It is of course nonsense to describe Donald Trump as a fascist or a dictator, as his opponents like to do. And yet… well, he does sometimes rather invite it.
There was his inaugural address in which he dusted off the ‘America first doctrine’ – as used by the isolationist, anti-Semitic group that urged the US to appease Nazi Germany. Then there is his interventionist strong-arming of companies to keep jobs in America. And on Saturday he stood at the CIA headquarters, in front of a wall commemorating the organisation’s fallen heroes, and boasted of the number of times he has appeared on the cover of Time magazine.
Now comes a proclamation declaring the day of his inauguration as ‘National Day of Patriotic Devotion’. It was apparently one of the first things he signed after entering the Oval Office on Friday. It reads:
‘A new national pride stirs the American soul and inspires the American heart. We are one people, united by a common destiny and a shared purpose.
‘Freedom is the birthright of all Americans, and to preserve that freedom we must maintain faith in our sacred values and heritage.
Our Constitution is written on parchment, but it lives in the hearts of the American people. There is no freedom where the people do not believe in it; no law where the people do not follow it; and no peace where the people do not pray for it.
‘There are no greater people than the American citizenry, and as long as we believe in ourselves, and our country, there is nothing we cannot accomplish.
‘NOW, THEREFORE, I, DONALD J. TRUMP, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim January 20, 2017, as National Day of Patriotic Devotion, in order to strengthen our bonds to each other and to our country — and to renew the duties of Government to the people.’
It reads like a steamy love letter to the new American greatness, all stirred up by the new president. Fifty shades of orange perhaps.
It is rather different to the previous administration, with its proclamations of National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month or National Manufacturing Day. When Barack Obama was inaugurated he opted for a National Day of Renewal and Reconciliation, favouring less grandiose language with a nod to Abraham Lincoln.
But then again Trump draws his inspiration from other quarters. As Michael Weiss at the Daily Beast points out, you may notice the similarity to Vladimir Putin’s 2016 Russia Day address. ‘Today, feelings of patriotism and love for the Motherland are truly invaluable for our vast multi-ethnic country. These noble qualities and the steadfast civic-mindedness of our people underpin the country’s unity and sovereignty,’ Putin said.
Whatever next for a ruler with a thin skin, an authoritarian bent and a love of gilded elevators and over-the-top gestures? If the ‘big men’ rulers of the world are anything to go by there is plenty more to come. I would suggest moving the US capital to his home village, and transferring his government to Queens, New York. Then he could perhaps follow the example of Saparmurat Niyazov, the former ruler of Turkmenistan, and rename the days of the week after family members. And why stick with the title of merely president?
Idi Amin knew a thing or two about self-promotion, literally bumping himself up from Major General to Field Marshal when he seized power in Uganda. He eventually built up his title to: ‘His Excellency, President for Life, Field Marshal Al Hadji Doctor Idi Amin Dada, VC, DSO, MC, Lord of All the Beasts of the Earth and Fishes of the Seas and Conqueror of the British Empire in Africa in General and Uganda in Particular.’ Now that’s big league.