Fri | Jul 20, 2018

Mark Wignall | White House slipping into darkness

Published:Sunday | February 19, 2017 | 12:00 AM

Just when we thought it couldn't get any worse than Trump aide Stephen Miller's royal proclamation (in the wake of the courts overturning the infamous travel ban from mainly Muslim countries) that "the powers of the president will not be questioned!", a chasm has opened at the base of the precipice.

Yes, it has begun to truly spin out of control, and it has started to suck the air out of our local political happenings. Trump, who was elected by 62.9 million voters, is in full flight, otherwise known as crash mode, and his neolithic incompetence in the Oval Office has brought a dark pall over Washington and an open-mouthed wonderment among world leaders still on the safe side of sanity.

The lore of history and its predictable embellishments impel us to recall the belief that Nero fiddled in 64 AD as 70 per cent of Rome burned. Well, President Trump will not be outdone, not by Nero, Caligula, or Don Quixote. As he finds that the job he only notionally wanted for himself becomes too much for his narrow understanding and mostly wide ignorance of world affairs, he has decided to go off campaigning.

Needs to be saved

Yes, this man who was elected in the campaign in 2016 to preside in the executive and govern within its judicial parameters has decided, in 2017, that 2016 campaigning is more fun than doing 2017 presidential things. He needs to be urgently saved from himself.

Those who closely followed the 1970s era in the days leading up to the Washington Post's exposÈ of the Watergate break-in and the resignation of President Nixon and the Iran-Contra affair in the 1980s are already plotting lines of extrapolation that see two words cropping up: early impeachment.

For weeks, he sat by coldly while his VP, Pence, frocked then national security adviser Mike Flynn in velvet raiment. Trump did that knowing that Flynn was stark naked and had lied to Pence. That, of course, opens up the obvious if we are to believe that Pence is blameless. The inner circle in proximity to the scent of Trump's aftershave did not include Pence, potentially a president-in-waiting.

It ought not to surprise anyone that Trump would have favoured reversing the Obama sanctions on Russia once he secured power. All through his campaign he had been singing the praises of the Russian leader, Vladimir Putin, whose iron hand on Russian politics, media, the intelligence services, and big business is well known.

That Putin template is obviously one that would have run in lockstep with Trump's autocratic management of Trump Inc. That President Trump believes he could utilise that model on a system where he had to answer to not just his voters, but to all Americans and to judicial review and the legislative branch, is confounding to most sane people.

It doesn't need additional signals that Trump wanted to win without taking the White House with him and the awesome responsibilities that came with it. The befuddled man wanted to reign at Trump Tower, jetting off every other weekend to Mar-a-Lago, and, most likely, increasing his business interests across the world, including those with Russian intersections.

Now, he is saddled with this, um, presidential thing, and it is upsetting his golf game.


Don't rule out Trump impeachment


Party politics and fluidity tend to match each other with scientific precision. But so does politics with chaos. The only factor in those equations that cannot be plotted is the timetable.

I may be going ahead of myself by placing my obvious anti-Trump bias before political reality by suggesting that sufficient grounds for articles of impeachment may be fully laid out before we celebrate another Christmas.

The fact is, President Trump has at his right and left hand the two Stephens. Miller and Bannon are two ideologues sharing much in common with white nationalist identity (read: supremacy), and anti-Muslim fervour. That is the sum total of Trump's policies, plus whatever red meat he could throw to his gullible and angry voting base.

In most of last year, he was an ardent champion of Russia's hacking into Clinton's emails. Since taking the presidency, he has grudgingly accepted that Russia meddled in processes leading up to the November elections, spreading propaganda damaging to Clinton, but has not fully accepted that it was done on his behalf.

Under immense pressure of late, in his last three press conferences, he has only selected questioning from right-wing media networks sympathetic to him. With a Republican House unwilling to open up full congressional enquiries into Russia-Flynn-Trump, and with Trump deliberately scared of opening up to established media houses, Trump is setting himself up for a level of deep media investigation that will eventually come back to haunt him.

The premise here is that his words and actions speak quite loudly about his likely involvement with the Russian leader and elements of that state's apparatus. The trajectory points to a damaging ending. And an early one.


Congrats, Constable Hillette Virgo


A few Fridays ago, I had the privilege of interviewing Woman Constable Hillette Virgo of the Montego Hills division on my regular radio slot of Cliff Hughes online.

She is a most impressive member of the JCF. Working in troubled inner-city communities and placing much of her focus on intervention with at-risk young boys in schools, she has been a deserving winner.

Overall, it was her wide community involvement as a child and women's advocate, and using that advocacy in crucial areas in her five years as a cop, that most likely earned her the award. A mother of two young children, Constable Virgo epitomises where the next generation of policing need to moves its focus.

When we spoke last Thursday, she said: "I feel so light, lately. Peaceful, but very aware that this is tough work and it is never-ending. I have embraced my position at Montego Hills, and I intend to work assiduously to do my best in galvanising the community - as I was assigned to do. The community response has been very, very good so far."

Ms Virgo is close to completion of her master's degree, but I wanted her to give me a snippet of what policing is like in her area.

"A little example. Two persons who report on condition of bail on two different occasions since I've been back at the station expressed how happy they are to see me back there ... . I've always taken interest in them ... find out what they have been doing occupationally, what are their plans for the future in terms of career, and encourage them to keep positive and stay out of trouble."

"How do you follow that up?" I asked.

"That has been plaguing me from I've been working at the station level, to do some form of development programme for these young men - give them a second chance, seek to influence a positive mindset, etc, a skills expo, some kind of workshop. As you well know, scarce resources are at the root of just about all government policy, and the JCF is not immune to that.

"All of us need to pull together, to pull each other up, and to extend our roles in the communities under our care. There is no quick fix to violent crime in this country, but there are many youngsters in our schools, in troubled households, who have anger issues. To the extent that we, the members of the JCF, can act to stave off the next set of violent young criminals, we need to network in the various communities and come in more at the prevention end instead of the damaging and dangerous reactive end."

Again, congrats, Ms Virgo!

- Mark Wignall is a political and public affairs analyst. Email feedback to and