Upcoming US elections: Two geriatric white men vying for control of the last superpower

Next month, the US will go out to vote for its next president. The pickings couldn’t be much slimmer; two geriatric white men vying for control of the last superpower. One is a career politician, the other a hopeless bankrupt, with three baby mamas, five kids and an arrest warrant who lives in public housing, as someone described it on Twitter.

Whether Donald Trump actually wanted to be president in 2016 or just campaigned in a cynical bid of showmanship to reinvigorate – and re-monetise – his personal brand is moot. What isn’t is his existential need to stay in office for another term.

This week, after Trump’s herculean battle to avoid releasing his tax returns, the New York Times pulled off a journalistic coup akin to SA’s Gupta-leaks, revealing just why the Orange Man in the White House has been so desperate to keep them sealed.

At best, the self-acclaimed billionaire “gamed” the system to pay only $750 in tax – but $75 000 a year on the elaborately engineered bird’s nest atop his head. At worst, he’s a bankrupt man of straw liable for hundreds of millions of dollars in personal debt.

We know what happens when your president can’t pay his bills. Many mouths to feed, many baby mamas, many overheads. In South Africa, it started with Schabir Shaik and an encrypted fax and then over the next 15 years, just became so much worse; our entire birthright sold for a mess of potage – or in Julius Malema’s immortal phrase, a plate of curry.

It’s debatable which was less value for money: Zuma’s firepool or Trump’s coif. The end game with both men is eerily similar. After years of fighting, indeed pioneering the “Stalingrad Defence”, to avoid his day in the dock despite protesting how much he wants the opportunity to clear his name; Zuma is fast running out of runway. Now he has to appear before the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture that he established and whose chair he appointed.

Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo is fast running out of patience, so much so that he set the dates, November 16 – 20, long enough ahead to prevent Zuma coming down with anything from COVID 19, calling in with gyppo guts, or for the dog to eat his homework. It’s a tough time for Msholozi, three weeks’ later he’s due to go on trial on December 8 for the original case that got Shaik jailed. Anything he says to Zondo will be used against him for other cases.  

Backed into a corner, he did what he always does; he played the man not the ball. This week he called for Zondo to recuse himself for being biased. The next day Trump took on Joe Biden in the first of three televised presidential debates, achieving an all-time nadir in US politics in the process.

It was typical Trump; “post-truth, street-fighting, full-spectrum bullshit”, said one journalist. A “shit show”, said CNN.

We know. The playbook was invented here. Another great South African gift to the world like Kreepy Krawly, Pratley Putty, Dolosse, Q20 and White Monopoly Capital. 2020 isn’t finished with us yet.

Originally published on 3 October 2020 in the Saturday Star