Sunday, January 29, 2017

Trump’s pivot

Why the dog did not bark?
If I remember my Sherlock Holmes right, this question was a key riddle in one of the mysteries penned by Arthur Conan Doyle.
Well, I am not equating the US president to that dog, but I think the shoe fits, particularly in finding a reason for Trump’s selective nyet (yes, he is pivoting strongly towards Russia; it was nyet in the USSR and now, post-USSR, too) for admitting people from Muslim-majority countries that are “terrorism-compromised”. Of course, no non-Muslim country has been or is likely to be so done in. Let us forget for the moment the Irish Republican Army, which as per reports had strong sympathizers in the US (the New England states). Israel? I will let that too slide.
I could never have been a media reporter. I had a strong urge to post this piece but I was procrastinating. In media terms, I let slip a chance for a scoop. Who did scoop? The venerable Washington Post, the proud inheritor of Robert Redford-Dustin Hoffman (Bob Woodward-Carl Bernstein) scooping legacy. So, I am OK with this, to be beaten to the punch by one of the Grand Masters of the business.
There were many hopeful sentiments about Trump doing a presidential pivot once ensconced in the White House. Yes, sure Trump did pivot, but not in the direction at least some hoped for. His pivoting resembled doubling down, if anything.
With the half-hearted mandate he has got, he has to assert himself in other ways, and pivoting contrary to expectations helps. How does he do it? He brings in his spokespeople (such an ugly phrase, so PC) to do the job of spinning. You have Kellyanne Conway and Sean Spicer doing it, in tandem.
I was quite sure why Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Egypt and Turkey too, were left out of the list of nyets. Cairo is a good city to have a Trump Tower. Of course, you also have Alexandria and Sharm el Sheikh – Trump Tower in the former and Trump Resort in the latter make good business sense.
Saudi Arabia would help make up the cost-cutting demanded by Trump on Air Force One by stiffing that Muslim-majority and “terrorism-compromised” (Remember Osama bin Laden was from Saudi Arabia) country.
Pakistan? Oh, that is a little bit tricky. Trump is addicted to tweeting. He is afraid that one day he may run out of issues to tweet on. Then, Pakistan is the reserve topic. And, it would be like two-birds in one stone. He would tweet at 3:30 AM (EST/EDT) how Obama cheated the nation by falsely claiming (Obama is a habitual liar; after he lied about where he was born) that Osama bin Laden was killed in Pakistan. Obama, oops, Osama, is still alive in Iraq. Of course, the tweet would end, “Sad”.
What about Turkey? Besides potentially lucrative branding deals in Ankara, and sea-side resorts (Black Sea) Trump can strike with Turkey (Trump will ignore that Erdogan is a Muslim and has already been compromised), if you remember the Cuban Missile crisis, it all started with the US positioning missiles in Turkey. Trump is not a student of history but he would get this tidbit, from Breitbart (or, is it Breitfart?). So, when (not if) Trump sours on Putin, Turkey would be a nice option to have. Hence, no nyet to Turkey. Oops, it will then be a resounding NO! To Russia.
So, it is not a single dog not barking. It is whole bunch.
But, thinking aloud, it may indeed be a single dog. Trump’s business.
Raghuram Ekambaram


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