Former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull says Donald Trump’s “narcissistic self-interested agenda” has left cracks in the United States wider than ever and of interest to the country’s enemies.
“Trump has set out recklessly and irresponsibly to divide America and to exploit and exacerbate divisions that are existing,” Mr Turnbull said on Q&A on Monday night.
He said during his time as leader, from 2015 to 2018, he set out to unite Australians, reinforce multiculturalism and reject those who tried to peddle racism and division.
Mr Turnbull noted this is what most leaders of democracies try to do, but not Mr Trump.
“He set out to exacerbate those divisions and turn Americans against each other for his own political advantage,” he said.
“And while that may have helped him electorally, it has left America more divided, more fractured, and hence weaker than it has been in years past.”
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Mr Turnbull then claimed Mr Trump wasn’t a conservative like many people would think.
“You’ve just got to bear this in mind – Trump is not a conservative. He is not a conservative. Conservatives defend institutions. They are in favour of incremental change. Trump is an authoritarian populist,” he said.
“It is all about him. It’s Trumpism, it’s him.
“He has put his own narcissistic self-interested agenda ahead of everything else. And the big loser has been the United States.
“And the only people that would genuinely get pleasure out of this are America’s enemies.”
Former Labor foreign minister Bob Carr said he was “terrified for America” after four years under President Trump, and for what the future may hold.
“Trump is becoming something other – something more threatening than the authoritarian populist,” Mr Carr said on Q&A.
“He is sowing and has embarked on a campaign, that I think – I’m terrified for America – I think this campaign will run all the way to the 2024 presidential election, undermining faith in institutions that have been in place since the Constitution was approved in 1789.”
Mr Carr added: “The authoritarian populist is transmuting himself into something else, which is a proto-fascist.”
“A proto-fascist, and I choose that term carefully. People throw it around.”
Host Hamish Macdonald asked: “What is a ‘proto-fascist’?”
“He (Trump) is an incipient fascist,” Mr Carr replied.
“What he’s doing now is nothing less than what Hitler did in Germany in the 1920s, which is saying there is a conspiracy that’s robbed the people of their choice.
“It is all fraud, the election has been stolen from us. There is no evidence of this, not the remotest evidence.”
Protofascism is defined by Merriam-Webster as “a political movement or program tending toward or imitating fascism”.
Mr Carr‘s comments referenced Mr Trump’s repeated and unsubstantiated claims since losing the presidential election to Democrat Joe Biden that it was “stolen” from him, and further alleging “major” voter fraud.
“What’s going to be absolutely critical for America and for the world is whether or not Biden can succeed as president,” Q&A panellist and The Australian editor-at-large Paul Kelly said.
“He’s got a lot against him – in particular, Trump. Trump had two identities. As a president, and as the leader of a popular movement. He’s no longer the president, but he is still the leader of a popular movement.
“So he will lead his movement against Biden. Biden has got the office behind him and Biden will have a lot of goodwill from the American people. But it’s absolutely critical that Biden is seen to be a successful president.”
Mr Kelly said he too was “frightened by” and “concerned about” Mr Trump.
“But it’s really important now that a lot of the people who supported Trump – a lot of the leaders who supported Trump, and particularly within the Republican Party – confront the situation here,” he said.
“They cannot allow Trump to remain their leader and running this campaign – this stab-in-the-back campaign, that ‘I didn’t really lose – I was stabbed in the back in a phony conspiracy in a fraudulent election’.
“It’s really important that that idea be challenged and put down aggressively.”
RELATIONSHIP WITH CHINA COULD GET ‘MORE DANGEROUS’
One of the main questions in the mind of Australians during the US election has been how the outcome will impact us and the decisions of our government.
Australian National University emeritus professor, Hugh White, said one of the big issues Australia has been torn about is how to respond to the growing tension between the US and China.
“Australia has actually quite pointedly not followed the Trump administration on some key issues,” he told ABC’s 7.30 on Monday night.
“It hasn’t described China as a strategic rival, in those terms. It hasn’t been prepared to condemn the Communist Party, the way Mike Pompeo always wanted us to do. It hasn’t been willing to undertake freedom of navigation operations as Washington always certainly wanted us to do.
“In quite a few places we have been half a step or three quarters of a step being Washington.”
However, Professor White said Joe Biden’s presidency might not provide anymore clarity on the struggle with China, claiming it could actually get “more dangerous”.
“The sense in which we are exposed is a sense in which we continue to expect that Washington will somehow find a way to push back effectively against China and to preserve its place as the leading power in Asia. And I think under Biden that’s going to be as hard to achieve as it was under Trump. Simply because China is, these days, too powerful,” he said.
Professor White said China has avoided pushing too many boundaries because they were always unsure about how Donald Trump would react.
“I think Biden, they’ll be more confident about how he will react and I think they will be therefore more willing to take risks. I think that does, in some ways, make the next few years more dangerous,” he said.
Originally published as US is ‘loser’ from ‘narcissistic’ Trump