President Oprah?

Oprah 2020?  In America, yes, it is conceivable.  When a belligerent and dubiously successful businessman and reality TV celebrity can become President of the United States, there is no reason to suppose that a narcissistic billionaire TV talk show host can’t potentially run for the office as well, and plausibly win.

The US presidency has largely become like a short-term version of the British monarchy; a figurehead whom people either love or hate based on entirely subjective and emotional reasons.  Style has not only triumphed over substance, substance is no longer part of the equation.

The Democratic Party continues to miss the point and to disappoint.  All of the same reasons they felt Trump was unqualified to be president apply to Oprah Winfrey, yet, after Trump’s victory, they are rushing to embrace his model.  She is almost an archetypically perfect point-by-point anti-Trump.  Again, it is not because they are opposites, but because they are twins.  She is his liberal incarnation; a Black, female, Democrat version of Donald Trump.

Both are obscenely wealthy, Oprah more so; both have willed themselves into popular culture; both are celebrity icons; both are endlessly enamored with their own names and shameless about self-promotion; both inhabit the highest echelons of elite power in business and the media; both are (in real life) utterly disconnected from the daily struggles of average people; and (since his campaign and election) both Trump and Winfrey can lay claim to broad popular support.  Both, also, have absolutely no political expertise or experience; though by 2020 Trump will have 4 years of experience tweeting about the brilliance of his non-accomplishments.

As a rags-to-riches Black woman, daughter of a single mother, with a record of advocating liberal causes, and connections with high level potential donors; Winfrey ticks all the right boxes for the Democratic National Committee.  She is technically an outsider in Washington, as Trump was, and can appropriate the “maverick” persona that worked in his favor in 2016.  But, all of these calculations fail to factor in the underlying reasons for Trump’s election win; namely, that there are real economic and political issues that genuinely matter to the population, which have been entirely ignored by both political parties for generations.

We can perhaps best begin on this topic by mentioning the issues that matter very little to most people, but which are at the heart of the liberal agenda and about which Oprah Winfrey has been outspoken; namely, gay rights; the definition of gender and transgender rights; gender equality; hate speech; police brutality; diversity in institutions of power; sexual harassment in Hollywood (and in the business world generally); and gun control.

While none of these issues is trivial, they are dwarfed in their significance by the fundamental economic grievances of Americans who have seen their real wages remain stagnant since the 1970s, while actual productivity has risen by around 75%.  Income inequality has grown radically over the past 3 decades; the last two generations in the US (Generateion X and the Millennials) are the first generations in American history that are worse off than their predecessors in terms of opportunity and financial stability.  Outsourcing of jobs, relocating factories outside the US, and so on, have obviously hurt workers, and this was one of the core themes of the Trump campaign that engaged with voters.  Blue collar workers, the middle class, and rural communities gambled on Trump; voters who were taken for granted as Democratic Party mainstays, precisely because the Democrats had all but abandoned them since (at least) the early 1970s.

Embracing Oprah Winfrey does not in any way represent a reversal of that abandonment.  As pointed out above, the issues she is associated with are issues of marginal importance to the traditionally Democrat voters who flocked to Trump.

Personally, I doubt Winfrey will run; but ultimately that isn’t the point.  The point is that the Democratic Party does not get the point, and nothing demonstrates that more clearly than their excitement over the possibility of an Oprah candidacy.

Candidate Trump vs President Trump


(To be published in Arabic for Arabi21)

Throughout his campaign, I always assumed that Candidate Trump was a fictional character; a role scripted according to careful market research of the most disgruntled and potentially active segments of the American electorate.  Just prior to the election, this was more or less confirmed by something Trump said in an interview when he stated that, if he didn’t win, he would regard the past 18 months as a “big waste”, because everything he has been doing, he has been doing in order to win.

See, any other candidate would say something like, “if I don’t win, it was all worth it, because I contributed to the political discourse, I raised issues, I gave a voice to people who were not being heard otherwise,” and so on and so forth.  But no, Trump’s campaign had nothing to do with any of that.  His campaign was a no-holds-barred, aggressive, do-what-you-have-to-do, say-what-you-have-to-say, hard sell to get the top job.  It was a one-man show dramatization of his book “the Art of the Deal”.  And we have to give it to him, it was a brilliant campaign;  unprincipled, unethical, immoral, indecent; but brilliant.

His campaign cost less than $1 million; that is unheard of.  But he knew how to get massive, indeed, endless, free media coverage.  And the more he was ridiculed by the mainstream press, the more his core constituency’s support solidified, because they distrust the mainstream media, and Trump’s team surely knew that.

I don’t think that Trump hates Muslims, or illegal immigrants, or even Hillary Clinton.  I don’t think he is racist.  I think he is just a sociopath who was willing to promote hate to garner votes; he has an equal degree of disdain for everyone who is not a billionaire.

The stark contrast between Trump the Candidate and Trump the President-Elect began to emerge immediately.  During his acceptance speech he said that Hilary Clinton deserves the nation’s respect and gratitude for her service to the country, as opposed to her deserving to be put in jail, as he had previously said.  The plan to ban Muslims from the US was removed from his website.  And I am sure plenty of his other campaign postures will change drastically, because they were all ploys and bluffs and just part of his strategy to win the White House with the support of people he would probably never want to be seen in public with in real life.  There are people who hate Trump because he is a fascist buffoon, and there are people who love him because he is a fascist buffoon; and they have both been tricked.  He is not a fascist buffoon.

Of course, because he acted like a fascist buffoon in order to win, he has hurt the society.  Anti-Muslim attacks rose 80%  and racist and anti-Muslim attacks have spiked since his election, and the actual fascist buffoon population in the US has gotten bolder.  He may, or he may not try to quell this, depending on whether or not he thinks it is useful to him to do so. But, I think it is a mistake for Democrats and Liberals to completely close the door on the possibility that his presidency may achieve some positive changes.

He is the first president in decades who is not beholden to corporate financiers; so many decades that no one alive can remember any president who wasn’t.  He was able to break the political establishment’s iron-grip on the democratic process in the United States, with only 25% of the electorate supporting him (roughly half of the citizenry didn’t vote).  By running an incredibly negative and ugly campaign, all of the people who could have prevented him from winning just opted out of the process because they were so disgusted; this amplified the voting power of his core constituency, and yes, he was able to win almost entirely against the wishes of the power structure. Even if he did that through diabolically manipulative tactics, it is still remarkable, and there actually is something hopeful about that. It is possible to elect someone who is not part of the political establishment.

No one knows what he will do.  That is kind of scary, but it is also kind of exhilarating, because, let’s be honest, whether it was Bill Clinton, Bush, or Obama, we all pretty much knew exactly what to expect, just as we knew what to expect from Hilary: more of the same.  America has its first independent president in generations,  this is, quite frankly, a turning point in history.

If Trump actually follows through on protectionist economic policies, and a more isolationist foreign policy, I think it will be very good for the US, and indeed, for the world.  If he implements Reagan-esque policies like deregulation and more corporate tax cuts and tax cuts for the wealthy, of course, that will be quite damaging.  But I think the point is, we genuinely do not know, because whatever he said during his campaign cannot really be taken as an indication of his real position.   We simply have to wait and see, and it is important that we do that…wait and see…rather than automatically, or preemptively attack his presidency based on the nature of his campaign.

ما تمثله تركيا للعالم الإسلامي                 What Turkey is to the Muslim World

كانت تركيا هي ضابط التنظيم في العالم الإسلامي كله لألف سنة، فقط فكروا في الأمر! نحن لا نتحدث فقط عن مقر السلطة؛ ولكن نتحدث عن المراقبة الإدارية، والقيادة، وكل شيء. وحتى اليوم، داخل تركيا، فإن مستوى التنظيم المؤسسي يجعل معظم العالم الإسلامي يبدوا كالبائس بالمقارنة، فالتنظيم المؤسسي دقيق ومركب، حتى أن معظم الأجانب لا يفهمونه. بعض الأتراك شرحوا لي، على سبيل المثال، النظام التعليمي، وكيف يتم تخصيص أموال للطلاب والمدارس التي يتم تأهيلهم لها… الخ، ولقد أوضحوه لي مرات عديدة، وأنا لا زلت غير قادر على استيعابه. فالنقطة هي أن النظام هنا مكثف ومنضبط بشكل لا يصدق… ومبني على هيكل جيد جدا جدا.

لقد استوعبت البلاد 3 ملايين لاجئ سوري، ويوجد في اسطنبول وحدها لاجئين أكثر من المتواجدين في الاتحاد الأوروبي بأسره، ومع ذلك يكافح الاتحاد الأوروبي لاستيعابهم… نحن نتحدث عن حكومة متفردة الكفاءة.

في ظل هيمنة حزب العدالة والتنمية وتحت قيادة رجب طيب أردوغان، استعادت تركيا بسرعة مكانتها في العالم الإسلامي، فهي قوة صاعدة مع نفوذ إقليمي متنامي وحنكة سياسية عميقة، وقوة اقتصادية.

في حين أنه حقيقي أن حزب العدالة والتنمية اتبع مسار النيوليبرالية، إلا أنه سار فيه إلى حد كبير على شروطه هو، ففي عام 2013 دفعت تركيا ديونها لصندوق النقد الدولي بالكامل، وتعهد أردوغان بعدم أخذ أي أموال منهم مرة أخرى. وقال في فبراير الماضي، “ما يفعله صندوق النقد الدولي هو ليس مجرد إدارة القروض والأموال، ولكنه يوفر لك القرض وبعد ذلك يحاول أن يحكم قبضته على سياستك.”

صعود تركيا، واستقلاليتها ونفوذها، بطبيعة الحال، يزعج الولايات المتحدة. ومما لا شك فيه أن هناك الكثيرين في واشنطن يشعرون بالحنين إلى الأيام الخوالي للحكم العسكري المباشرة وغير المباشرة في تركيا تحت الرعاية الأمريكية. محاولة انقلاب ليلة الجمعة الماضية فشلت، الحمد لله، لكنني لا أعتقد أن أيا منا يتصور أن وراء صعقة البرق الوجيزة لا توجد عاصفة من السحب.

ويبدو أن حكومة الولايات المتحدة على الأقل كان لديها معرفة مسبقة بأن انقلابًا سيجري، وحاولوا تصوير الأمر كما لو كان أكبر بكثير مما عليه، وأشاروا إليه في رسالة السفارة الأمريكية على أنه “انتفاضة تركية”، وليس ما كان عليه في الحقيقة، وهو تمرد داخل القوات المسلحة. وما كان منهم إلا أن قدموا دعما كبيرا من العلاقات العامة للخونة في وسائل الإعلام. فالانقلابين من الجيش هم من أتباع فتح الله جولن، المنافس اللدود لأردوغان، وهو يعيش في منفاه الفاخر في ولاية بنسلفانيا. فلو نظرنا على السطح، سنجد أن الاستنتاج الواضح هو أن الولايات المتحدة تعتقد أن جولن يمكن أن يقدم تركيا لهم دون مشاركة أمريكية مباشرة. أما الأن ففائدة جولن ستكون مشكوكًا فيها أمام واشنطن، وهذا قد يؤدي إلى استبعاده كعامل أساسي، أو قد يعني أنه هو وحركته سيتلقون المزيد من الدعم المالي واللوجيستي، للتأكد من أنهم سيكونون مجهزين بشكل أفضل في المرة القادمة. وهذه مجرد تكهنات، ولكن ما هو مؤكد، في رأيي، هو أن الجهود المبذولة لإخضاع تركيا لن تتوقف.

أيا كان رأيكم في أردوغان وحزب العدالة والتنمية، وأيا كان رأيكم في النظام السياسي في تركيا، فإذا سقطت هذه الحكومة، أي إذا وقعت تركيا، فهذه الأمة ستفقد قلعتها الاستراتيجية الأكثر قيمة، وعلينا جميعًا أن نضم أيدينا ونطوق هذا البلد مثل الجدار البشري، وأن نغلق الصفوف من حولها لكي نحميها وكأننا نحمي مستقبلنا. ولا تنسوا ما قاله الكولونيل رالف بيترز، “إذا نجح الانقلاب، فإن الإسلاميين سيخسرون وسننتصر نحن!”

تنويه: هذه النسخة منقحة ونهائية!

Turkey was the organizing principle of the Muslim world for a thousand years. Think about that. We are not only talking about the seat of power; we are talking about administrative control, management; everything. Even today, within Turkey, the level of institutional organization makes most of the Muslim world look pathetic. It is intricate and complex, and frankly, most foreigners can’t fathom it. I have had Turks explain to me, for example, the education system, how funds are allocated for students, which schools they qualify for, and so on, and they have explained it to me many times, and I still can’t grasp it. The point is, the system here is incredibly dense and disciplined; it is a very, very well-built structure.

The country has absorbed 3 million Syrian refugees; there are more refugees in Istanbul alone than in the entire European Union, yet the EU is struggling to accommodate them. This is a government of rare competence.
Under the AK Party and the leadership of Recep Tayyp Erdogan, Turkey has been fast regaining its stature in the Muslim world; it is a rising power with growing regional influence, deep political acumen, and economic strength.
While, yes, the AKP has followed the neoliberal path, it has done so largely on its own terms. In 2013 Turkey paid off its debt to the International Monetary Fund in full, and Erdogan vowed to never take money from them again. He said last February, “The IMF is not just managing loans and money. It gives you the loan and then it tries to govern your politics.”

The rise of Turkey, and its increasing independence and influence, of course, troubles the US. There is little doubt that there are many in Washington who feel nostalgia for the old days of direct and indirect military rule in Turkey under American patronage. The coup attempt on Friday night failed, al-Hamdulillah, but I don’t think any of us should imagine that behind this brief bolt of lightning there is not a storm cloud.

The US government appears to at least have had prior knowledge that a coup would take place, and attempted to portray it as a much larger event than it was; referring to it in a message from the American embassy as a “Turkish Uprising”, rather than what it was; a mutiny within the armed forces; and they gave significant PR support to the traitors in their media. The putschists from the army are followers of Fethullah Gulen, a bitter rival of Erdogan living in luxurious exile in Pennsylvania. On the face of it, the obvious deduction is that the US believed Gulen could deliver Turkey to them without direct American participation. Gulen’s usefulness will now be questionable to Washington; this may lead to his dismissal as an asset, or it may mean he and his movement will receive increased support, financially and logistically, to ensure that they are better equipped next time. This is just speculation, but what is sure, in my opinion, is that the efforts to subordinate Turkey are not going to stop.

Whatever your opinion is about Erdogan and the AKP, whatever your opinion is about the political system in Turkey, if this government falls, if Turkey falls, this Ummah will lose its most valuable strategic fortress. We must all join hands and encircle this country like a human wall, close ranks around Turkey and protect it as we would protect our own futures. Take note of what US Lieutenant Colonel Ralph Peters said: “If the coup succeeds, the Islamists lose and we win”