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Is the joker the Trump card?

Events in American politics last week prompted me to call a former colleague now living in the United States and ask the obvious question: “What the hell is going on over there?”

We spent an hour or more carefully dissecting the key issues but were still a million miles away from anything like a reasonable answer.

The joker in the pack is, of course, Donald Trump – the larger-than-life property tycoon with an ego as large as one of his towers, who sports a next-level comb-over and an orange-hued tan and who wants to be president of the United States, again.

Stop laughing; it’s not funny. Remember that you thought he wouldn’t get in the first time around. So did I.

If you need a positive spin, take some comfort that Trump makes our politicians look decidedly drab by comparison.

Trump’s indictment [that’s what we would call formal charges] on 37 counts of mishandling classified documents comes less than three months after he was charged with 34 felony counts of falsifying business records. The more serious charges carry a penalty of up to 20 years in prison. Not that Trump is letting that interrupt his golf.

He says he’s innocent, and we will prove that fact “very, very soundly and hopefully very quickly”. Very, very predictable.

His bluff and bluster never waivers. On the same day he proclaimed his innocence, his 2024 presidential campaign sent out a fundraising missive asking for financial support. Classy.

Trump has labelled the legal moves a witch-hunt and declared he has nothing to hide. This comment presumably excludes reference to his tax declarations, which still haven’t been sighted, several years after saying he would give them to the authorities because, wait for it, he has nothing to hide.

The Florida case was initially assigned to Judge Aileen Cannon, who was appointed to the bench by Trump. Hardly believable, but not fake news.

Legal objections notwithstanding, Trump is the clear frontrunner in the crowded contest to be the Republican candidate in the next election.

Trump launched his campaign late last year in what was probably a strategy to frighten off potential challengers. It didn’t work. There are currently nine high-profile challengers, and some more political heavyweights are still considering whether they should throw their hat in the ring. That said, the most common view in US political circles is that the Republican candidacy is Trump’s race to lose.

Trump’s former vice-president Mike Pence opened his bid for the Republican nomination with a firm denunciation of his former boss, accusing his two-time running mate of abandoning conservative principles and being guilty of dereliction of duty on January 6, 2021. Strong words indeed. On that day, Trump supporters ran riot in Washington DC after the president falsely insisted his vice-president could overturn the election results.

Pence has spent much of the past two-and-a-half-years grappling with the fallout from that day as he has tried to chart a political future in a party that remains deeply loyal to Trump and is filled with many who still believe Trump’s wild assertions that the 2020 election was stolen.

Roger Parker
Roger Parker
Roger Parker is the Times-Age news director. In the Venn-diagram of his two great loves, news and sport, sports news is the sweet spot.

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