When Donald Trump defeated Ted Cruz to become Republican presidential nominee, addressing the crowd at Trump Tower in New York, the tycoon-turned-politician said: "We lose with our military, we can't beat ISIS, we lose with trade, we lose with borders, we lose with everything. We're not going to lose... we are going to win bigly."
Donald Trump, the 45th US president, completes his first year in the Oval Office today. His shock election victory met with disdain, wrath and ire among many people. So much so that the newly elected president had to defend his sparsely populated inauguration on January 20.
He has ascended to the highest office with no proven background in politics. Trump biographer Gwenda Blair told PBS: "Donald Trump, the political operator, is very much the same person as Donald Trump, the marketer and self-promoter. And he's brought those same self-promotional and marketing skills to bear on the political race.
"Trump's earliest interest in the intersection of politics and business was fueled by his developer father, Fred, but also by a shadier figure, Roy Cohn, the tough-talking power attorney who rose to prominence as Senator Joseph McCarthy's fixer during the communist scares of the 1950s."
Trump is also the most unpopular US president in modern history. According to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, only 39 percent of US voters approve of Trump's performance in office, but his ability to bounce back from any insult hurled at him has left critics befuddled.
An avid Twitter user, in May 2016 Trump tweeted a quote by Italian fascist Benito Mussolini: "It is better to live one day as a lion than 100 years as a sheep."
Trump's first year has been marked by self-aggrandizing moments of inflicting as much pain as possible on very specific sectors of society, including immigrants, women, people of color, low- and middle-income earners, and members of the LGBTQI community.
But from Charlottesville to Palestine, his tyrannical conduct has also served to galvanize burgeoning opposition movements, both at home and abroad.
In August 2017, in the aftermath of the ill-fated white supremacist rally in Virginia, Trump accused both the left- and right-wing groups of using force.
"What about the alt-left that came charging at the, as you say, the alt-right? Do they have any semblance of guilt?" he asked a press conference, refusing to condemn the alt-right activists, one of whom fatally hit a protester with his car.
As Ta Nehisi Coates points out in Atlantic essay "The First White President," "Trump’s predecessors made their way to high office through the passive power of whiteness.
"To Trump, whiteness is neither notional nor symbolic but is the very core of his power. In this, Trump is not singular, but whereas his forebears carried whiteness like an ancestral talisman, Trump cracked the glowing amulet open, releasing its eldritch energies.
"It is often said that Trump has no real ideology, which is not true: his ideology is white supremacy, in all its truculent and sanctimonious power.
"Trump inaugurated his campaign by casting himself as the defender of white maidenhood against Mexican 'rapists,' only to be later alleged by multiple accusers, and by his own proud words, to be a sexual violator himself."
Thinly Disguised Hate
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), there are 917 hate groups currently operating in the United States. Trump has committed gross violations of fundamental human rights in the same vein by disguising them in legalese.
In October, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said: "For decades, the American people have been begging and pleading... for an immigration system that's lawful and serves the national interest. Now we have a president who supports that."
So far, Trump has axed immigrant programs such as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which grants minors who enter the country without proper authorization a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation with a valid work permit.
Also in his sights is the Temporary Protected Status (TPS), granted to people from regions to which natural disasters or civil wars have made it too dangerous for them to return. Thousands from El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Haiti, who have spent years in the United States, now face being forced out.
Trump is also targeting so-called "sanctuary cities" across the United States which offer limited protection to the undocumented. And January marked one of the biggest anti-immigration operations so far by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), in which 20 people were arrested.
Tax Breaks, But For Whom?
At the same time as he's attacking low- and middle-income immigrant taxpayers, Trump is also stealthily granting copious concessions in the form of tax breaks to the uppermost echelons of the United States, including himself.
Last week, a report showed how Trump's administration is waiving punishment for mega banks Citigroup, JPMorgan, Barclays and UBS, convicted of manipulating global interest rates and other fraudulent activities. Interestingly, Trump owes such banks at least US$130million.
Washington's warped priorities were made even more apparent when the United States chose to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement, while making a case for increasing military expenditure for its failing "war on terror" in Asia and the Middle East.
US airstrikes in Yemen increased from 34 in 2016 to 120 in 2017, as the country continues to endures one of the world's worst humanitarian crises. Notably, there are now nearly 16,000 US troops in Afghanistan: double the number before Trump came to power.
Meanwhile, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is apparently also having its wings clipped by the White House: several important climate-change documents were taken down during a revamp of the EPA's website last year, and have yet to be reposted.
Trump's response to Puerto Rico's devastating hurricane damage was nothing short of callous. Then he started privatizing national parks in the United States, allowing petroleum giants to develop even more environment-threatening pipelines, many of which pass through Indigenous lands.
These totalitarian and trigger-happy attitudes towards foreign policy consistently displayed by the White House incumbent are a growing cause for concern. Take, for example, his months-long Twitter feud with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un over who has the bigger nuclear button.
As Democrat Chris Murphy cautioned during a Senate hearing in November: "We are concerned that the president of the United States is so unstable, is so volatile, has a decision-making process that is so quixotic, that he might order a nuclear-weapons strike that is wildly out of step with US national-security interests."
The slamming of doors to Cuba in the form of more embargos; sanctioning Venezuela and meddling in its internal affairs: all have attracted global condemnation. Trump's declaration of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital, a move later vetoed by the United Nations, further confirmed his lack of leadership credibility.
Fit to Lead?
It is alarming to look back at the past year's litany of harmful activity, but it is even more alarming to realise the power this man has to inflict yet more harm – as evidenced in a new book (no, not *that* one).
"The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump" is a collection of short essays by 27 mental-health experts, including psychologists and psychiatrists, who have analyzed Trump's behavior since he took office. They also probe "Trump's history to examine his relationship with his job, and with his father."
The assembled experts are "focusing on the defects of Trump's character," writes Nausicaa Renner, a digital editor with Columbia Journalism Review, in her essay "Misdiagnosis" for New York-based literary magazine, n+1.
"Whether as a racist, a misogynist, bipolar or a narcissist, (Trump) has proven so ineffective in the past two years that it is somewhat confounding that this group has chosen to set aside their professional reticence and speak out now," she writes.
"It is a political act for them to do so, not a medical one, as they do not appear concerned with the patient at all, but rather with the state of the country and the population." Perhaps we should be, too.