Trump and Speaker Pelosi refused to let bygones be bygones and use their exalted offices to forge a new path of unity for an already divided American people. They continued the war of attrition the next day when President Trump gave the yearly ‘state of the union’ address in Congress. While the president as protocol demands dropped a copy of the speech with Pelosi upon arrival, he declined to shake her outstretched hand. And the Speaker simply introduced him as “president of the United States of America”; rather than the customary way of introducing the president irrespective of his party, namely, “I have the high honour and distinct privilege to introduce the president of the United States of America…” At end of the speech Speaker Pelosi tore her own copy of the address on live television, in the full glare of a global audience. Now Republicans want Pelosi jailed for ‘destroying government property’. Sadly these retaliatory actions are coming from elderly persons who should be setting exemplary conduct for younger ones. Trump is about 73 years old and Pelosi 79. Sadder still is that such rather childish acts, unworthy of mature people is also being exhibited by chief priests of democracy who hold up American democracy as best for the world. On current evidence it is doubtful if the world should continue to view American democracy in high regard – a system that has little respect for constituted authority.
Surprisingly, both parties continued their ill tempered behaviours during the national breakfast prayer, albeit discreetly. President Trump shook hands with people on his own side of the table where he sat but did not extend such courtesy to the other side of the table where sat Pelosi and some other dignitaries. There, Trump remarked that he does not like people who say “I pray for you’ when they know that is not so”, apparently referring to Pelosi. And Pelosi replied that she does indeed “pray hard” for the president, especially when he is going off the mark. This was a prayer meeting where they sought to beseech the Almighty. Anybody approaching the Almighty in prayer should do so in humility, reverence and purity. That is to say that prior to the prayer we should purge ourselves of all hate and ill feelings. President Trump as the most powerful leader on earth, professed leader of the free world should lead by example eschewing bitterness, hate or revenge in his thoughts, words and deeds. He should learn to have a thick skin, forgive and to move on after certain unpleasant outcomes. That is the hallmark of a true leader. Currently, President Trump, Speaker Pelosi and America are bad examples for humanity.
Ikeano writes via [email protected]