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How we all got conned by Donald Trump

SIPA USA/PA Images - Credit: SIPA USA/PA Images

Truth and lies dance circles round each other – and part of us even admires the con men

Aaron Banks; Nigel Farage; Katie Hopkins; Milo Yiannopoulos; Ann Coulter, among others, have all suffered a grave shock recently.

Donald Trump has betrayed them.

‘Who stole my President? #Syriahoax’ Hopkins lamented on Twitter after Trump sent Tomahawk missiles to bomb an airfield in Syria that was up and ready to go hours later.

On the campaign trail, when asked whether he’d strike ISIS or anyone else / anything else he saw fit, Trump always said: ‘I’ll do it but I won’t tell you!’ And true to his word (for a change) he did just that. And yet his supporters still mourn, they still weep. They’re like the suckers warned at the entrance to some Vegas casino that they’ll be had if they go inside. They go in anyway; get stiffed; and come out wailing. Or the folks in Dante’s Inferno who enter Hell anyway, even though the warning over its entrance is: ‘Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.’

In other words, you just can’t feel sorry for them. To evoke Oscar Wilde: you would need a heart of stone not to laugh.

Hillary Clinton, who’s fast becoming a kind of female version of the ‘Ancient Mariner’, is back on the scene reminding everyone that the various things she warned about Trump while she was on the campaign trail are coming to pass. ‘I mean, how can a guy lose money on a casino?’ she asked America.

But maybe some of the folks who voted for him didn’t know that ‘the house always wins’ is the casino’s golden rule, and Trump manages to do just that.

We all know that the Bright Shiny Object of the Syria air strike took our attention way from the numerous failures of the Trump White House. Or should I say White Houses?

Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, aka the ‘President-in-Law’ is running one of those White Houses. Kushner, married to Crown Princess Ivanka, has given thousands to the Democrats in the past. Trump has, too. He’s even been one. Could still be one.

At least, his now broken-hearted disciples think so.

Because who can forget the adoring grin of Hillary herself as she and Bill fawn over Trump in that iconic photo taken at his second wedding in the ’90s?

Trump’s ‘strategic advisor’ – former Brietbart News chief Steve Bannon – is looking increasingly like one of the opioid abusers that Trump vowed to tackle.

Bannon, pictured close by the door of the Mar-A-Lago Situation Room where Trump planned his surprise attack on Syria, gave out more signals than a Rembrandt Still Life. Was he going; or did he want to go; or was he warning he’d go? Trump Is Master Of The Game.

One of the reasons he was elected was because of the perception of his being a successful businessman. But one of the reasons that you know that America isn’t yet owned by Trump is that it’s still in business. A guy who’s had almost as many failures as the years that Ivanka’s been alive, has managed to convince the world that he’s a safe pair of hands, mostly based on his best-seller The Art Of The Deal.

The ghost-writer of that book broke cover during the campaign to express remorse for helping to present Trump in a way that is more appealing than the man himself is, and to say that if he wrote the book now he would call it ‘The Sociopath’ instead.

Yet as Trump continues to play the American people and the world, the question has to be asked: are we more willing now to be conned? Do we invite being played; even expect it?

A recent report from the House Of Lords EU Home Affairs Sub-Committee has raised doubts about the axing of free movement of people, after Brexit, stating that net migration was higher from outside the EU than from within it, despite restrictions on who can come to live in the UK.

Curbing migration was the main reason that most people voted Leave. The implication (but seldom overtly stated) was that the less migrants, the more jobs for British job seekers.

Baroness Prashar, the crossbench chair of the sub-committee said: ‘The precise manner in which the Government proposes to end free movement is a pivotal aspect of the United Kingdom’s approach to negotiations with the European Union and could have far-reaching consequences for the UK’s future trading relationship with the EU. Crucial sectors of the economy depend on EU migrant labour, so it is essential that any changes don’t endanger the vibrancy of the UK economy. We therefore recommend a phased transition to avoid short-term shocks to particular sectors.’

The reply from the Home Office was: ‘Once we have left the European Union it will be the Government that sets our immigration rules. We are currently considering the various options as to how EU migration might work once we have left and it would be wrong to set out further positions at this stage.’

You might think that it was wrong for Leave campaigners not to have stated more clearly and audibly that EU migration might continue; that it might not even be the real ‘problem’. Instead: we get a bus suggesting ‘£350 million a week for the NHS’ all across it. So now what’s Brexit all about?

‘Freedom!’ Sir Michael Caine recently proclaimed. And like the psycho-babble jargon of ‘Take Back Control’ we find ourselves more and more in a nebulous place in which truth and fact become moveable feasts, and where we’re more susceptible to being conned. Used. 1984’d.

Many Brexit zealots are students in The School Of Trump. They try to make the body politic believe that something wasn’t said when it was; that facts are malleable things and reality is what they say it is.

‘You can have your own opinion, but not your own facts,’ an American politician once said, but Trump and Brexit are leading us into a phony and dangerous world. People who move the goal posts; remake definitions; play fast and loose with reality, risk causing us to lose even more faith in our institutions, in our politicians, even in ourselves and the people close to us.

It’s no a joke and it’s real.

Plus, if we don’t have a Press that constantly interrogates; consistently holds to account what leaders say and do, we truly are in Orwell’s world where truth and lies dance circles around one another. The consequence is that we grow more rigid and insular, tiny and frightened. Yet maybe there’s a part of us that rather enjoys con-people, even admires them.

You could say, for example, that Churchill ran a con, a necessary con – an illusion that Britain was stronger than it really was. It kept the home fires burning, kept the people believing. Until they didn’t have to believe anymore and voted him and the Tories out.

Americans are used to cons, admire them….. especially when they’re successful. The American Revolution was won largely by guerrilla warfare, French gun-running, and diplomacy. Not by the many ‘noble battles’ that US schoolkids are taught.

American history as generally taught and understood is one of the reasons that the US has always been ambivalent to fraud. Trump was asked a few weeks before his Inauguration, what he thought of his new position – that he was subject to a Constitutional implication of ‘no conflict of interest’. He was reported as saying that it was ‘a nice thing’; seemingly not taking in the fact that he might be exposed to a massive ‘conflict of interest’ environment in which he could reshape the rules, covertly or overtly.

Which is what he’s done and continues to do. The man is exploiting loophole after loophole and the trouble is, the world – we – are beginning to expect him to.

Maybe it’s even the new American Dream.

‘I voted for you, Trump, my whole family voted for you!’ a Marine vet rages on YouTube. ‘We all busted our asses!’, another MAGA person cries.

The Syria strike was a violation of Trump’s staunch nationalist, non-interventionist, ‘America First’ credo. They had a right to be enraged.

They’ve been played. Now Don The Con is top of the tree, President of the United States and head of the Republican Party – even though some of his kids weren’t registered Republicans and so couldn’t vote for him last June in the New York State primary.

That’s all the past now. It’s Donnie’s World.

Like him, there are Brexiteers out there running a con; a ‘bait and switch’ game. Anything to make Brexit happen. The welfare of the people, their reliance on the truth as we head into this uncertain future, be damned.

I like to think that we Remainers, wherever we fall on the Remain spectrum, aim to keep the game honest.

Make it unwelcome for the scam artists; the hustlers.

So that everybody stays clean while the dice is being thrown. Maybe we’re the last ones to care.

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