Opinion, by Peter J Rosenwald
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – Were the bizarre events currently impacting the run-up to the Brazilian elections and shaking the foundations of the White House, depicted in binged episodes of ‘The West Wing’ or ‘House of Cards’, we could be forgiven for suspending disbelief.
Then cracking another beer and musing that fortunately, this really couldn’t be happening in real life, maybe in a banana republics somewhere but certainly not in Brazil or the United States.
The spectacular breaking news bursting out of the U.S. capitol suggests that embattled President Trump’s theme song should now be; ‘The Battle Hymn of the Banana Republic’. The presidency has come under a level of attack that far transcends normal politics, could very well destroy the current administration and reduce the proud nation to banana republic status.
What is happening is being described as “an administrative coup d’etat”, the kind of back room power struggle one does not expect from the world’s most powerful nation.
Of course the situation here is very different. Until the unprovoked attack on presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro, it was political party chaos as usual. Said Forbes magazine:
“The latest CNT/MDA poll asked 2,002 Brazilians in 75 cities and towns who they would pick for president in October if Lula was freed from jail. Lula was No. 1, with 21.8 percent of the vote. Conservative firebrand Jair Bolsonaro was second with 18.4 percent.”
Lula was on the ballot but the Top Electoral Court made it clear that he could not run. Sound like the goings on of another banana republic?
To this gringo and many current affair junkies like him, the U.S., what just a very few years ago could honestly be described as one of the world’s leading liberal democracies, a nation built on strongly held ideals of liberty, equality and justice, however imperfectly practiced, has had its credibility so severely diminished that world leaders are increasingly considering it irrelevant or worse.
If the cynical tagline that ‘Brazil is the land of the future and always will be’ has some truth in it, the current electoral confusion puts that optimistic future in doubt, at least for the present.
Bolsonaro, now recovering in hospital has many things in common with the American president and doesn’t even seem to mind being called the Brazilian Donald Trump although he argues the label is not accurate.
Nonetheless, according to ’Folha De S.Paulo’, he “has sent representatives located in the United States to try to initiate a relationship with American President.”
That assumes Bolsonaro wins the Brazilian election and Trump is still occupying the White House at the end of this year. Happily, neither is a sure thing.
The ‘New York Times’ recently published an explosive and anonymous ‘Op Ed’ essay. It argues that the “president continues to act in a manner that is detrimental to the health of our republic” and criticizes his leadership as ‘amoral’ and ‘impetuous’.
The unknown author writes of himself/herself: “I Am Part of the Resistance inside the Trump Administration. I work for the president but like-minded colleagues and I have vowed to thwart parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations.”
“Many Trump appointees have vowed to do what we can to preserve our democratic institutions while thwarting Mr. Trump’s more misguided impulses until he is out of office.”
The very conservative ‘Times’ editors describe the author as “a senior Trump administration official” and it would be unthinkable that they would have published the essay if they were not certain of its authenticity. Published anywhere other than the ‘NYTimes’, the essay would be unlikely to have the credibility it has.
Not surprisingly, the normally paranoid Trump is going off the wall screaming “Treason” and undertaking a scorched earth search of the White House staff for the author whom he no doubt wishes to burn at the stake. Some Trump loyalists say the activities described in the article amount to an unconstitutional seizure of power by unelected staff members.
The president was already reeling from all the bad publicity he has received as the result of a just published book ‘Fear: Trump in the White House’ by Bob Woodward, one of America’s most respected journalists, best known for his exposure of the Nixon Watergate scandal. Woodward shows the chaos that radiates from Trump’s oval office which is now confirmed by this article.
Last November, journalist Neal Gabler wrote: “Trump is certainly an authoritarian, but he is more of a tinhorn dictator, a tiny, negligible man who, rather than inflating himself with the nation’s grandeur, has managed to deflate the nation with his own insipidness. Thanks to him, America is now a banana republic. It is no longer a country… of sanity in a world often bouncing on the waves of madness.”
If ‘authoritarian’, ‘tinhorn dictator’, ‘tiny, negligible man’ were descriptives applied to Bolsonaro, they wouldn’t be far from the truth.
In a world “often bouncing on the waves of madness” and with Brazil and the U.S. trending downwards economically and politically and their prestige tanking, he and Trump will more and more be seen as the tarred leaders of the kind of banana republics the world does not take seriously.
Peter J Rosenwald is an American living in São Paulo, resident of Brazil for more than eighteen years, a cultural blogger for HuffPost, Brazil and formerly the senior music and dance critic for ‘The Wall Street Journal’.