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DUI is a dreaded term among vehicle drivers in the US. It means Driving Under the Influence of alcohol or drugs.
Being arrested for DUI, at its most benign, means a brief stay in jail, a hefty fine and penalties, suspension of your driver’s license for several months, several weeks of lectures on traffic safety, and an increase in your car insurance premium. All that, in addition to the embarrassment that comes with this infraction.
It could be worse, of course.
DUI could mean loss of lives and property and more severe financial and criminal damages.
It has become almost routine to compare the governance of President Rodrigo Duterte and President Donald Trump and characterizing them as DUI, both in the political and economic sense. Both heads of state have certainly demonstrated a tendency to be reckless — like drunk drivers — and to be insensitive to criticism (if you’re boozed, you feel no shame).
But I believe there is a significant difference between the motivations of the two. I believe that Duterte, for all of his profanity and crassness, sincerely wants to do a good job as president and leave a positive legacy when he vacates the office.
Duterte’s logic is that of a street toughie who thinks that the solution to every problem is santong paspasan, and when he runs out of viable reasons, he resorts to invectives. But his loyal supporters insist that he means well, like the barumbado (trouble-maker) heroes of Filipino movies.
And mind you, not all of Duterte’s supporters belong to the bakya crowd. I know of one relatively young and reasonably intelligent publisher of a provincial paper who instinctively applies his slippery logic to rationalize Duterte’s antics (like calling God “stupid”). His constant presence on social media is surely being appreciated by Malacañang but I doubt that he is on Martin Andanar’s payroll. He simply is convinced that Duterte is good for the country (at least, better than Noynoy Aquino).
Donald Trump also has die-hard supporters and they are probably as sincere in their appreciation of what Trump represents and what he holds for America. Of course, many of these supporters are neo-Nazis and white supremacists, but many more are average folk who feel that the American dream has slipped through their fingers and anyone who promises to recover it for them is worth believing.
However, I am convinced that Trump himself — unlike Duterte — is not sincere about being of service to his country. I believe that Donald Trump’s principal concern is Donald Trump and his survival as president of the United States.
More and more, that survival is becoming tenuous and doubtful.
But one should never underestimate a man who claims to have amassed $10 billion in wealth while declaring corporate bankruptcies six times. His sleazy logic: He used the loopholes in the law.
Trump has shown himself to be a person who will make a deal with the devil in order to survive. I think that, unlike Duterte who is concerned about his legacy, Trump is only concerned about hanging on to a presidency that he originally did not expect to win, in the first place, but which he has since insisted that he won by an “unprecedented margin.” That’s why he has rejected any suggestion that he was aided by outside forces like Russia.
About Trump’s legacy — he has already decreed that he is the most popular president of the US, more popular than Abraham Lincoln, and that he has achieved more in his brief stay in the White House than all past presidents combined.
Trump is a certified megalomaniac. He is also impervious to shame, epitomizing that rock-faced character who declares, “Lumilipas din ang hiya!” (Shame passes).
The fact that he is considered the world’s most insulted head of state alive (Uganda’s Idi Amin is dead) may, in fact, be a source of demented pride for him.
But things may soon be coming to a head.
Trump may have pushed his luck too far with his recent “summit” with Russia’s Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, and his subsequent statements on such serious issues as Russian meddling in the last presidential elections. This meddling has been confirmed and reported by the US intelligence community, and has been followed by indictments handed down by the US Department of Justice against specifically named Russian agents.
Over the past months, while Republican leaders have grudgingly acknowledged that Trump’s economic and foreign affairs forays (such as the trade war and his verbal attacks on NATO allies) have been similar to that of a drunk driver careening on a zigzag road, they have avoided criticizing Trump publicly because of the latter’s popularity with Republican voters.
Gallup polls have shown Trump’s approval rating among self-identified Republicans at above 80%. And in recent Republican primaries, preparatory to the 2018 midterm elections, candidates who have bucked Trump have lost to out-and-out Trump surrogates.
Only the Democrats have criticized Trump loudly, but both houses of Congress are controlled by the Republicans. Because the latter want to avoid losing that control in the coming elections, the Republican leaders have studiously avoided offending Trump.
But in the wake of Trump’s statements at the joint press conference with Putin, the dam may have been breached.
On the subject of allegations of Russian interference in the elections, Trump was quoted in media as follows, “My people came to me, Dan Coats came to me and some others, and said that we think it’s Russia. I have President Putin; he just said it’s not Russia. I will say this. I don’t see any reason why it should be.”
At this, Coats, a former Republican senator who is now the Director of National Intelligence and is, in effect, America’s top spy, issued the following official statement, directly contradicting Trump:
“The role of the Intelligence Community is to provide the best information and fact-based assessments possible for the President and policy makers. We have been clear in our assessments of Russian meddling in the 2016 elections and their ongoing, pervasive efforts to undermine our democracy, and we will continue to provide unvarnished and objective intelligence in support of our national security.”
Significantly, Coats did not clear his statement with the White House.
Top Republicans in the Senate and the House have also openly rebuked Trump, while declaring full support for the report of the US intelligence community.
Speaker Paul Ryan, who has always managed to pad his comments on Trump with soft gloves, displayed his bare fists this time:
“There is no question that Russia interfered in our election and continues attempts to undermine democracy here and around the world. That is not just the finding of the American intelligence community but also the House Committee on Intelligence.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has also been shy about criticizing Trump, told reporters:
“I’ve said a number of times and I say it again, the Russians are not our friends and I entirely believe the assessment of our intelligence community.”
However, the Republican Senate head, like a typical politician, avoided answering the question on whether he would frontally tell Trump of his disagreement with the latter.
On the other hand, maverick Sen. John McCain, who has been consistently critical of Trump and his policies, characterized Trump’s comments as “one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory.”
Mitt Romney, a former Republican presidential candidate who is currently running for the Senate, called Trump’s statements, “disgraceful.”
Former CIA director John Brennan, a national security analyst for NBC News and MSNBC called Trump’s actuations, “nothing sort of treasonous.”
Texas Republican Rep. Will Hurd, a former CIA officer, had choice words to say about Trump: “I’ve seen Russian intelligence manipulate many people in my career, and I never would have thought the US President would be one of them.”
Which brings me to the question: If Donald is DUI (driving under the influence), is he DUIP (driving under the influence of Putin)? Perhaps because of Russian prostitutes peeing on Trump?
Greg B. Macabenta is an advertising and communications man shuttling between San Francisco and Manila and providing unique insights on issues from both perspectives.