Hardeep S. Puri’s forty years of professional life as a senior diplomat, India’s permanent representative to the UN, and now Minister for Housing and Urban Affairs in New Delhi, give him a unique vantage point to see the fault-lines in political narratives and the ‘delusional’ idiosyncrasies of politicians.
Many democratically elected leaders of the twenty-first century have displayed streaks of recklessness, megalomania, bizarre self-obsession and political views that are difficult to characterize. Delusional Politics studies the actions of these contemporary political leaders and covers Brexit, the election of Donald Trump, the rise of the BJP under Prime Minister Narendra Modi and decision-making with respect to global governance, terrorism and trade. It brings to light the fact that at the centre of delusional politics is perhaps the delusional politician itself.
Hardeep Puri explores in particular one of the more ‘unconventional presidencies’ of contemporary times-that of Donald Trump from his early career, to his presidential campaign and to the personal and political concerns that govern his somewhat unusual attitudes to America and its place in the world order.
Read on for eight things you need to about Donald Trump’s unconventional presidency.
The presidential aspirations that grew from a jibe
“It is far-fetched to assert that Trump’s pursuit of the US Presidency originated from a single night in the Washington Hilton hotel in 2011 over some one-liners. In an interview with the Washington Post during his presidential campaign, Trump stated, ‘There are many reasons I’m running, but that’s not one of them.’ But as Trump’s public persona slowly evolved into a treasure trove for entertainment and jest, his self-alleged thick skin grew lean. Stack upon stack of jeers and taunts ushered Trump towards his eventual realization: ‘Unless I actually ran, I wouldn’t be taken seriously.’”
His self-described ‘truthful hyperbole’
“In his book Trump: The Art of the Deal, Trump terms boisterous bragging of this sort ‘truthful hyperbole’. Trump dragged this into the Oval Office to serve no political or policy related purpose. Of course, the President’s own popularity is sought to be enhanced. Such efforts do not appear to effectively factor in the negative impact of botched attempts. Misleading the public is not entirely new to the presidency. Post-truth politics has been in play for quite some time.”
The slew of exaggerations and ‘alternative facts’ on both sides
“It is perhaps fitting that the first documented accounts of President Trump’s first 100 days in office are based on delusion and exaggeration. The President is known to have made exaggerated claims, whether pertaining to his business dealings or his personality, and the media too has published exaggerated stories of both his past and present. It would seem neither party is ready to shed the delusion and pull back on the hyperbole just yet.”
His reneging on the Obama-era Iran deal with no alternative in sight
“When viewed from this perspective, the withdrawal from the Iran deal was a corrective measure he took in the interest of the average American—a delusion he himself believed and fed his support base. He was correcting, he believed, a wrong committed by the ‘establishment’ and saving America from yet another international misadventure, similar to the interventions in Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Yemen. Moreover, the withdrawal was meant to pander to the strong Israeli lobby in the United States, which was steadfastly against the Iran deal but got little attention from President Obama. The delusional act of bringing domestic partisanship and one-upmanship to international negotiations, that too to an issue as grave as nuclear security, has had serious consequences.”
The strange competition with Kim Jong-un regarding ‘button sizes’!
“‘The following tweet from the personal account of the forty-fifth President of the United States is just one example of the flailing governance of nuclear security in the world: North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the ‘Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times.’ Will someone from his depleted and food-starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!’”
His complete dismissal of climate diplomacy or environmental considerations
“On 2 June 2017, Trump withdrew US support to the Paris Accord, claiming he was elected President of the citizens of Pittsburgh and not Paris. He made his contempt for climate action, global governance and multilateral diplomacy clear in one go. To win the presidential election, Trump had promised to bring back the jobs the coal miners had lost due to environmental regulations imposed by Obama. The pull-out from the Paris deal along with a host of domestic measures was therefore Trump’s way of delivering on his campaign promise. The fact, however, remains that these efforts have little to no impact and the jobs Trump tried to recreate are nowhere in sight. Like many of his decisions, this renunciation of the Paris Accord too is steeped in delusional thinking.”
His dream team, filled with the most hawkish and anti-international individuals
“Each of these individuals had a common reputation that preceded them—Pompeo was a former member of the Tea Party, and known to have a hawkish worldview. He famously defended the CIA against the senate report that claimed that torture tactics were deployed during the Bush presidency. Gina Haspel, who replaced Pompeo as the head of the CIA, was herself accused of torturing suspects and destroying evidence. Neither of them, however, comes close to the hawkishness of John Bolton, who till day remains one of the few individuals who defends the American invasion of Iraq, and the intervention in Libya.”
His complete cognitive dissonance handling nuclear deals in Iran and North Korea
“Moreover, this ambiguity has set the precedent for future negotiations. Both Iran and North Korea will see the other as a benchmark. For Iran, a much watered-down (and vague) agreement with the United States sends the signal that to get Trump back on the table, it too needs to expand its nuclear capability, and in return, get a better deal than the one it signed with Obama. For North Korea, if Trump can renege on the Obama-era Iran deal, which was much more comprehensive than the bullet points they have agreed to, there is little value in taking the initiative forward, and in fact, their best play is to continue to retain a nuclear arsenal capable of reaching the United States. When viewed from this prism, the discontinuation of military exercises with South Korea is a win-win solution for Kim Jong-Un. He has demonstrated that he can build intercontinental ballistic missiles, buy time from the US (due to the vagueness of the bullet points) on the future course of action, and have South Korea and Japan on the back foot.”
Delusional Politics brings to light the fact that at the heart of delusional politics is perhaps the delusional politician.