By Arun Kumar*
The Donald, as the first of Manhattan mogul’s three foreign born wives fondly called Trump, has nearly clinched the Republican presidential nomination eschewing “political correctness” and defying pundits, pollsters and prophets. But would the Trump magic work against the formidable political machine of his likely Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton in the November 8 presidential poll that would be a whole new ball game with a more diverse electorate.
And if the brash billionaire indeed becomes the next tenant of the White House, proving the pundits wrong yet again, how would it impact Washington’s ties with the outside world?
Let’s first take a look at the Trump strategy that has brought a rank outsider thus far. The master manipulator knows what his audiences want. He also knows that media thrives on controversy and he is ever ready to feed them a juicy morsel with their morning cuppa.
Ever since the reality TV star dramatically came down the escalator of his Trump Tower last June to announce his White House run with a promise to “Make America Great Again” morning shows predictably begin with an often sleepy voiced Trump setting the Twitter afire.
Pundits, pollsters and prophets of doom have chided Trump for making one “outrageous” statement after another, cajoled him to be more ‘presidential’, made fun of him and bet the ‘cartoon’ from New York would never become the Republican nominee.
But nothing has hurt the Teflon Trump. It’s he who has driven the conversation with TV channels ever hungry for eyeballs vying with each other to get him on their shows as he knocked down 16 of his Republican opponents from ‘low energy’ Jeb Bush to ‘little Marco’ Rubio to ‘lyin’ Ted’ Cruz to the “1 in 41” John Kasich “boom, boom, boom”.
It’s this strategy that has seen Trump climb from a mere asterisk in poll charts with less than one percent support to the presumptive Republican nominee with a clean sweep in six states in a row with a ‘yuge’ win in the May 3 Indiana primary.
That day too began typically with the media chiding Trump with righteous indignation for his ‘false claim’ based on a ‘thinly sourced’ story in a tabloid that Cruz’s father was involved in the Kennedy assassination.
With the game over for Cruz by the evening, Trump again changed the topic. First the self-styled “king of debt’ suggested that the US could renegotiate its debt like a company; then suggested that the US would never default as it can ‘print’ money before calling his likely Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton an ‘enabler’ of her husband Bill Clinton’s infidelities.
And as the pundits yakked about the folly of raking up the long forgotten Monica Lewinsky affair between a White House intern and the then president in 1995-96, Trump turned his attention to building bridges with the estranged party establishment.
While many party bigwigs – from former presidents George H W Bush and his son George W Bush to House speaker Paul Ryan – declined to endorse him as yet, 2008 Republican presidential nominee John McCain said it was “foolish” for the establishment to ignore the will of millions of Republican voters.
And as new polls showed Trump narrowing the gap with Clinton, others started falling in line. Louisiana’s former Indian-American governor Bobby Jindal who had once called Trump a “shallow, unserious, substance-free, narcissistic egomaniac” and “a madman who must be stopped,” declared “I’m voting Trump, warts and all”.
As the world woke up to the possibility of Trump in the White House, diplomats looked for clues as to how it would impact America’s ties around the globe.
India did not figure at all in a major foreign policy speech Trump made recently with a teleprompter putting ‘America First’ and asking allies to chip in more for their defence or fend for themselves. But on the campaign trail, he is said to have made fun of operators at India’s call centres, accused the country of stealing jobs from US workers and being “ripped off” on trade by “China, Mexico, Japan, Vietnam, India and by every country.”
But he has also called India “a great place” and “India is doing great. I have big jobs going up in India. But India is doing great.” He has also hinted at seeking New Delhi’s help in preventing a “semi-unstable” nuclear armed Pakistan from drifting into “total instability.”
That’s typical Donald Trump blowing hot and cold, sometimes in a matter of hours. Others may call it flip-flop, but he touts ‘unpredictability’ and ‘flexibility’ as his strength and his supporters accept it without a murmur.
But one expects the brash billionaire would indeed go ‘presidential’ in the White House, though not ‘boring’ one hopes, and think through before making his pronouncements.
From Bill Clinton to George Bush to Barack Obama, and through Atal Bihari Vajpayee to Manmohan Singh to Narendra Modi, strong India-US ties have been the cornerstone of foreign policy on both sides of the political divide in both capitals. That’s not likely to change.
Witness how Modi, the only person on the planet to have his US visa revoked under a religious freedom law, is set to address the very US Congress that passed that law in June with what Foreign Policy magazine called a budding “Modbama” bromance.
If The Donald wins, the White House may well see a “Trumodi’ bromance blooming
*Arun Kumar is a Washington based media analyst. He can be reached at [email protected]