Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Donald J. Trump elected 45th President of the United States

Experts point to out-of-touch elite, angry working class as reasons for shock US election result
By Lim Yan Liang, The Straits Times, 10 Nov 2016

Mr Donald Trump's shock victory over Mrs Hillary Clinton is an indictment of how out of touch the American elite is with the rest of the country, seasoned election watchers here said yesterday.

His path to the White House was also paved with the widespread discontent of working-class America, which felt it had reaped none of the benefits of globalisation but all of its consequences, they added.

"It shows you how out of touch America's elite is, and Hillary, unfortunately, represents the elites of America," said Professor Kishore Mahbubani, dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy.

"The 1 per cent she works with has benefited so much from globalisation, but they don't understand how that same globalisation has made life difficult for a lot of people in the working class, who haven't seen their lives improve, and there's been no empathy for them."

Agreeing, former ambassador to the United States Chan Heng Chee said Mr Trump managed to tap into this deep-seated feeling among many in the white working class, to an extent underestimated by many election watchers.

"The message for me from this election is that there is a whole group of people who are left behind, who want radical, major change in America," said Professor Chan, who chairs the Lee Kuan Yew Centre for Innovative Cities.

"One commentator said this is a 'whitelash' in America. Put another way, it's to make America white again... and this message drove him to victory."

The big upset - most polls had until the final day predicted a Clinton win - means that there will be much introspection by the Democratic Party in the days and months to come.

But an immediate lesson that the world can take from this election is the need for inclusive politics, said Prof Chan. Added Prof Mahbubani: "The big lesson is: Don't take the people for granted, listen carefully to what they are saying.

"The elites in America assumed that they knew more than the people of America what was better for them, and we shouldn't make the same mistake."

With Mr Trump becoming president-elect, the question is now about which of his campaign promises will become reality.

He will likely set his sights on abolishing Obamacare and relooking security arrangements, Prof Chan said, adding that the odds of passing the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade pact are virtually zero.

"The TPP is dead, and he won't revive it," she said.

"He was against it, and Hillary Clinton was against it; America is not very trade-friendly at this point."

But Ambassador-at-Large Tommy Koh said he holds out hope that, like Mr Ronald Reagan before him, Mr Trump will be able to govern from the centre and "surround himself with experienced and competent people", even though he ran a very right-leaning campaign.

"Having lived more than 20 years in America, the lesson I've learnt is that campaign rhetoric is campaign rhetoric; it doesn't necessarily translate into policy," said Prof Koh, who is rector of Tembusu College at the National University of Singapore.

"Once you are put in the seat of government, it makes you sober, it makes you much more thoughtful, rational and careful.

"I'm hoping that President Trump will be a very different person than candidate Trump."

Added Prof Mahbubani: "You can make very loud campaign promises, and then you ignore them. It's an honourable American tradition."

Donald Trump: A boss who demands extreme loyalty

The Straits Times, 12 Nov 2016

WASHINGTON • His style is to check every invoice, examine every light fixture. That will have to end, pronto.

He has entrusted his operations to a tight, tiny circle of executives, a handful at most. That circle will expand, greatly.

He has always demanded round-the-clock work and total availability from his staff. That will fit right in.

He has always bristled - and often lashed out - when staff members push back against his decisions. That could damage his presidency.

The people who have worked most closely with Mr Donald Trump say he will bring a distinctly different style of manage- ment and leadership to the White House.

He reads little and rules by his gut. He picks people by first impressions, sometimes without even talking to them. He is laser-focused on how he is perceived and what people say about him.

"Donald has to make a huge transition from Trump World to the United States of America," said Ms Louise Sunshine, the first executive Mr Trump hired when he started out in the real estate business. Ms Sunshine, Mr Trump's closest sidekick from 1971 to 1987, said her former boss "has to put his own needs aside - his needs for approval and acknowledgment, his inclination to use social media. He has to graduate to a huger universe. It's going to be challenging, but he will do it".

To govern a nation of 320 million people, Mr Trump will have to absorb enormous amounts of information about issues he has never confronted and controversies that blow up in moments. His former executives say that is something he does well.

"He is a quick study," said Ms Barbara Res, who spent 18 years as Mr Trump's top construction executive. "You don't have to give him a long story. He picks it right up."

But the Washington bureaucracy and Congress will have to get accustomed to a president who cannot stand long meetings and has little patience for complexity, according to Mr Trump's aides through the years.

"He will have someone read the reports for him and give them to him orally, real short," Ms Res said. "He brags that he has never read a book all the way through. He doesn't have the patience to sit in meetings... The flip side is that he can scan something and get it quickly."

"The guy doesn't read," said Mr Jack O'Donnell, who served as president of the Trump Plaza Hotel & Casino in Atlantic City at the height of Mr Trump's casino empire in the late 1980s. "He reacts to what he sees and hears in the moment; he is a poor listener."

To correct for those qualities, Mr O'Donnell said, Mr Trump learnt to delegate much of his work and give managers broad authority. But those who have worked with him say that Mr Trump's delegating requires extreme loyalty, and if anything goes amiss, the boss will explode.

"He gets frustrated and impatient," said Ms Sunshine, who said she thinks Mr Trump will quickly adapt to the vast size and scope of the federal government.

"But he is relentless. When Donald puts his eye on a goal, there is no distracting him."

Mr Trump describes his leadership style as acting as an "army of one" - relying mainly on his own judgment. In his book Think Like A Billionaire, he called himself a "screamer" who does not hesitate to berate associates. That will be nothing new in the Oval Office, where Mr Bill Clinton, for example, was often heard venting at aides who had disappointed him.

But Mr Trump will follow four consecutive presidents who took considerable pride in the depth of their understanding of policy details. Mr Trump, in contrast, "rarely followed a schedule and never prepared for meetings", Ms Res said. "When you brought him an issue, you had to tell him how great he was and how his way was right. But if you could get him to think your idea was really his idea, then you could usually get what you wanted."

In service of his vision, Mr Trump will outwork even the most industrious young staffer. "He will work longer hours than any president simply because he doesn't sleep," Mr O'Donnell said. "The White House staff is going to have a different kind of guy. They will see him wandering around at three or four in the morning, because that is what he does."

Mr Trump enforced loyalty by requiring top employees to sign non-disclosure agreements that limited their ability to talk about their work. "Loyalty was prized," said Mr Randal Pinkett, who won the 2005 season of Mr Trump's reality TV show, The Apprentice, and then oversaw the renovation of Mr Trump's casino properties in Atlantic City. "People who do well there are people who are willing to follow his lead and remain loyal to him."


Anti-Trump bias left media with blind spot
By Bhagyashree Garekar, Deputy Foreign Editor, The Sunday Times, 27 Nov 2016

The astute, ambitious lawyer who made no secret of her discomfort with retail politics called them "a basket of deplorables". She now lives to regret that remark amid the rustling of autumn leaves in her home in a picturesque hamlet near New York.

The shrewd businessman, after making a fortune in real estate and reality TV, read the mood and thrived on the visceral energy his raucous public meetings generated. Less than three weeks ago, unencumbered by his documented lack of impulse control, he closed the best deal of his life.

The media tracked every zig and every zag of every opinion poll in the 18-month drama that was the 2016 US elections, buttressing it with a continuous stream of strident analysis.

And it completely missed the plot.

The white voter in America's Rust Belt as well as in affluent suburbs has made sure he will never again be left out of political calculations in Washington.

The surprise is that the disquiet in America's hinterland as well as in its wealthy enclaves remained largely unreported until Nov 8, when the millions who saw no charm in the status quo voted to show they had had enough.

How could the grievance of millions remain invisible in a nation of never-ending news and blow-by-blow analysis? That merits a closer look, even outside the United States. Even if you are not American, you still live within reach of trends and policies that come from Washington.

One strand of that scrutiny begins at the media's door. How could professionals committed to reporting reality fail to see it?

It could be argued that the candidacy of Mr Donald Trump was so unconventional that it eluded those joining the dots in newsrooms.

But what also needs to be examined is whether the media missed the picture because it was not what it expected or even wanted to see.

This is a pitfall peculiar to Western democracies, which are split down the middle along two distinct and disparate political ideologies. Either you are a conservative or you are a liberal.

Conservatives believe in less government, more religious liberty and less taxes. Liberals believe in more government - to provide healthcare services and a safety net to poor people. They also cherish social goals such as gay rights, marriage equality and diversity, and environmental protection.

In the US, all mainstream media operates out of big urban centres. This is perhaps one reason why it is more aligned with urban causes.

Studies have found that the average American journalist stands to the left of the average American voter. It is the liberals who rule the roost at some of America's most storied media institutions - the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, CNN, NBC and CBS, among others.

For the record, the media itself vehemently denies a liberal bias, even if it is well known that most reporters are liberals. Journalists donated nearly US$400,000 (S$570,000) to the 2016 political campaign. Nearly all of it went to Mrs Hillary Clinton.

In an interview with the Financial Times, published before the elections, New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet explained the paper's anti-Trump coverage. He said: "We are used to warring philosophies, but this is different. This is a guy who makes stuff up. I am not opposed to his presidency, that is not my job. But my job is not to beat around the bush when a candidate lies."

Regardless, in its reporting of Mr Trump, the media portrayed him as a clown, treating him as being outside the accepted "sane" world view. Pre-judging him as unelectable by their own standards, they did not do him or his supporters the respect of scrutiny, except in a dismissive way.

When voters began responding to Mr Trump's pitch that he would reverse joblessness and the hollowing out of the middle class, the media interpreted the large turnouts at his rallies as expressions of misplaced angst of a majority dreading its loss of privilege.

To the cameraman and the scribe, to the reporter and the commen- tator, anxious voters struggling to make ends meet became merely the face of " white fear". They did not distinguish real grievance from the noise they associated with conservative radio hosts such as Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity - a chant from people on the wrong side of globalisation, technology, and indeed, history. The media blithely reported on the latest instance of Mr Trump's "buffoonery" or the next turn in Mrs Clinton's e-mail probe, continuing its pursuit of controversy.

America's conservative media such as the Wall Street Journal and the Weekly Standard were alienated by Mr Trump's assault on traditional Republican values and made no bones about their concerns about his temperament, character and suitability for office. They abhorred his personality and his insurgent outsider status.

Conversely, in their reporting on Mrs Clinton, the media easily excused her lack of connection with voters. Report after report in the New York Times and other media made wry note of her "woodenness" but with a caveat implied: "You have a tough time emoting but that's okay because you are immersed in policy."

The New York Times and the Washington Post, among many others, endorsed Mrs Clinton as the better choice. USA Today, breaking its no-endorsement policy, told voters Mr Trump was an avoidable choice because he was "unfit" for presidency.

Scores of conservative newspapers could not bring themselves to endorse this year's Republican candidate either.

The electorate disagreed. While judging him every bit as "unfavourable" as his rival, they still gave him the job.

As the media, like much of America, takes a Thanksgiving breather, I wonder if they will cover President Trump like they did Candidate Trump.

With news yesterday that Mr Trump may choose between two conservative talk radio stars Laura Ingraham and Monica Crowley as his press secretary, the White House Briefing Room is certain to be the focus of some intense jockeying. Both women are smart, beautiful and unapologetic about their politics. A reality show could not be scripted better.


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