There are three weeks left until Joe Biden assumes the presidency of the U.S. Considering the pandemic and Donald Trump, it is unclear how matters will work out. We don’t even know if Donald Trump will attend the inauguration.
The historical spectacle of Trump’s behavior during the last days of his term adds to a period dominated by COVID-19, vaccines and Jair Bolsonaro.
As he refuses to accept the election outcome, the incumbent president has become as desperate and instable as Richard Nixon was days before he resigned in August 1974. Nixon drank, fought with his wife, and even invited the secretary of state to pray with him.
Members of Nixon’s Cabinet feared he would kill himself, as it became clear that Nixon was distraught. There was a fear that, if a conflict arose, Nixon would launch nuclear weapons, and so a directive was prepared that before Nixon could tamper with bombs, the launch order would need to be confirmed by the secretary of defense. The order was never given. We have only recently learned about these details. The public image of Nixon that has that of the president leaving the White House smiling with his hands raised in a victory sign.
Trump is putting on a public spectacle. After contesting the election, he has spent his time in a delusional state, secluded, playing golf and pardoning his cronies. Given this state, he has even considered imposing martial law on greatest democracy in the world. Not unexpectedly, he complained that fashion magazines had not featured his wife frequently enough. It’s clear that since November, Trump has been upset like never before. Watching every detail of his departure until Jan. 20 will provide great drama, akin to television.
For two decades, the U.S. has struggled through two of the three worst presidents in its history: Trump and George W. Bush. Earlier, the third worst president was James Buchanan (1857-1861), who left his successor Abraham Lincoln a burden that would result in the Civil War.
Of the three, Trump has been the only one to behave like a lunatic. But there is good news: American democratic institutions have survived a crazy man in the White House. The proof lies in the fact that certifying the results of the election did not require intervention by the Supreme Court, despite what Trump’s followers assumed. Trump’s claims of election fraud were rejected.
Other than Buchanan, the competition for the title of worst president comes down to Bush and Trump, which makes for a good discussion. As an individual, Trump wins the title with a great advantage. Since much of the damage Trump could have done was shielded by American institutional process, one could say that given the war in Iraq and the recession at the end of his term, Bush caused more damage to the nation. It should be noted that Bush, like his father, has made an exemplary former president, which is unlikely to be the case with Trump. (The New York state attorney general is currently investigating Trump’s finances.)
As Minister Gilmar Mendes recalled, paraphrasing a Portuguese proverb, no one escapes getting hit with a stone thrown by a madman or hit by a kick from a donkey. Not even the United States. It is unlikely that the world will ever again witness a show like the one about to come.
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