Donald Trump is now the 45th President of the USA. Whatever you may think of Mr Trump, his policies, his personality, his behaviour, his presidency is now a reality. I was travelling and listened to his inauguration speech in full. I have to be honest, I was rather bemused by it. One has rather come to assume that politicians employ brilliant speechwriters for such momentus occasions. It sounded very much to me as if Trump didn't bother with that nicety. There were very few nods to protocol, diplomacy or convention. I suspect that at some time in the future, assuming I (or anyone) is around to read these blogs, I will refer back to some of what I am going to write next. So what did I take away from Mr Trumps speech.
1. The rest of the world is about to catch a very nasty cold.
There is an old saying that "When America Sneezes, the rest of the world catches a cold". Well Mr Trump believes America is sneezing and he believes that the best cure is to put it into isolation. The big theme I got from Trump was "Protectionism is the order of the day". Many UK Conservatives are gloating because they rather like US right wing demogogues. I think they are about to learn a very nasty lesson in realpolitik. Trump couldn't have spelled it out any more clearly. He wants Americans to buy American products. He wants shops stocked with American products. He doesn't want imports. The USA is a massive export market for the UK. The USA is our number 1 export destination, according to the OEC. Anyone who thinks the UK will be spared in an "America first" world is deluded. The UK is already about to enter a period of massive uncertainty regarding our export markets in the EU. Trump has made it crystal clear that we have a huge challenge in the West as well as in the East. Trump has made it clear that he's not in the least bit interested in rest of the world. All of these "new American factories" will be making products previously made elsewhere and that means here in the UK. If Trump carries through on his promises, then we are headed for a very severe recession in the UK and we won't have our friends in Europe to help us.
2. Europe is headed for dangerous times.
Trump chose to speak about the USA no longer paying for the defence of other countries. This is a clear reference to NATO. Trump obvously feels that the USA no longer needs to be engaged in the same way in NATO. He believes that his fellow NATO allies do not pull their weight financially. He is about to pull the rug out. He seems intent on spending the money "securing the borders of the USA". Many on the left have dreamed for decades of US disengagement from NATO. I suspect we are about to find out what that really means. For the UK, I think it may very well mean higher taxes as we are forced to spend more on defence. Unlike any other country in Europe, mainland UK has no borders. The border between Northern and Southern Ireland is not one which has figured in military equations for a decade or so, since the Irish peace process. But with Putin on the prowl in the East and no US support, the UK is likely to find itself having to be far more robust in our military spending. I don't think that Donald Trump makes World War III more likely. I wouldn't like to be the citizen of a Baltic republic or anywhere with a land border with Russia right now. Putin is reading the signals from Trump as a green light for a more belicose stance in the numerous disputes he is currently persuing. The sensible British response is to make sure we have a degree of credibility when faced with such a threat. For what it's worth, I don't believe Trident adds to that credibility, as Mr Trump has the keys to it. It is not independent. I do however suspect that Trump is pragmatic enough to recognise the UK as his most reliable ally. I don't think we'll be left high and dry, but I somehow doubt the cosy years since the end of the cold war will continue. On a side note, many readers of the blog are interested in the affairs of Israel. The US is a major sponsor of Israel's military. I can't help but wonder if a few generals in Israel were not alarmed by Trumps words. If the concept of paying ones way for ones defence was applied to Israel, the country would be faced with an absolutely massive challenge. I somehow doubt that Trump will pull the plug on funding Israels military, but if he does then that could light a huge and very dangerous powderkeg.
3. The City of London is going to take a massive hit.
London is a global city and a massive trading hub. Trump made it clear that he's not interested in globalism and free trade. This can only mean one thing. Less business in the City. For people like us, living in the suburbs and relying on the wealth generation of the City, we will take a hit in the pocket.
4. No end to middle east conflict.
The one stark commitment Mr Trump made is that he would "destroy ISIS". I was truly shocked when he made this commitment. Not because I don't think its a good idead, it would be marvelous to see ISIS and its horrible ideology wiped off the face of the earth. What shocked me was that he's promised something that I believe is beyond his gift to even start to deliver. When he said that, I thought that to make such a claim, he must have a plan and he must have spoken with military advisers. Now I am not a military man, but the only plan I can see that would destroy ISIS in Syria is to get Russia and Turkey to coordinate to destroy them. In the dirty world of politics, that may be the lesser of two evils, but heaven only knows what gifts the law of unforeseen consequences will deliver. I think we may well see the end of ISIS but in its place a whole new round of conflicts springing up in places we couldn't imagine.
5. Not a good time to be 'different'.
I was also surprised by Trumps references to God. Don't get me wrong, I'm a practising Roman Catholic, so I consider myself to be very strong in the faith department. But I have a very different view of God and faith to Mr Trump. The first principle I have is that faith is a matter between me and my maker. Anything I do or say I try and do in line with my morals and beliefs, but I consider it obscene to invoke God as a justification for my behaviour, suggest God favours me or anyone specially or supports a particular sect/creed or nation. I am really not sure if it occurred to Trump, but the USA did not exist when Abraham, Moses, John The Baptist and Jesus were doing their work. To claim God will protect the USA is to me blasphemous and dishonest. It is attributing statements to God that God clearly has never shwon the slightest inclination in supporting. If I was ever asked to say anything about Gods intentions to me, my actions or the UK, I'd simply say "I hope that God doesn't judge us/me too harshly". But what Trump was saying was really nothing at all to do with God. It was a rather sick and despicable attempt to cosy up to the worst and very nastiest elements of the Christain right. These are the people who hold placards that say "God hates Fags", bomb abortion clinics and spew hate on street corners. These are Trumps constituency and his core voters. They hate the different, the other. They fear that that they don't understand and this fear breeds an objectionable perversion of a religion that at its very core is a message of tolerance, diversity and love. When the President of The Free World states that God will protect America, sadly many will see this as a sign that he is a righteous and decent man. Any study of the history of the man, his statements and his behaviours shows that he is anything but. He is a cynical and devious man who, for the very worst of reasons, seeks to empower those in the US with the nastiest and most intolerant mindset. Trump is the first president for a very long time to be endorsed by the KKK. In my personal veiw of Christianity, God tends to leave us here on Earth to get on with our business. Gods domain is where we are off to next on our journey and where that takes us depends on our actions and behaviours here. I believe that God rarely makes spectacular interventions in our realm. Sadly all the good things and all the bad things that befall us are largely our own doing. A lot of people in the USA are going to find that their healthcare is cancelled, their country is less welcoming and their lives become a lot harder. That is nothing to do with God. It is all about right wing ideology, which sees God as a very convenient tool in the toolbox of keeping down the ordinary man in the street, so billionaires like Trump can make hay. I have to say I don't really like talking about matters of faith on my blog. As a very superstitious person, I don't feel it is "the right thing to do". But when someone like Trump uses such a platform to make such outrageous claims, it would hypocritical to say nothing.
And with that, may I say God bless you all. Have a peaceful weekend and lets hope that Mr Trump confounds all of my predictions and fears and turns out to be a truly great President. I for one have no desire to stand on the corner of a wrecked street, in a desolate nation, in a ddestroyed world, smugly saying "I told you so". If Trump doesn't bugger everything up too much, for me that would be a good presidency and a result, given the man we've seen. Maybe if he jsut buggers things up enough for the rednecks who backed him to realise they'd been conned good and proper.