It took just one week for it to become clear that President Trump would be no different from candidate Trump.
After disappearing momentarily in his gracious victory speech, Donald’s seat-of-the-pants style, his “get-even” philosophy, and his utter ignorance about world affairs were on typically conspicuous display the moment that he and his team showed up at the White House for the first time.
Seeing all the cubicles and desks, Team Trump thought this was the staff they would inherit, not realizing every single person they saw, even clerks making photocopies, was a political appointee who would have to be replaced on Jan. 20. If Trump watched The West Wing, its basic lessons on governance and staffing did not penetrate what he says is his great mind or stay with the man who said on the campaign trail he had the “world’s greatest memory,” a statement he said weeks later under oath that he did not recall.
The first sign that the old Trump is the new Trump came when Trump chose an anti-Semitic conspiracy theorist, Steve Bannon, as his White House chief strategist. Days later, Trump or his subordinates purged a former Michigan congressman with a reputation for learning facts and sticking to them, reportedly replacing him on homeland-security issues with Frank Gaffney, an Islamophobe and conspiracy theorist who some seasoned observers describe as delusional.
Then there is the news about who is on the short list for Cabinet appointments. Trump the candidate said that if elected he would rely on the “very best” advisers. Trump also said he was his own best adviser. This week, Trump declared that he alone knew who was on the short list for Cabinet appointments, which means he is relying less on the best advisers than on the voices in his own head.
Insiders have described a Stalinesque purge of those seen as somehow less than totally loyal to Trump. The purger-in-chief is Jared Kushner, the husband of Ivanka Trump who quickly dismissed Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey and his associates. It was classic revenge. When Christie was United States attorney for the Garden State, he sent Kushner’s father to prison.
The president-elect also declared that his vast business holdings will be placed in a blind trust to be run by his children even as someone on his transition team—supposedly a lowly stafffer—asked about national-security clearances for them.
You can predict questions at White House press conferences, if Trump deigns to allow them: “Can the White House tell us whether the decision to forgive X dollars of debt/sell weapons/grant favorable trade status to Country X was influenced in any way by the Trump family business in that country and its share-the-revenues payment formula? And if not, how could we possibly know that?”
During the campaign, I called Trump ISIS’s recruiter in chief. His actions since the election remove any doubt about that, and any hope that he has a clue about the Middle East and, especially, Islam and its more than 1.6 billion followers.
President-elect Trump, who still has time to tweet angrily about the “fools” at the “failing” New York Times and was endorsed by the official newspaper of the Ku Klux Klan months after he declined to disavow the endorsement of former Imperial Wizard David Duke, is bringing in bigots like Bannon and Gaffney as he races to prepare to be president.
His choice of those two advisers is to many Muslims verification that Donald Trump wants war on the Islamic religion, with 1.6 billion followers around the world, not just with the violent apostates who formed al Qaeda and ISIS and whose numbers and territory are now being steadily degraded by the local forces working with the U.S. military.
I have long said Trump, whom I have known for more than 28 years, did not know a Sunni from a Shia or the reasons that difference matters greatly in foreign policy. The Trump campaign verified this with a fundraising mailer that misidentified as a Muslim a Sikh.
The man, Gurinder Singh Khalsa, who lives in Indiana, was wearing a red, white and blue turban in the photograph used in the Trump campaign document.
The second place where Trump’s choice of bigots brought joy would be the Kremlin and Vladimir Putin’s Black Sea palace, which reportedly cost $1 billion.
Putin wants to weaken American influence as he tries to rebuild the old Soviet empire into the new Russia. In Trump he has an ally, the candidate having denied that Russia invaded Ukraine and seized Crimea and also praising Putin again and again as a “great leader.”
Reinforcing anti-American hatred by appointing bigots like Bannon and Gaffney, and purging Rep. Mike Rogers, a Republican with a reputation for dealing in facts about the Muslim world, only gives aid and comfort to Putin and his expansionist plots.
Third, there is joy in the Great Hall of the People, where the nine communist thugs who govern China are already at work trying to tilt the balance of power in the Pacific Rim from Washington to Beijing.
Trump steadily attacked the Trans Pacific Partnership, a deeply flawed trade agreement of which I have been a consistent critic. Trump promises to tear up existing trade deals, notably the North American Free Trade Agreement between the U.S., Canada, and Mexico, and likely the South Korean trade deal that President Obama signed.
Beijing’s emissaries are already at work selling their own plan on trade. It is not a plan based on Trump’s mercantilist ideas—tariffs and starting trade wars—but on building profitable alliances.
The Chinese diplomats and trade emissaries can now make their pitches to Muslim-dominated Malaysia and Brunei with digs about how America is a hater nation lead by a hater in the White House. And they can appeal to other countries with large Muslim populations, notably Indonesia, Bangladesh, and Pakistan, that the future lies not with Western bigots, but with an increasingly wealthy (and militaristic) China.
There’s a reason those looking to reduce American influence in Muslim nations, to recruit more terrorists, to rebuild the old Soviet empire and to expand Chinese influence in the Pacific Rim and Southern Asia are all heartened to see that the new Trump is the same as the old one. He’s making their work easier.