By M.R. Josse
NEW YORK, NY: American President Donald Trump and controversy seem to be like conjoined twins: you can’t have one without the other. Thus, even Trump’s decision to stage a grand celebration in Washington, D.C. – on America’s birthday – morphed into something of a political boxing-fest.
Clearly impressed by the Bastille Day parade showcasing France’s military he watched in Paris in 2017, Trump laid out an America extravaganza, virtually acting as M.C. to an event where he embellished his ‘Salute to America’ address from the Lincoln Memorial with flyovers of booming jet fighters, military bands, tanks and armored vehicles – and fireworks.
But, though vociferous critics had darkly predicted that Trump would use the occasion to brazenly advance his party’s agenda, in the context of the 2020 presidential election, Trump astutely avoided doing so.
Instead, he traced America’s history from the Founding Fathers to the moon-landing, the legacy of rock ‘n’ roll, Western movies, the Super Bowl, the assembly line and “the mighty automobile.”
In a 45-minutes speech, he named key storied figures from the pages of American history, honored fire fighters and law enforcement, and appealed to American youth to join the military. He ended his remarks as the ‘Battle Hymn of the Republic’ blared through the huge speakers as state-of-the-art fighter jets soared overhead.
Before Trump spoke, he drew fierce criticism from Democrats who accused him for using the military forces and equipment for his own political purposes.
On the whole, however, it seemed to me that Trump comfortably pulled off his gamble to offer a moving ‘Salute to America’, despite all the partisan carping from his critics.
Though one is, by now, rather inured to constant criticism of Trump, I believe the comments made by British ambassador Kim Darroch – in a leaked memo to his political bosses back home – are worthy of note.
As the Daily Mail reported it, Darroch described Trump as an insecure and incompetent leader of an administration marred by ‘vicious infighting’ and ‘false claims’. “We don’t really believe this Administration is going to become more normal; less dysfunctional; less unpredictable; less diplomatically clumsy and inept.”
Though the White House had no immediate comment to offer on the leaked ‘news’, two points merit note: ambassadors are paid, in their official reports, to offer to their political bosses frank and analytical assessments of leaders and events of the country they are accredited to; despite that, Darroch also warned: “Don’t write him off.”
WORLD SOCCER CHAMPS
Days after the ‘Salute to America’ in Washington, there was another sort of acknowledgement of America’s prowess: in the form of the U.S. national soccer team’s magnificent victory over European champions, Holland.
This dazzling soccer spectacle took place in Lyon, France when America lifted the FIFA Women’s World Cup, 2019 by a decisive 2-0 goal margin. The two goals came respectively from captain Megan Rapione (in a penalty shoot-out), who was awarded the ‘Golden Boot’ for the most goals scored, and Rose Levelle.
What enhanced the significance of the American women’s team’s fine showing is that they successfully defended their title of world champs they acquired when they lifted the World Cup in 2015.
Of the eight times that a FIFA women’s soccer world cup event has been staged, the American national team has lifted the trophy on four occasions.
Notably, the American team had done so spectacularly that they had to actually fend off complaints of arrogance and calls for the team to tone down their goal celebration. To me it seems perfectly kosher to celebrate victory. Yet, there can be no harm in taking cognizance of such adverse reactions, in the future. Modesty, after all, is always a good thing and universally appreciated.
What struck me as being particularly churlish is that Trump not only did not show up in Lyon for the soccer finals where the American national women’s team was playing; by his own admission, he only watched the game, in part, while offering tepid or meanly-mouthed congratulations.
While one may justly wonder if this exciting soccer tournament will, in America and elsewhere, translate into continued growth of the women’s game, one inevitably compares that with the sad fact that the American men’s soccer team has not only never won the FIFA cup but not even entered the semi-finals – although they have been competing far longer than their female counterparts.
Finally, it seems astounding that there is still an appallingly wide chasm in pay and benefits between professional men and women soccer players here in the United States: that is why, no doubt, that loud clamor for “equal pay” rent the air at the Lyon stadium as soon as the final whistle blew.
As NPR reports, Iran has crossed another line set in the 2015 nuclear deal between it and major world powers. According to state media, Iran has begun enriching uranium above levels enshrined in the agreement. The move sends a signal that Iran is losing patience with a deal that has not provided the economic relief promised.
Considering that intense economic and military pressure that Trump’s America is applying on Iran in attempting to get it to scrap its nuclear programme – and the fact that, thus far, it has not received the kind of support that it expected from key European powers to neutralize the impact of heavy American sanctions – it is difficult to predict what the powers that be in Tehran will, or plan, to do.
Uncertainty and fluidity seem to be the hallmarks of the Nepali political situation, too. Among the tell-tale signs are the rapidly soaring popularity of the deposed monarchy; the instability of the government, despite its fabled two-thirds majority in parliament, to deliver; the widening arc of dissent among the populace and disturbing levels that corruption seems to have sky-rocketed, included among the leadership and military.
What will happen next, when and how is anyone’s guess.