It could have been worse. Donald Trump did not try and grab Queen Elizabeth by the pussy – at least as far as we know. But no doubt his critics would say that was only because he was so preoccupied with kissing Vladimir Putin’s arse.
As the rest of the world scrabbles through the smouldering remains of the most recent incursion from the most powerful man on earth, even the most sanguine are starting to ask just what they have got themselves into. And, not before time, Australia’s leaders are wondering what is coming next and how they can cope with it.
Even Malcolm Turnbull, determinedly insouciant about the chaos all around him, has been forced to admit that perhaps Putin is not quite such a nice person as Trump assumed in Helsinki, and perhaps POTUS’s initial announcement that he accepted Putin’s protestations of innocence over hacking the 2016 election were a trifle naïve.
Of course Trump, after accusations of treason from furious Americans, offered the hopelessly unconvincing explanation that he had tripped over a double negative. But the consensus was that it was just anther case of The Donald’s adoration of dictators, the conviction that he can adlib his way through complex negotiations and the obsessive egomania that allows him to say and do anything that comes to mind in the belief that his supporters will not waver over the contradictions.
Both Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and her Labor counterpart Penny Wong have signaled that Trump’s recklessness and unpredictability will make Australia a different and more dangerous place and many other experts in the area agree: we can no longer unquestioningly rely on our great and powerful friend – if, indeed, Trump’s America is in fact a friend.
At this stage we have been at least partially shielded from the America First rhetoric that has cut a swathe through Europe, but the record says that no treaty is binding, no alliance secure. Australia might be the last page in the annals of Pax Americana to be discarded, but it is in the book.
Trump’s army of acolytes tell us that at least their man means what he says, and very often he does – at any given moment. He is, after all, dedicated to the idea of gaining advantage, however ephemeral, and there is nothing insincere about that. But even when he makes sense, no one has any idea what he will do next. It is all slogans – make America great again, America first – or dog whistling to the fundamentalists, the racists, the gun lobby and his mega-rich friends. And, of course, the constant threat of pussy-grabbing, whether literal or metaphorical.
This is not a recipe for international order, the desperate need for a set of policies that can at least try to deal with an increasingly unpredictable future. Bishop and Wong at least have acknowledged this, and Turnbull seems to be reluctantly coming around to the idea that we just might need a contingency plan if Trump casts his vengeful and myopic eyes on our region.
Or, perhaps worse, if he doesn’t. Either way, it is time to exit Mark Latham’s conga line of suckholes when the one we are sucking up to is already sucking up to Vladimir Putin..