When Barack Obama spoke, it was the voice of a god. He intoned overtures of conciliation, his themes were honoured; his words raised the hopes of the world. He was, as they say, presidential. If he tapped you on the shoulder, it was to congratulate. If he looked into your eyes, it was to empathise, uplift and edify. He wielded power to make peace; he governed to reconcile. The BBC and Channel 4 News adored him.
Donald Trump speaks, and it isn’t so artful. You may think that something of an understatement after his inaugural address, which had all the finesse of a sledgehammer and the resolve of faeces stuck to the toilet bowl. There was no scent of roses, no warm hugs, no kissed babies and no sense of fellowship and fraternity. The speech will go down in history as perhaps the most base and boorish inaugural address ever made by a president. It’s “not very presidential”, the pundits of the media warbled into their mics. Which is, of course, precisely why he is now sitting in the Oval Office.
Only he can save America, or make America great again. That is his unshakable conviction, if not quite that of the 62,979,879 Americans who voted for him. He is the man for the moment, the chosen one, God’s appointed. But this is judged to be “narcissistic”, “grandiose”, “egomaniacal” and “psychopathic”, for some reason, as though he were fit more for therapy than presidency. Don’t all politicians govern with the belief that they alone can save their country? In her Downing Street Years, Margaret Thatcher quoted William Pitt the Elder, who remarked, “I know that I can save this country and that no one else can.” “I must admit,” she went on to write, “that my exhilaration came from a similar inner conviction.” Perhaps this proves the point for the anti-Trumps: vanity of vanities; bombastic delusions of self-proclaimed genius. They are the characteristic of vile, divisive, evil people who go into politics to kill, maim and destroy.
Real leaders don’t make great social workers: they don’t like holding surgeries to talk about potholes while dragons need slaying and the world needs saving. They have neither the time for trivia nor the disposition to suffer fools. But ‘President’ has somehow become a synonym for ‘pastor’; a calling to be meek and mild. “Presidential is what President does,” tweeted the Bishop of Leeds, as though bishoping had always been a matter of tautological rhetoric. Is Robert Mugabe ‘presidential’? Is President Putin or President Bashar al-Assad? Is President Trump not presidential because he’s nothing like President Obama (or Clinton, or Bush, or Reagan, or Carter..)?
Is Donal Trump not presidential simply by vitrue of the fact that he is now President? He may not be made quite in your image of a statesman, but a statesman is what he now is. Who are you to bind him in a nutshell now he is king of infinite space? Isn’t his steely conviction that of a CEO, and his impudent bombast that of a commander-in-chief at the threshold of war; indeed, the heir to conflicts everywhere? He doesn’t care if he’s hated, and he doesn’t care what you think. To be despised is the vocation of those cursed with moral conviction. Moral? Oh, it may not be your morality, but binary choices, false opposites and land of hope and glory doesn’t swoon the messiahs of globalism or the elite guardians of ever-arrogating liberalism. He’s “not very presidential” to them, but to the people he is The Donald, their Donald, and he comes to bring freedom and full bellies; he heralds justice and jobs.
Will he disappoint? Of course he will. He has promised the earth to all people, but to America first. Nothing wrong with that, as long as America remembers that the God who was so liberally invoked during the Inauguration says the first shall be last. But that’s for another day. Donald Trump is now the 45th President of the United States. He is in the White House not to make history, but to be it. It’s what he does best.