The world looked on in awe this week as the United States transitioned from a Democratic government to a Republican-led administration.
But while the outgoing president Barack Obama will long be remembered for his graceful exit from the White House, the first chapter of his successor Donald Trump’s presidential novel already seems tarnished with scandal, not helped by his bulldozer attitude to political leadership.
At his very first press conference as president-elect on Wednesday, the billionaire businessman immediately set about to show that he was now in charge, as CNN’s Jim Acosta became the first victim of a nasty public berating of the news network for reporting what Trump said was “fake news”.
“Your organization is terrible,” Trump told Acosta when he tried to ask a question.
“You’re attacking us, can you give us a question?” Acosta replied.
“Don’t be rude. No, I’m not going to give you a question. You are fake news,” Trump responded, before calling on a reporter from Breitbart.
This came after CNN reported on Tuesday night that intelligence officials had briefed Trump on an unverified dossier alleging that the Russian government was in possession of compromising information about him.
CNN reported that the 35-page document — made up of a collection of memos filled with explosive claims about the billionaire’s relationship to Russia — was based primarily on memos compiled by a former British intelligence operative that were intended as opposition research into Trump.
However, on Tuesday night the president-elect immediately blasted the report, tweeting, “FAKE NEWS – A TOTAL POLITICAL WITCH HUNT!”
“I think it’s a disgrace that information that was false and fake and never happened got released to the public. As far as BuzzFeed, which is a failing pile of garbage, writing it, I think they’re going to suffer the consequences. They already are. And as far as CNN going out of their way to build it up,” he added during his news conference the following day.
It’s the type of unnecessary and unbecoming rant that many of our own journalists fall victim to nowadays, and, sadly, not only from boisterous politicians whose backs are obviously against the wall.
In almost every sphere of activity, it has become common practice that any time a journalist dares to veer outside of the desired PR-spin doctor-prescribed line, the first thing people like to do is either run to a chairman or try to shoot the messenger themselves.
No wonder good journalists are sometimes hard to find and even the very good ones are an endangered species.
For most would sooner ban a media house from attending their events than frontally deal with the actual substance of the media’s reporting.
Worryingly, the efforts to silence the press are seldom based on misreporting, since any professional media house would immediately move to remedy such. But a high and mighty attitude that “this story is not for reporting” or “what we say goes”, which any self-respecting individual would take umbrage to, especially when the truth is both glaring and defensible.
But far too often these days, there are complaints from one thin skinned politician or another; one inexperienced trade union leader or another, or one self-righteous, hard nose businessman or another that ‘your media house may have jumped the gun on this one’, or ‘she is just interested in ‘the scoop’.
This is why the Obama presidency, in particular Tuesday night’s graceful exit, stands out so much for us.
It was truly one of his finest hours.
With the eyes of the world fully glued on him and his family, Obama once again showed that he understood the responsibility that came with his job as he systematically capped what has truly been a most inspirational period in US politics.
We do not know how history will judge Obama in terms of his policies, which though well-meaning, came up against a cruel headwind that now threatens to destroy them once and for all in the hope of also marring the legacy of America’s first Black president.
But for us, the Chicago delegate will forever stand out as the leader who fought hard for equality and justice — not by emphasizing the colour of his skin or de-emphasizing that of others — but by attacking the very issues and problems which mattered most to the people of America who he was elected to serve.
Obama never shied from the problem of health care for instance. In fact, he persisted with Obamacare in the face of great political odds because he understood full well what it meant for those who could not afford costly health insurance.
As a male politician, Obama also seemingly rose above the problems which have befallen many of our black brothers in particular, not to mention Bill Clinton or the now infamous Anthony Weiner, who, having tasted such awesome power, simply could not help themselves when confronted with the “forbidden fruit”.
However, Obama insured that not only his wife, but his children, could leave the White House with their heads held as high as when they first arrived, devoid of any needless personal scandals or ugly shenanigans.
By no means are we implying here that Obama is perfect, but as a leader and as man he has certainly raised the bar quite high.
Which brings us back to Trump.
We can only hope that he too can prove the English politician and writer Lord Acton wrong by showing us that ‘Great men are NOT almost always bad men’ and indeed that ‘power DOES NOT HAVE TO corrupt nor should ‘absolute power corrupts absolutely’.