Never has a transition been this rough. From the sanctions against Russia to the blow against Israel, Barack pulls no punches and The Donald hits back.
Only 20 days away from his farewell, Obama has dealt the latest blow in the political, strategic and personal war between himself, Trump and Putin, with his actions against Russia.
The punitive measures, announced with as much fanfare as possible by a president who is unwilling to accept this transition and the decline of being the “lame duck,” are directed as much at Putin as they are at Trump, Putin’s new American friend. After all, the sanctions, the expulsions and the demolition of spy networks could have been delayed for three more weeks without causing further damage. However, Obama has decided to stick to his guns, thereby hitting two birds with one stone and emphasizing the huge distance between himself and the man who will take over the Oval Office on Jan. 20.
Never before have newspapers, radios, television or social networks witnessed such a rough presidential transition, with such a recalcitrant and active outgoing president. Neither Obama nor Trump will give up on the bitter pleasure of spite and tripping each other up. Recent polls have raised the heat even more. The deposed sovereign’s greater popularity (56 percent) hits the new king’s vanity. Trump’s popularity rate of 42 percent is a record low for a newly elected president. The duel reached new heights yesterday with Obama’s sanctions, which were aimed at Putin but also meant to send a message to Trump. Spokespersons on both sides reassured everyone that there are “sparks, but no fire.”
“I’m sure they’re going to play golf together,”guaranteed an executive committee member of Trump’s presidential transition team, a man who goes by the prophetic name of Anthony Scaramucci.* However, if Barack and Donald were to meet each other on the golf course now, chances are they would use the clubs to hit each other.
All of this is not simply the result of a rivalry between two “alpha wolves.” This month’s “sparks” are the inevitable product of the extreme and incendiary political polarization that the election campaign ignited in American society and international relations. Now everything resurfaces. Obama’s conceit, when he claims in an interview that he could have easily defeated Trump and earned a third, imaginary, presidential term. Trump’s teenage-like touchiness, as he replies in the dead of the night, tossing off his tweets like firecrackers and playing the part of the wounded lamb: “But I say NO WAY!” between “- jobs leaving, ISIS, OCare, etc.” Trump thinks he would have won against Obama as well. And later: “Doing my best to disregard the many inflammatory President O statements and roadblocks. Thought it was going to be a smooth transition - NOT!”
“I don’t think Obama knows what it means to go out gracefully,” insisted John Bolton, a pit bull from the same neocon litter that “delighted” us with the exportation of democracy to Iraq, and who has turned up again with Trump. The soon to be ex-president replies with the chilly and professor-like calm he employs when he is furious: “Even when hatred burns hottest, even when the tug of tribalism is at its most primal, we must resist the urge to turn inward.”
From the personal to the political, from taunts to strategy, Hillary Clinton’s disappointed supporter takes advantage of every hour he has left in the Oval Office to leave nails all over the seat his successor is going to occupy on Jan. 20 at noon. He has declared the oil deposits in the Arctic off-limits and untouchable. The oil tycoons Trump chose for his government, like ExxonMobil’s boss, had already been eyeing them greedily. He kicked things around for Prime Minister Netanyahu on the subject of Israeli settlement expansion by not opposing the U.N., which has always considered the settlements illegal. This prompted Trump to write a tweet with a tone reminiscent of the Seventh Cavalry being besieged by the enemy. “Stay strong Israel, January 20th is fast approaching!” Obama’s latest move is against the Kremlin, to punish Russia for its anti-Hillary interference via WikiLeaks.
However, like good parents engaged in the most resentful divorce, the two simulate civility for the sake of the children. They call each other on the phone, as they did on Wednesday, promising each other “collaboration,” of which we have yet to see any trace. We are reminded of the Clinton staffers, forced to hand over the White House to George W. Bush instead of Al Gore, but not without first vandalizing computers and destroying furnishings to scorch the earth for Bush’s team. “Our staffs have been getting along very well,” claims Trump, with an emphasis on the staffs, “other than a couple of statements that I responded to and we talked about it and smiled about it [...] we are never going to be going against each other.”
Twenty days can seem very long; each day could fuel the fire. Case in point, the sanction bomb that Trump will have to disarm or live with. Obama feels frantically invested in the duty of preventing the harm he thinks Trump may do. In the meantime, the one who is missing from action is the “alpha she-wolf,” who was humiliated and defeated and now seems to have completely disappeared from the stage of the transition. Hillary Clinton, the ghost.
*Translator’s note: The author is referring to the Italian word “scaramuccia,” which means skirmish or clash.