Thursday 7 April 2016


Do you believe in punishment for abortion?
The answer is… there has to be some form of punishment.
For the woman?
What punishment?
I have not determined what the punishment would be.
Why not?
Because I haven’t determined it.

I don’t think we can learn anything much about Trump’s views on abortion from his recent interview with Chris Mathews, because he has no views on abortion. It’s just one of those things he’s supposed to be against while he’s running for office. As for his attitude to women, the interview reinforces what we already know, that he doesn’t think much about them except so far as they serve or fail to serve his needs. The most revealing thing about this exchange is what it tells us about the role of President as Trump imagines it. He sees himself, like a medieval king or a Roman emperor, autonomously determining punishments.  

I happen to be re-watching the BBC/HBO series Rome. Ten years on, the parallels with the contemporary American political scene are striking. In episode 2 (written by the series creator Bruno Heller) the young Octavius is asked by a conservative centurion why things in Rome have to change. He says, ‘Because the Roman people are suffering, because slaves have taken all the work, because nobles have taken all the land and the streets are full of the homeless.’ Replace Romans with Americans, slaves with sweatshop workers and other underpaid offshore employees, and nobles with the one percent, and you have the problem that is attracting voters to both Trump and Sanders in unexpected numbers.

Sanders offers an analysis of the issues and an approach towards a solution. Trump, an armchair Caesar, offers only himself. Having crucified or put to the sword many aspiring executives in Reality-TV land and conquered vast swathes of real estate, and being now rich with the spoils of business, he crosses the Rubicon into presidential politics.

The priests who preside over the sacred rites are bribed or dazzled into overlooking his past blasphemies. The senators and nobles, a self-serving crew who pay lip-service to the ideals of the Republic, see Trump for what he is – a would-be tyrant who is stirring up the populace against them. Of course the tyranny he offers is not significantly different from their own, but, expressed more nakedly and in cruder terms, it threatens the stability on which their power depends. 

They look around for a Pompey, a veteran of old campaigns, to defeat the upstart. Romney is on hand to call Trump a fraud and a conman. McCain lends his weight to the attack. But these are yesterday’s men, has-beens. Their legions are demoralised and disloyal. In desperation, the senators plot to assassinate the dictator on the Convention floor.

Anticipating civil disturbance, the Cleveland police are already equipping themselves with additional riot gear. Let’s hope it’s only the Republican Party that is plunged into civil war and that they limit their weapons to tweets, blogs and hostile briefings. Meanwhile we can expect Trump to continue issuing decrees from the imperial throne of his imagination.

What about the guy that gets her pregnant – is he responsible under the law? 
I would say… no.