Now that Trump has gone, will truth return?
Donald J. Trump, one of the most controversial presidents in American history, has had to finally exit the stage. His prefacing everything with “the most, the biggest, the best” during his farewell speech is nothing more than the delirium of a child. Trump's four years in office produced 30,573 false and misleading claims according to the Washington Post. Then there are those facts that Trump has manipulated regarding Turkish-American relations.
Donald J. Trump, one of the most controversial presidents in American political history, has had to finally exit the stage in a calm manner and with an aura of deep resentment that stood in total contrast to the qualities which defined his time in office. Finally, the system functions properly; the person who was elected to the role has left with another election -- despite his trying to bend the principles that make up “the American democracy.”
When it was clear that he had lost the election to his Democrat opponent, Joe Biden, Trump spent the last two months trying with all his might to flip the results, staging several desperate maneuvers to try and stay in the Oval Office. He was not able to foresee his second loss, which came in the form of the Jan. 6 capitol raid.
This raid was no doubt the most toxic product of the lie generating machine Trump installed in the White House. The methods he used to convince his electorate that the Nov. 3, 2020 election had been stolen from him were somewhat successful. Trump saw no harm in directing his crowd toward Congress, where a session was underway to confirm the results of the election. Every day since Nov. 3 he repeated his claim that the election was stolen from him without presenting a single piece of evidence. Five people, including one a police officer, died during the attack on the capitol. We will see how Trump’s 74-million strong electorate feels about this display of those extremists in bizarre costumes at the Capitol Hill in the coming days.
Because of Trump, almost every major newspaper and television station in the U.S. set up “reality check” teams in their offices, in addition to their White House reporters. The reason for that was that the 45th President of the United States proved just what kind of a mythomaniac he was during his first week in office. Trump went absolutely nuts when it was reported that the crowds which attended his inauguration were less visible than the 1.8 million who attended Barack Obama’s in 2009. He spent his first weeks in the White House having the aerial photos of his inauguration ceremony photoshopped and served up to the media.
This week, as Trump boarded a presidential helicopter from the White House for the last time, I took a look at the Washington Post’s “fact checker,” which I frequently visit. Trump's four years in office produced 30,573 false or false/misleading claims. Ten lies were detected even in his brief speech in front of cameras as he said goodbye to the White House. One of the biggest lies in this speech was that he had made the largest tax cut in U.S. history – this was the 295th time he has said this. The largest tax cut in U.S. history was in 1981 under Ronald Reagan at 2.9 percent. Trump's tax cut was 0.9 percent. He also repeated one more time, one of his favorite falsehoods: “we just got 75 million votes and that’s a record in the history of – in the history of sitting presidents. That’s an all-time record by a lot.”
Trump is neither the first nor the last powerful and ambitious figure who is distressed when they realize they cannot have it all. His prefacing everything with “the most, the biggest, the best” during his farewell speech is nothing more than the delirium of a child whose toy has been taken away. As a woman, I could not help but think that the saddest lie of that farewell speech was what he said about First Lady Melania. I remember watching Melania repeatedly rip her hand away from him, while Trump in his farewell speech said his wife has been a woman of great dignity. We can all use our intuition to figure out more or less what kind of drama occurred behind the scenes for Melania. Her other misfortune, besides the rough texture of her relationship, was succeeding a First Lady like Michelle Obama. Melania has become the First Lady leaving White House with the lowest popularity ratings in the history of the U.S.
Then there are those facts that Trump has manipulated and distorted regarding Turkish-American relations. These should probably be added as a bonus to the 30,573 lies calculated by the U.S. media.
Following the meeting with President Erdoğan at the Lotte Hotel during the UN General Assembly in September 2017, Trump said, “We have a great friendship as countries. I think we’re, right now, as close as we have ever been. And a lot of that has to do with the personal relationship.” At a time when the U.S. was equipping the PKK's offshoot in Syria with heavy weapons and the Zarrab/Atilla (Halkbank) case was about to begin, most of us thought it was ignorant of him that Trump could say, “We’re, right now, as close as we have ever been.” However, it did not take long for us to realize that the good relationship he was referring to was “personal,” not “inter-state.”
As a matter of fact, despite a six-month long Brunson bitterness, Trump made unprecedented efforts to say what Erdoğan wanted to hear, in general. He confronted his chiefs of staff almost every time. Although Trump’s policy was often met with (somehow half) enthusiasm in Beştepe, “my friend Donald” did delay Erdoğan by making promises that the U.S. could not/would not ever make good on. Neither Gülen’s extradition nor the withdrawal of the Halkbank case was ever possible. Also, the United States would not totally give up on the YPG in Syria.
Trump did nothing but postpone crises, by pretending his promises were actually possible by saying, “I’m having it reviewed; I’ll get it done.” Lastly, he won over hearts in Ankara for not declaring the severest of the CAATSA sanctions, postponed for nearly a year and a half, which were decided upon because of Turkey’s purchase of the Russian S-400 missile defense system.
The surface optimism with which Trump decorated the relationship with Beştepe was nothing more than a catch-22. What Biden’s Secretary of State Tony Blinken has this week said in a Senate hearing about the S-400s should be seen as a mini-trailer to what realities Ankara is now facing.
There was also the phone call that President Erdoğan wanted to make to congratulate President Biden? What happened to that?
In 2016, immediately after Trump won the Nov. 8 elections, President Erdoğan was among the first world leaders from whom congratulatory phone calls were accepted. While the leaders of the world waited in line, Erdoğan was able to make that phone call thanks to the orchestration of Mehmet Ali Yalçındağ, the current Chairman of the Turkish-U.S. Business Council (TAİK). Yalçındağ, who had formed close ties with the Trump family during the construction of the Trump Towers in Istanbul, became one of the unofficial channels between the White House and Beştepe at critical moments during Trump’s presidency.
There is no sign, yet, that Beştepe, which is used to doing business through such institutional bypassing, is working to develop a new strategy -- one that would be in harmony with the principles of the Biden administration, that came to power by declaring that they would strengthen institutions.