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Thursday 2nd
posted by Morning Star in Features

It may come as a surprise but Donald Trump’s behaviour mimics the actions of previous occupants of the White House, writes IAN SINCLAIR

If there is one thing everyone agrees on when it comes to Donald Trump, it’s that he is simply not presidential material.

The Los Angeles Times recently referred to his “self-indulgent and unpresidential demeanor.” A Daily Mirror headline from November 2016 noted Trump’s invitation to meet with Theresa May “was bizarrely unpresidential.” The online US magazine Slate even went so far as to list “230 things Donald Trump has said and done that make him unfit to be president,” including stating he would force the military to commit war crimes, advocating waterboarding and praising North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un.

When, I wonder, did US leaders conduct themselves in a presidential manner?

Was it when the first president George Washington was in office, when he owned hundreds of slaves?

Was it during Thomas Jefferson’s presidency at the start of the 19th century, when many historians now believe the so-called “man of the people” fathered a number of children with his slave Sally Heming — committing what would likely be defined as rape today?

Was Andrew Jackson, the seventh occupant of the White House, “presidential material” when, according to the historian Professor David Stannard, he supervised the mutilation of 800 Creek Indian corpses — men, women and children that he and his troops massacred under his command — cutting off their noses to record the number of dead, and slicing off strips of flesh to turn into bridle reins?

Was it during Harry Truman’s time in the White House when the US dropped two atomic bombs on Japan, killing hundreds of thousands of inhabitants of two cities with no military value, even though the US government knew the Japanese would surrender without the nuclear weapons being used?

Was it during Lyndon B Johnson’s administration, when he told the Greek ambassador: “Fuck your parliament and constitution,” and escalated the US assault on Vietnam, with 3.8 million Vietnamese ending up dead in the war — according to former Defence Secretary Robert McNamara — and backed General Suharto as he slaughtered around 500,000 Indonesians?

Was it during Richard Nixon’s presidency when the White House began secretly bombing Cambodia and Laos, with the US dropping more bombs on the latter than they did on both Germany and Japan in World War II?

In the final days of the Watergate scandal, the New York Times reports Nixon was drinking so heavily that secretary of defence James Schlesinger “instructed the military to divert any emergency orders — especially one involving nuclear weapons — to him or secretary of state Henry Kissinger.”

Was it during Bill Clinton’s time in office when the Clinton administration drove forward the United Nations sanctions on Iraq that led to 500,000 Iraqi children dying, according to United Nations Children’s Fund figures, and two of the UN officials running the sanctions regime resigning because they considered the policy one of “genocide?”

Clinton, of course, confirmed he had had sexual relations with 22-year-old Monica Lewinsky, a junior member of White House staff, shortly after he had told the nation: “I did not have sexual relations with that woman.”

Was it during the second Bush administration when the president and his neoconservative cronies tortured and renditioned hundreds of suspected terrorists, and illegally and aggressively attacked Iraq, with around 500,000 Iraqis dying in the invasion and subsequent occupation, according to a Public Library of Science medicine journal study?

Or was it during Obama’s presidency when the author of The Audacity of Hope bombed seven majority Muslim nations; sold more weapons than any other US administration since World War II and held weekly “Terror Tuesday” meetings to decide which suspected terrorists to kill next?

Obama “embraced a disputed method for counting civilian casualties” that “in effect counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatant,” the New York Times noted.

Counterterrorism officials told the newspaper this approach was based on simple logic: that “people in an area of known terrorist activity, or found with a top al-Qaida operative, are probably up to no good.”

Regrettably, in their rush to monster Trump for being the ignorant, narcissistic, misogynistic, racist, turbo-capitalist, lying, power-hungry thug he undoubtedly is, most of the media have often consciously or unconsciously boosted the ethical and moral records of previous US presidents.

But, as I have set out above, the briefest scan of history tells a very different story.

Trump may well be an extreme right-wing president, but his odious behaviour and public statements follow a long tradition of very “unpresidential” actions of many former inhabitants of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Before making further references to what is or isn’t “presidential behaviour,” commentators and journalists would do well to consider Noam Chomsky’s famous indictment of the US’s imperial politics: “If the Nuremberg laws were applied, then every post-war American president would have been hanged.”

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