With Trump’s ascent to power I felt that I had gone through all of the stages of grief. First came denial, where I confidently assured myself that his ascent to the nomination, and to the Presidency, was impossible. Then came anger, most of which was directed at those insular enough – and stupid enough – to have voted for him. Then came loss, despair, and depression at the outcome – and shock – which left me stunned for weeks and months afterwards.
The solace I found came after a conversation with a colleague, who reminded me of the separation of powers that applies to all Presidents. This separation of powers forced Nixon out of office following Watergate, forced Roosevelt to threaten to pack the Supreme Court with supporters after they ruled against him on the New Deal, and suspended Trump’s travel ban days after it came into force.
But this solace assumed that Trump was a demagogue with a nefarious plan to overturn the liberal political order. A plan that could be resisted with concerted political action from those, like myself, who see him as a threat to everything we hold dear.
But this evening it struck me that it is just possible that Trump is far worse than I had suspected. Because, this evening, during a joint press conference with the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, Trump made it abundantly clear that he simply hasn’t got the slightest idea what he is doing.
In a statement to the press, in full view of the world’s media, he overturned centuries of American foreign policy, without the slightest understanding of what he was doing or saying, when he said this of the Middle East peace process:
I am looking at the two state, and one state, I like the one that both parties like. I can live with either one.
In this simple statement he made it abundantly clear that he has no idea what a credible deal to this intractable problem would look like, because no deal that could satisfy both sides would preclude the possibility of a two-state solution. A solution that was proposed by the United Nations as one of its first acts, and which has been the basis of negotiation ever since.
The other, perhaps more frightening possibility, is that he does understand what he is doing in siding with Israel, who may well now take the opportunity offered by Trump to impose a one-state solution on the Palestinians, assured that they won’t face opposition from the leader of the free world.
These are troubling times indeed.