Donald Trump (presidential portrait, cropped).
Intelligence is one thing. Wisdom is something else entirely. Saddest are those with a plethora of intelligence and a paucity of wisdom—or even common sense. They are doomed to failed, unhappy, and often destructive lives. The greatest and most destructive failures combine intelligence with unwisdom, wealth, and power. We are talking about Donald Trump.
A happy or at least a contented life is surely the essence of a successful life. Trump is neither happy nor contented. He seems consumed by anger. That’s apparent to anyone who has watched any television news this year. It is impossible to be simultaneously angry and happy. And if anger consumes a life, it seems implausible that it could be a happy or contented life.
The unwisdom that dooms Trump’s life dooms his presidency. That’s more apparent every day. In its first couple of month months in office, the Trump administration has accomplished virtually nothing. His twice-failed Muslim travel ban has been banned by three different judges. That may have opened a window of opportunity for immigrants and refugees from six designated countries, but few will want to come to a country where they fear being unwelcomed. His infamous Mexican wall across the United States and his truncated health care plan both face bi-partisan political and public opposition, daunting obstacles, and uncertainty.
Two of Trump’s key lieutenants have been politically wounded by lies, though their lies pale in comparison to the whoppers told every day by the boss. He and his administration are under existential threats in the FBI, CIA, and two Congressional committee investigations of allegations that Trump and his team colluded in the Russian hacks of the 2016 election campaigns.
His tax reforms will hurt his election-winning supporters, but bring billions more to him and his billionaire buddies. His deregulations empower the bankers and Wall Street barons he publicly demonizes. By gutting the Dodd-Frank Act, deregulation also leaves the door open for the next economic recession, or depression. His anti-Muslim rhetoric is terrorist ammunition.
Even Trump’s approval of the controversial $7 billion Keystone XL pipeline, to ship increased volumes of oil from the oilsands of Alberta to U.S. refineries, is DOA. Its death is foretold by the approval of two more-sensible pipeline projects. These will increase the delivery capacity of oilsands oil by almost one million barrels a day.[i] That will be all—if not more than all—than truncated oil sands development will ever need. Big oil is pulling out of the oilsands in favour of abundant lower-cost oil. There is also a great risk that any new ‘greenfield’ oilsands project would leave stranded oil and lost money as the world inevitably slashes the use of fossil fuels while global warming death and increase. Even oil giant BP publicly warned, a few years ago, present rates of greenhouse gas emissions are not sustainable.
On the brink of collapse, meanwhile is a “global revolt”[ii] and an “entirely new political movement,”[iii] masterminded by Trump’s chief advisor and strategist Stephen Bannon, the Rasputin of America. Trump has assiduously tagged along. The incipient revolution stands opposed to the closest thing ever to global free trade, an economic force that made the United States the most world’s most prosperous and powerful country in the 20th century, and did the same for Britain earlier.
In the United States, the revolt calls for the devolution of power from the federal to state governments. “Freedoms” would be “controlled at the local level;” white men, animated by a Christian spirit of benevolence, would control government and business; Muslims and other minorities would be shunted aside by discrimination, if not xenophobia. In Europe, the revolt calls for the breakup of the European Union by “strong national movements” into Balkanized states with “individual sovereignty” and nationalism at least bordering on xenophobia.
In encouraging the breakup of Europe, the Bannon-Trump camp is aligned with Vladimir Putin. Russia is trying hard to undermine the European Union, using espionage, propaganda, misinformation, computer hacks, and untold millions of dollars to support far-right nationalist rulers and wannabe rulers who seek to be King Frogs in small ponds. Marine Le Pen, the far-right French presidential candidate who wants to break up Europe, is one of the numerous recipients of Russian money. Before the end of 2016, her party received $12 million U.S. in loans from Russian banks.[iv]
The high tide of the Bannon-Trump revolt is marked by Britain’s Brexit vote in June last year, and Trump’s election in November. But the tide appears to be ebbing, in the United States and in Europe. Trump’s public approval rating, the lowest ever for a new president when he took office, has been falling ever since. The fate of the European Union may hinge on this year’s elections in the Netherlands, France, and Germany. Political parties supporting the Union won the Dutch election March 15. Emmanuel Macron leads the field in opinion polls for the French presidential elections April 23 and May 7. A strong supporter of the European Union and a supporter of everything the anti-Unionist oppose, Macron has the lead over second place Marine Le Pen. Angela Merkel and her party will be tough to beat in Germany’s September elections
With his volatile anger and the frustrations of a doomed presidency, will Donald Trump wind up like John Jacob Astor, the wealthiest American of his time? Astor (1763-1848) made his fortune by hard work and risk taking — but also lying, cheating, political bribery and as a war profiteer, slumlord, and opium trader, according to his biographer. He wound up with the failed life of an unhappy, miserable, miser.
“He seems, poor man,” said an acquaintance, “afflicted by the possession of a fortune.”[v]
The future awaits Donald Trump.
[i] The two approved projects are Enbridge line 3, which will replace almost 1,700 kilometers of the 66-year-old former Interprovincial Pipeline, from Hardisty, Alberta to Superior, Wisconsin with larger, more reliable, and safer pipe; and Kinder Morgan’s looping of the 64-year-old Trans Mountain pipeline from Alberta to the southern B.C. coast and the U.S. Pacific Northwest.
[ii] Bannon remarks, Vatican conference, 2014, transcript, BuzzFeed News, November 15, 2006.
[iii] Television interview, CNN, November 18, 2016.
[iv] Andrew Higgins. “Intent on Unsettling E.U., Russia Taps
Foot Soldiers From the Fringe.” New York Times, December 24, 2016.
[v] Axel Madsen, John Jacob Astor, 2001.