For the faceless, nameless multitudes that labour away on newspaper desks around the world, the outgoing US President, Donald Trump, is a gift that keeps on giving. Earlier this week, Trump emerged from hiding — he has been keeping under the radar even as he refuses to accept the election verdict — to partake in a White House tradition. Every year, the US President “pardons” a turkey for Thanksgiving, allowing a bird to escape the dinner table and live out a peaceful life. This year, the world over, “Lame-duck president pardons turkey”, was the headline. Yet, despite the pun that wrote itself, there was something almost tragic about the entire affair.
Trump has still refused to concede the election, but it seems that he is finally realising that his denial will not keep him from losing his job. He claimed credit while pardoning the turkey for the Dow Jones hitting 30,000. He talked about “America First”. It was the final tour of a rockstar long past his prime, playing the greatest hits for a thinning crowd. For the first time since he took office, Trump is not the Big Story. And with his petulance about the concession, and his refusal to invite his successor Joe Biden to the White House (a tradition at least as important as turkey-pardoning), there is little chance anymore of a graceful exit.
But Trump’s final acts in office seem to be very much in character with the rest of his presidency. On November 26, Trump pardoned Michael Flynn, former national security advisor, who pleaded guilty to lying to authorities about his contacts with Russian officials during the 2016 US election campaign. For context, according to the Pew Research Centre, Trump has issued the least number of pardons and commutations of any US president. And when he does, it’s often to help out friends, like Roger Stone, another ally who was convicted of witness tampering. The turkey, it is safe to assume, believes in “America First”.
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