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Honour and propriety

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US President Donald Trump / AFP PHOTO / JIM WATSON

Several key figures in the United States are increasingly unsettled by the kind of President the Americans today have in the saddle. They are troubled by his conduct, his utterances, his lack of refinement and his unpredictability. Until now they gnash their teeth and bite their lips in their closet. Now, they can no longer bear their private anguish and public frustrations, given what they consider the American standards expected to be espoused and put on display by especially their public functionaries.

As Hilary Clinton is wont to say, “Who we are as Americans.” I am not an American, but as the grandmasters of old, Allah-De, Sad Sam and Gbolabo Ogunsanwo, were often quick to say, they were in the business of minding other people’s business, poke-nosing in their affairs, public and private, local or international.

U.S. Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell is at loggerhead with Mr. Trump, resisting his attempt to ride roughshod over him on Obamacare and tax reforms. He found a leading ally in John McCain who dismissed Donald Trump’s conduct as “half-baked, spurious nationalism.” US Majority Leader is the equivalent of the Nigerian Senate President. And if we recall, it was John McCain who lost the presidential contest to Mr. Obama in 2008. There are two senators who are unrelenting in their criticisms of Mr. Trump. They are Senator Bob Corker and Senator Jeff Flake. But hold it. Here come two powerful and leading establishment voices that weigh in in philosophical candour and incandescent thoughtfulness in moments of grave danger to the foundational ideals that hold a society together. It was the voices of Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

Bush expressing grave concern, said: “Bigotry seems emboldened…Our politics seems more vulnerable to conspiracy theories and outright fabrication…We know that when we lose sight of our ideals, it is not democracy that has failed; it is the failure of those charged with preserving and protecting democracy… Bullying and prejudice in our public life sets a national tone, provides permission for cruelty and bigotry and compromises the moral education of children.”

Mr. Bush was not done: “We have seen nationalism distorted into nativism, forgetting that dynamism that immigration has always brought to America. We see fading confidence in the value of free markets and international trade, forgetting that conflict, instability and poverty follow in the wake of protectionalism. We‘ve seen the return of isolationist sentiments, forgetting that American security is directly threatened by the chaos and despair of distant lands.”

Mr. Bush delivered his speech at a conference he convened in New York to support democracy at which he said the “U.S. has to recover our identity.”

As for Obama: “… Some of the politics we see now, we had thought we put that to bed. That has folks looking 50 years back. It’s the 21st century, not the 19th century. Come on! The world counts on America having its acts together. The world asks what our values and ideals are and are we living up to our creed.”

The major newspapers, The New York Times, The Washington Post and Los Angeles Times have all along dismissed Mr. Trump as unfit for the throne, and that by his conduct, he has diminished the loftiness, the myth and invincibility of the American Presidency. Of the positions taken by the different actors in this matter, none seems as fascinating as that of Senator Jeff Flake simply on point of demonstrated principle. Mr. Corker and Mr. Flake have given notice they would not seek re-election into the Senate next year. Senator Corker accused President Trump of “debasing’ the nation. Flake spoke of a “flagrant disregard of truth and decency in today’s politics.” Describing himself as a “traditional Conservative,” he believes there is no longer a place for politicians like him in the Republican Party (GOP). He said “some in the executive branch” were engaging in conduct that was “reckless, outrageous and undignified”, according to The Hill online newspaper. Mr. Trump dismissed the stepping aside of the two Senators, saying it was because they were not popular, which is evidence that the profoundity of what is at stake is lost on him. Mr. Flake, announcing his retirement, said on the floor of the Senate as follows—reproduced in full:

“I rise to address a matter that has been very much on my mind at a moment when it seems that our democracy is more defined by our discord and dysfunction than our values and principles.

“Let me begin by noting a somewhat obvious point that these offices we hold are not ours indefinitely.
“We’re not here to simply mark time. Sustained incumbency is certainly not the point of seeking office and there are times when we must risk our careers in favour of our principles.
“Now is such a time.

“It must also be said that I rise today with no small measure of regret, regret because of the compromise of our moral authority and by all, I mean by all of our complicity in this—complicity in this state of our affairs.
“It is time for that to end.

“In this century a new phase has entered the language to describe the accommodation of a new and desirable order, that being the new normal.
“That we must never adjust to the present coarseness of our –coarseness of our present dialogue, we must never regard as normal the casual undermining of our democratic ideals.

“The personal attacks, the threats against principles, freedoms and institution, the flagrant disregard for truth Andes Enzi …and decency, the provocation for the most petty reasons and having nothing to do with the fortunes of the people we have been elected to serve.
“None of these appalling features of our current politics should ever be regarded as normal.

“We must never allow ourselves to lapse into thinking that is the way things are now.

“If we simply become used to condition, thinking that it is just politics as usual, then Heaven help us.”

All ye Senators of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, is there anyone who will follow in the footsteps of Mr. Flake, who would say that it is height of insensitivity that the Nigerian Senators are the highest paid legislators in the world, more highly paid than Obama as President of the United States; and that if the Senate does not reduce the remuneration by December, he would quit by January, 2018, as a matter of sensitivity and decency. Out of principle.



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