Uneasy Hangs the Head That Wears a Crown: The Lessons Donald Trump Needs to Learn from William Shakespeare
Now that President Donald Trump has finally been exonerated from the always farcical Big Lie of Collusion with Russia in the 2016 election, the US leader had better watch out: The Deep State will really go after him now that it's supposed Soft Coup plot has failed.
Trump needs to recognize he is a modern version of Shakespeare’s King Henry IV, a monarch who can never afford to rest.
The forces opposed to Trump and his decent, sensible 2016 campaign vision of defusing tensions with Russia worked viciously, relentlessly and long to discredit the 45th President of the United States before he could even get going. The idea that they are now going to sit back like good losers because their entire pyramid of lies on Collusion with Russia has been exposed is ludicrous.
The two years of hysteria in fact were far from unsuccessful. They failed to topple Trump from office or separate and discredit him with his potent domestic political base. But they certainly prevented him from working openly and constructively with Russian President Vladimir Putin to end the ongoing bloodbaths in Syria and Yemen that Trump inherited and to reduce global nuclear tensions.
Instead, the United States continues to plunge ever more deeply into reckless, unconditional support for the dangerously volatile, irresponsible and local regimes in Georgia and Ukraine. To Otto von Bismarck and George Kennan alike this would have been incomprehensible. They would have regarded it as insane. So would Franklin D Roosevelt, who was slandered by ignorant Know Nothings for three quarters of a century because he recognized that destroying Nazism and preserving the peace of the world with the Soviet Union were more important than guaranteeing the borders and internal politics of Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
On unexpectedly winning power, President Trump was entirely serious in his commitment to “drain the swamp” of Washington: That is the real reason the old US establishment hated him so much. The hysterical lies about a totally fictional and absurd “collusion” nevertheless pinned him down on the defensive for two years – half a full presidential term.
This forced Trump to obsess on defensive politics. He managed to push through many of the deregulation and other economic reforms he desired and started to renegotiate multinational trade agreements with the rest of the world. But he never had the chance to take the offensive against any or all of his domestic political enemies. Now he will certainly try to.
In reaction, they will be even more desperate, extreme and hysterical now they have been forced on the defensive than they were when they took the offensive against the president.
Trump needs to watch out. He has defied the US security establishment in ways no president has dared to do since John F. Kennedy. And behind his public posturing, Trump has never been a fool. Much of his tacking to the militaristic right on issues from Russia to China may well be seen as a recognition that he has to yield to many Deep State pressures to prevent the number and power of his enemies isolating him and becoming overwhelming. Richard Nixon, after all, was only forced to leave office when he had alienated most of both the liberal left and the hardline right against him.
Trump is right to celebrate the collapse of the Russia Collusion narrative against him. And he should certainly be urged to drop John Bolton especially as his national security adviser. The peace of the world still depends fundamentally on the Washington and Moscow steering clear of direct conflict and constructively and cautiously managing relations with each other.
But the most dangerous thing Trump could now do is to let down his guard. His many enemies are still out there, seething with hatred and frustration, eager to assault him with new, ever more poisonous and fantastic lies.
Trump may enjoy a brief lull while his coalition of enemies licks their wounds and humiliations in the shadows. And it may take them some time – probably weeks rather than months – to come up with their next set of new lies. Or the next set of assaults may be more direct.
The greatest danger remains in foreign affairs where Trump has allowed himself to be stripped of loyal colleagues like Lieutenant General Michael Flynn. Secretary of Defense James Mattis and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly are now both gone, and so far they are irreplaceable. Both men were Marine generals with strong ties to the Establishment. But they were also experienced steady figures of caution and honor. Trump’s back is a lot less safe without them there to guard it.
William Shakespeare would have understood Trump’s dilemma perfectly.
We forget how Shakespeare’s historical tragedies were also political thrillers all filled with mind-bogglingly complex plots and intrigues. Whenever one intrigue failed, the villains – and even the heroes – simply moved on to concoct a new one.
That was power politics in Renaissance royal courts as Shakespeare understood it. He would have made a perfect National Security Adviser in 21st Century Washington.