Which Trump Will We See After January 20?

by James M. Wall636172160474906214-afp-afp-j308h

President-elect Donald J. Trump will soon hold the power of the White House. Any comment on “What Will Trump Do”, depends on which Trump emerges to exercise that power once he is inaugurated.

There is the scripted Trump who does on occasion emerge with a largely-overlooked comment like his recent promise that the time for military Western-managed regime change in the Middle East is over. 

That scripted Trump is running contrary to the American neo cons who want to control the world in the “best interest” of the American empire. In a Wall Street Journal report, Trump appeared to signal: No more foolish neo con-inspired attacks on countries like Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria.

As the Journal noted, Trump was quite specific when he said, “We will stop looking to topple regimes and overthrow governments, folks.”

His call for no more regime change through military power, was largely ignored by other media outlets. If Trump holds to that position, he would launch a major shift in American foreign policy.

Will the anti-regime change Trump emerge when unexpected events explode in the Middle East? Or was regime change just his thought for that particular day? 

In addition to the scripted Trump, there is the business-tycoon Trump, the man raised from childhood to view the world as an economic playing field on which to win profits by planting the Trump brand (now the Trump-U.S. brand) through economic power. 

It was the business-tycoon Trump who chose ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson as his Secretary of State.  The Washington Post looked for an answer to how the decision was reached.

ExxonMobil has a relationship with the consultancy firm run by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, two influential government figures who consulted with the president-elect in Trump Tower after he had spent days entertaining familiar political names like Mitt Romney, Rudolph W. Giuliani, and Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.)

Rice and Gates knew how important the Russian oil industry was to ExxonMobil. Tillerson had become close to Russian leader Vladimir Putin, finally developing an agreement for ExxonMobil to provide the oil drilling muscle for Russia to tap into its rich oil resources in the Arctic Sea. 

The two men, Russia’s Prime Minister Vladimir Putin (right) and ExxonMobil President and CEO Rex Tillerson, are shown above talking during the signing of a Rosneft-ExxonMobil strategic partnership agreement in Sochi, Russia, on Aug. 30, 2011. 

That agreement was suddenly put on hold when the U.S. responded to Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine, which began in late February 2014.

That prompted a number of governments, including the U.S., the European Union and other countries and international organizations to apply sanctions against individuals, businesses and officials from Russia and Ukraine. 

These sanctions blocked the Rosneft-ExxonMobil strategic partnership agreement. To make his case to ease the sanctions, Tillerson held several meetings with President Obama, arguing that U.S. companies like ExxonMobil were at a disadvantage in competition with European countries more willing to work around the sanctions. 

If, as the CIA insists, the Russian government used cyber warfare to help Trump defeat Hillary Clinton, it committed an international crime with a motive: Lifting the sanctions.

Now, as Trump’s designated incoming Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson will be in a better position to reactivate that ExxonMobil-Russian drilling contract. 

The scripted Trump and the business tycoon Trump, are overwhelmed in the public mind and media spotlight by the outrageous Trump, well-described by Thomas Friedman, who thundered from his influential media pulpit with all the angry fervor of a Baptist preacher leading a revival:

My fellow Americans, whatever mix of motives led us to create an Electoral College majority for Donald Trump to become president — and overlook his lack of preparation, his record of indecent personal behavior, his madcap midnight tweeting, his casual lying about issues like “millions” of people casting illegal votes in this election, the purveying of fake news by his national security adviser, his readiness to appoint climate change deniers without even getting a single briefing from the world’s greatest climate scientists in the government he’ll soon lead and his cavalier dismissal of the C.I.A.’s conclusions about Russian hacking of our election — have no doubt about one thing: We as a country have just done something incredibly reckless.

The Washington Post identified a calmer, and younger take on the outrageous Trump, in a recent Teen Vogue piece, Donald Trump is Gaslighting America.

“Gaslighting” was derived from a 1938 play, Gas Light, which inspired two movies in 1940 and 1944, all telling the story of a husband who tried to drive his young wife crazy by hiding items in dim light from her.

The best-known of the two movies was Gaslight (1944), which starred Charles Boyer as the husband, and Ingrid Bergman as his young wife.

Lauren Duca, Teen Vogue’s weekend editor and an award-winning professional journalist wrote, “Trump won the Presidency by gas light. His rise to power has awakened a force of bigotry by condoning and encouraging hatred, but also by normalizing deception.”

Her piece was a call to arms to her young readers to “regain control of the truth.”

She explained to her audience the origin of the phrase “gaslighting,” derived from a 1938 Victorian thriller. In the original Gas Light drama and two Gaslight movies, the wife

questioned her own mental stability until she noticed, while still under his control, that the items would vanish only after her husband dimmed their gas lights. It was, the wife realized, all a trick.

Duca explained further, “To gas light is to psychologically manipulate a person to the point where they question their own sanity, and that’s precisely what Trump is doing to this country. He gained traction in the election by swearing off the lies of politicians, while constantly contradicting himself, often without bothering to conceal the conflicts within his own sound bites. He lied to us over and over again, then took all accusations of his falsehoods and spun them into evidence of bias.”

Duca listed at least seven examples of Trump statements debunked by the fact-checking website PolitiFact, including comments on the Iraq War, the unemployment rate, U.S. taxes, illegal immigration and the crime rate, then laid out for her readers all the ways they can dodge propaganda and fake news in search of verified, factual information.

Teen Vogue does not usually get involved in matters political, but apparently this piece was deemed important as a way of reaching a young audience, now confused, and like many older readers, stunned, at the outcome of the election.

We are all asking: Where will Trump take this nation? The sad and frightening fact is that Trump has given no sign that he has the slightest understanding of what lies ahead.

We are left with his Twitter outbursts and his staff and cabinet choices to read like so many tea leaves.

Donald J. Trump may be a danger to the entire planet, or he may settle down and find a way to respect the complex reality of his next four years, and act accordingly.

Meanwhile, as the Nobel Prize 2016 literature award winner Bob Dylan, reminds us, “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall.” It was this poem the Nobel Committee chose to include in Dylan’s ceremony.  

Before Swedish royalty, a world audience, and a large assembly, American singer Patti Smith presented Dylan’s poem with all the anguish it originally expressed in the 1960s, and presents to us today in the Trump era:

Lyrics from “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall”, by Bob Dylan

Oh, where have you been, my blue-eyed son?
Oh, where have you been, my darling young one?
I’ve stumbled on the side of twelve misty mountains
I’ve walked and I’ve crawled on six crooked highways
I’ve stepped in the middle of seven sad forests
I’ve been out in front of a dozen dead oceans
I’ve been ten thousand miles in the mouth of a graveyard
And it’s a hard, and it’s a hard, it’s a hard, and it’s a hard
And it’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall

Oh, what did you see, my blue-eyed son?
Oh, what did you see, my darling young one?
I saw a newborn baby with wild wolves all around it
I saw a highway of diamonds with nobody on it
I saw a black branch with blood that kept drippin’
I saw a room full of men with their hammers a-bleedin’
I saw a white ladder all covered with water
I saw ten thousand talkers whose tongues were all broken
I saw guns and sharp swords in the hands of young children
And it’s a hard, and it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard
And it’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall

And what did you hear, my blue-eyed son?
And what did you hear, my darling young one?
I heard the sound of a thunder, it roared out a warnin’
Heard the roar of a wave that could drown the whole world
Heard one hundred drummers whose hands were a-blazin’
Heard ten thousand whisperin’ and nobody listenin’
Heard one person starve, I heard many people laughin’
Heard the song of a poet who died in the gutter
Heard the sound of a clown who cried in the alley
And it’s a hard, and it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard
And it’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall

Oh, who did you meet, my blue-eyed son?
Who did you meet, my darling young one?
I met a young child beside a dead pony
I met a white man who walked a black dog
I met a young woman whose body was burning
I met a young girl, she gave me a rainbow
I met one man who was wounded in love
I met another man who was wounded with hatred
And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard
It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall

Oh, what’ll you do now, my blue-eyed son?
Oh, what’ll you do now, my darling young one?
I’m a-goin’ back out ’fore the rain starts a-fallin’
I’ll walk to the depths of the deepest black forest
Where the people are many and their hands are all empty
Where the pellets of poison are flooding their waters
Where the home in the valley meets the damp dirty prison
Where the executioner’s face is always well hidden
Where hunger is ugly, where souls are forgotten
Where black is the color, where none is the number
And I’ll tell it and think it and speak it and breathe it
And reflect it from the mountain so all souls can see it
Then I’ll stand on the ocean until I start sinkin’
But I’ll know my song well before I start singin’
And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard
It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall

Copyright © 1963 by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1991 by Special Rider Music

The picture at top of  Russia’s Prime Minister Vladimir Putin (right) and ExxonMobil President and CEO Rex Tillerson, is by Alexey Druzhinin, AFP/Getty Images.

About wallwritings

From 1972 through 1999, James M. Wall was editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine, based in Chicago, lllinois. He was a Contributing Editor of the Century from 1999 until July, 2017. He has written this blog, wall writings.me, since it was launched April 27, 2008. If you would like to receive Wall Writings alerts when new postings are added to this site, send a note, saying, Please Add Me, to jameswall8@gmail.com Biography: Journalism was Jim's undergraduate college major at Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia. He has earned two MA degrees, one from Emory, and one from the University of Chicago, both in religion. He is an ordained United Methodist clergy person. He served for two years in the US Air Force, and three additional years in the USAF reserve. While serving on active duty with the Alaskan Command, he reached the rank of first lieutenant. He has worked as a sports writer for both the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, was editor of the United Methodist magazine, Christian Advocate for ten years, and editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine for 27 years. James M Wall died March 22, 2021 at age 92. His family appreciates all of his readers, even those who may have disagreed with his well-informed writings.
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4 Responses to Which Trump Will We See After January 20?

  1. Samia Khoury says:

    Dear Jim: Thank you so much for this. As usual you excel in your writings and analysis, and your choice of Bob Dylan’s beautiful and meaningful song seemed very appropriate. However, for us in Palestine and the whole region “A hard rain has been falling” for almost a century. How worse can it get??

  2. Jim, I’ve read with interest your commentary that, inter alia, shows your conflicted perception of the improbable victory of Trump. Your “Donald J. Trump may be a danger to the entire planet, or he may settle down and find a way to respect the complex reality of his next four years, and act accordingly.” has it just right. I pray for the latter Trump to prevail. Every instinct in my experience and mind tells me that a Hillary Clinton presidency would have guaranteed the former. How low our country has sunk to field two such “deplorables” to lead (sic) us!

    I am disappointed that you gave (again…your Nov. 9th post) Friedman such prominent space. That guy is a Zionist snake non pareil, unctuously pretending to be one of us, the people, when the actuality of the man is that he assiduously and firstly promotes the interests of the Zionist entity so-called Israel. I am indelibly reminded that, in 2005, when Bulldozer Sharon unilaterally evacuated 8,500 illegally squatting colonists from Gaza (and ensconced them in the illegally occupied West Bank), Friedman sneered the following (paraphrased) words: “Okay, Gazans: you have your land back. Now go ahead and make Gaza the Monaco of the eastern Mediterranean.” Yeah, right….

  3. Jack Graham says:

    If you need to read political babble about Donald Trump, best read the New York Times, which has made the First Amendment a bad idea, and speaks for Wall Street which is doing everything it can to destroy the United States, and promote one-world government Whatever happened to the discussion of the Middle East that we used to read in this once outstanding forum? The interesting feature of the Presidential election of 2016 is that the Democrats failed in their duty to their party and to the country to vet their obviously flawed candidate. If they had acted with rudimentary precautions owed to themselves and the country, the Democrats could easily have won the election. Democrats should accept responsibility, and turn the page. It’s about that simple. Now, s’il vous plaît, let’s get back to the Middle East.

    I know whereof I speak. I used to be a Democrat until they gave up their political heritage and went off the deep end on hot-button social issues. I still believe in the “cross of gold” speech of William Jennings Bryan. I still think he was right when he resigned as secretary of state rather than condone the lunatic policies of Woodrow Wilson that got us as a belligerent into the First Wold War. And we are as wrong today in treating Israel as the 51st State.

  4. Robert Assaly says:

    Much leftist alternate media proposes that Russia didn’t defeat Hillary, her warmongering did, in contrast to Trump’s anti-regime change rhetoric. Let’s hope he lives up to his promise.

    In any event, the likely fake news of “Russia hacking” is amusing, as a diversion from the country that without criticism buy and sells US elections and politicians: Israel.

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