By Tayo Ogunbiyi
IN a few days’ time, the Trump administration will mark its 100 days in office. To what extent President Donald Trump has so far been able to successfully focus on fulfilling his electoral promises to the American electorate is neither here nor there. One thing that is, however, clearly identifiable and deeply entrenched in the Trump administration’s style is Trump’s predilection towards demonizing his predecessor, Barack Obama, over every challenge that his administration has had to grapple with since its inauguration. This approach has become so recurring that it is almost becoming an obsession for President Trump.
In the wake of the recent horrific gas attack on civilians in Syria, the void in Trump administration’s foreign policy became quite pronounced. Initially, the White House was unusually quiet in its reaction to the ugly incident. While the attack was swiftly and roundly condemned by leaders across the world, the US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, who was then on a visit to neighbouring Jordan disregarded questions from probing newshounds about the event, thereby maintaining his habitual quietness in the face of troubling global occurrences.
When Trump administration eventually found its voice, it simply laid the blame on Barack Obama. In what now seems like a routine, President Trump used the attack, which killed dozens of people, including children, to score a cheap domestic political point against Barrack Obama when he described it as a direct “consequence” of Obama’s Syria policy. He said: “These heinous actions by the Bashar al-Assad regime are a consequence of the last administration’s weakness and irresolution. President Obama said in 2012 that he would establish a ‘red line’ against the use of chemical weapons and then did nothing.”
The response, no doubt, exemplified President Trump’s continuing sense of being in his predecessor’s shadow. Curiously, aside lambasting Obama, President Trump did not reveal what impact the attack would have on Washington’s approach to Russia and Iran which are major backers of Assad. It would be recollected that President Trump and his campaign team are being investigated to ascertain the extent of Russia’s involvement in the last American election.
Till date and in spite of his blame game, Trump administration is yet to come out with an official position on Syria. Interestingly, prior to the Idlib attack, Paris had expressed deep worries over Washington’s inability to take a definite stand on Syria. Indeed, after the gory Idlib event, French Foreign Minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, vented his frustration at Trump’s confusing Syria policy, arguing that the Idlib attack was carried out by Syria as a result of Trump administration’s seeming non-committed stance towards Syria. He said: “It’s a test. That’s why France repeats the messages, notably to the Americans, to clarify their position.” Rather than blame his government’s failure on the previous administration, the Idlib massacre only goes to underscore a deep hole in Trump administration’s weak approach to Assad’s barbarism.
The same Obama bashing trend was taken to a rather ridiculous height when President Trump made unsubstantiated claims that Obama wiretapped him during last election. This wild allegation which President Trump made on Twitter, as usual, has since been debunked by the chairman of a congressional committee investigating the affair. Indeed, Trump has been accused by former CIA Director, Leon Panetta, of making the claim as a calculated diversionary ploy. He said:”They are trying to obfuscate and trying to cover up. They are trying to somehow raise other issues”.
Similarly Republican and Democratic leaders of the House Intelligence Committee have affirmed that they had no concrete evidence backing President Trump’s claim that the Obama administration wiretapped him. Curiously, when President Trump alleged that Obama ordered a wiretap on his phones during the election, he didn’t turn to the federal intelligence agencies for proof.
There is, perhaps, no other event that portrays President Trump’s obvious discomfort with Obama’s shadow other than his administration’s recent bungling of its controversial health care legislation. After the health bill hit the brick wall, President Trump blamed everyone but himself. Characteristically, he figured out Obama as the key guy responsible for the premature death of his health bill.
Ironically, President Trump’s Republican Party controls the majority in both the House of Representatives and Senate. That he could not push through his first major bill in a government where his party controls the legislative arm speaks volume of the amateurish character of the government he leads. While he lashed out at the Democrats for not supporting the bill, one doubts if the usually self confident President Trump ever deems it fit to approach members of the Democratic caucus in the two legislative houses for support. He was so sure that his party’s superior numerical strength in the two houses was enough to seal the deal.
Ironically, there were reports that he didn’t even make any concrete overture to the Republican caucus that was strongly opposed to the bill. At the end, President Trump unwittingly acknowledged his administration’s incompetent handling of the wobbling bill when he said:
“We have learnt some hard lessons about negotiations through all this”. Certainly, a larger chunk of the lesson learnt would be that he failed to appropriately canvas for the bill before it met its waterloo. To highlight his gross disdain for the shadow of Obama, President Trump said that Obamacare offers nothing good for the Americans and will simply “explode” by itself. What he meant is that, if possible, his administration would undermine Obamacare.
Funny enough, analysts have claimed that there seems to be no remarkable differences between Trump’s aborted health bill and the much vilified Obamacare. Interpretation:
He wanted Obama care out at all cost and by all means, but he had no superior replacement for it. Before now, one used to think that it is only in Africa that this sort of politics that tends to undermine or obliterate the achievements of a previous government out of sheer envy and malice occurs. President Trump has simply proved that politics in his homestead could be as crude as it is in other climes.
In a nutshell, It will not do Trump much good if he continues making the chasing of Obama’s shadow a key policy of his administration. The earlier he realizes that the elections are over, the better for him.
Ogunbiyi writes from Lagos