Friday was Martin Luther King Jr Day in the United States, so it was sadly ironic the country’s leader marked it by facing accusations he is a racist who is dragging the presidency and America’s moral standing “into the gutter”.
Even among all the incredible events that have marked the first year of Donald Trump’s presidency, according to one expert in international relations, these 24 hours stand out as “extraordinary”, and could fundamentally change global politics - and America’s position in the world.
“I hesitate to say it couldn’t get any worse because you never know,” Dr Rod Abouharb, an international relations professor at University College London told HuffPost UK.
“This is another example of Donald Trump turning his back on the traditional role of US President as leader of the Free World.”
THE ‘SHITHOLE COUNTRIES’
Trump is no stranger to accusations of racism but his flippant comments allegedly made on Thursday and his subsequent reaction stand out.
The President was reportedly being informed of the impact of immigrants from Haiti and African nations during a meeting with lawmakers when he reportedly asked:
Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?
Unfortunately for Trump, a number of sources had already tacitly acknowledged the language used, not least the White House itself.
Shortly after Trump’s denial, Democratic Senator Dick Durbin, who was at the meeting, told reporters Trump used “vile, vulgar” language, including repeatedly using the word “shithole” when speaking about African countries.
THE AWKWARD REPUBLICAN RESPONSE
While Durbin had no qualms about confirming what he said, Republican lawmakers who were also presently conveniently “could not recall” events despite them happening less than 24 hours before.
THE SASSY DICTIONARY
The Merriam-Webster dictionary has not hidden its disdain for the current President, so it’s unlikely its choice for Friday’s word of the day was an accident.
However, having already offended most of the developing world, it appeared Trump was only just getting started.
THE UK CONNECTION
Running parallel to the racism row was another which gave a heavy hint as to the repercussions Trump’s loose lips and preference for Twitter diplomacy can have outside America.
Back on this side of the Atlantic news was breaking that the president had cancelled a planned visit to open the US embassy in London in February amid fears protestors would mar the trip.
THE SECOND DENIAL AND THE FALSEHOODS
True to form, Trump gain disputed this version of events and listed his own reasons.
- The decision to move the embassy move predated Obama.
- The US didn’t own the land the old embassy sits on.
- It’s not as simple as the embassy being bought for “peanuts.”
- The embassy’s current location is hardly, as Trump claimed, “the finest.”
- The new embassy is hardly in an “off location.”
The US embassy in London itself later released an unprecedented tweet that was a thinly-veiled attack on Trump’s own assertions.
Not that Brits were fooled anyway.
BORIS PARROTS TRUMP
Trump may be one-of-a-kind but we do have Boris Johnson, whose use of English is arguably almost as notorious.
Johnson branded Sadiq Khan a “puffed up pompous popinjay” in response to the London Mayor welcoming Trump’s decision to stay home.
The Foreign Secretary used his own brand of Twitter diplomacy to launch an astonishing attack on his City Hall predecessor, just hours after Khan said Trump had “got the message” from that he isn’t welcome in London.
That forced Number 10 to issue its own clarification, claiming the Foreign Secretary was speaking in a political capacity.
When asked if the Prime Minister was concerned that Khan was damaging the ‘special relationship’, the Downing Street spokesman replied: “No, the US and the UK are natural, resilient and strong partners and allies and we do more together than any two countries in the world.
Speaking on Channel 4 News on Friday evening, David Miliband said Trump had dragged the presidency “into the gutter”.
“America’s moral standing, as well as America’s political standing, is under severe (strain),” the former foreign secretary said.
This was encapsulated in the response from Botswana’s Ministry of International Affairs, which formally asked the US to clarify if it is regarded as a “shithole country”.
But UCL’s Dr Abouharb told HuffPost UK that Trump’s behaviour was more damaging to America and its interests, than simply causing offence. The past 24 hours could fundamentally change global politics.
″[These type of comments] make it more difficult for him to form coalitions at places like the UN and to get allies and partners to cooperate on the most pressing issues at the moment.
“In terms of the Iran nuclear deal - if he was hoping to persuade any of the other countries on this, I think this type of behaviour just makes others even less willing to listen to him.
“And if he’s hoping to persuade other countries with the Paris climate change agreement or renegotiating the NAFTA [North American Free Trade Agreement] which is next on the list, I think the Canadians and the Mexicans will be even less willing to listen to his demands than they were before.”
Even the United Nations, an organisation that rarely raises its voice, the reaction was swift and to the point.
“There is no other word one can use but ‘racist’,” UN human rights spokesman Rupert Colville said. “You cannot dismiss entire countries and continents as ‘shitholes’ whose entire populations, who are not white, are therefore not welcome.”
Congressman John Lewis, a giant of the civil rights movement Dr Martin Luther King Jr fostered, said: “It’s frightening to have someone in the office of the president in 2018 speaking the way that he’s speaking.
″[His] words and his actions tend to speak like one who knows something about being a racist. It must in his DNA, in his makeup.”
Doubts about the cognitive ability of Trump to hold the most powerful office in the world are only intensifying after his bizarre outburst in the wake of Michael Wolff’s explosive insider account of the White House.
A group of 27 prominent mental health professionals are already calling for Trump to undergo a mental evaluation and have published a series of essays titled “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump″.
In an article for Politico, lead author, Bandy Lee, said Trump’s “mental state presented a danger to the public” and they have a “duty to warn them”.
At the moment there isn’t one - not of Trump’s mental capacity, at least, although he did undergo a physical exam on Friday.
The results are to be briefed to the public on Tuesday, but according to a White House statement released last night Trump is “in excellent health”.