American carnage: Rise and fall of Trump in Washington

 | Updated: Jan 18, 2021, 07:54 AM IST

When Donald Trump looks down for the last time from his helicopter over the White House lawn Wednesday, the wreckage of his presidency will be inescapable.

Donald Trump

Trump, who sees Arab recognition of Israel as a key overseas achievement of his presidency, already conferred the same award on King Mohammed VI of Morocco last week for his move to restore ties.


Trump party

But Trump, who promoted himself as a one-off "genius," able to do what no other president could, turned out to be the one leaving carnage.

From Marine One, 74-year-old Trump will witness a capital turned into an armed camp in the wake of the rampage by his supporters on January 6.


Donald Trump

National Guard soldiers with automatic rifles stand watch across the city. Barrier complexes more often seen in the likes of Baghdad block empty streets.

More troops are now deployed in Washington than in Afghanistan -- Americans defending Americans against other Americans.


Joe Biden and Donald Trump

And when he gazes down at the huge white dome of the Capitol building, Trump may ponder how, when he came into office in 2017, Republicans controlled the White House and both chambers of Congress for the first time in a decade. Nothing, it seemed, could get in his way.

"We're going to win so much you're going to be so sick and tired of winning," he liked to tell followers.

Yet on Wednesday morning, Trump leaves town having lost and lost.

(Photograph:WION Web Team)

Donald Trump speaks to the press as he departs the White House in Washington, DC

He is a one-term president, with the unique distinction of having been impeached twice. And Democrats, not Republicans, will now control the White House and both houses of Congress -- in no small part due to Trump's role in the loss of two safe Republican Senate seats in Georgia.

Not everything is Trump's fault.


Coronavirus and Donald Trump

The Covid-19 pandemic, which crossed into the US from China and Europe about a year ago, was a bolt-from-the-blue disaster that many other wealthy countries have also struggled or failed to contain.

Trump's greatest source of power, and even personal energy, had always been his crowds. So perhaps it was unsurprising that the climax of the doomed effort to overturn the election should have centered on a rally and a mob.

On January 6, addressing a crowd near the White House, Trump urged his followers to march on Congress, where lawmakers were at that very moment certifying Biden's victory.

"You will never take back our country with weakness," Trump proclaimed. "Show strength."

In the hours that followed, the Trump brand of us-versus-them, of "forgotten men and women" avenging themselves on "elites," hit a wild, dismal peak.


US President Donald Trump and his wife Melania

And from that pandemic -- with US deaths now close to 400,000 -- rippled waves of unemployment, collapsing businesses, and demands for staggering amounts of taxpayer money to keep the economy afloat.

While Trump is accused of mishandling the health crisis, probably no president could have withstood such a tsunami of bad news.

As his fortunes dipped, Trump teased an amazing Plan B: if he lost the November 3 election, he wouldn't concede, claiming that it was rigged.

The plan was so outrageous that, as often before, many thought Trump wasn't serious -- that he was just joking or being over the top.

But for months, Trump laid the groundwork of a conspiracy theory that he would use to justify this unprecedented challenge to democracy -- that Democrats were preparing fraud and that increased use of mail-in ballots, due to Covid restrictions, would be the main tool.

And when the results came in, Trump pulled the trigger.


Joe Biden and Donald Trump

Yet Trump had come in claiming to be different. A breed apart.

"Not smart," as he famously boasted in 2018, "but genius."

"And a very stable genius at that." 

Even Trump's attacks on Biden as a low-energy leader who couldn't get out of his Delaware basement backfired: Biden simply reminded Americans that he was quarantining with the rest of them -- a responsible leader who would "heal" the nation.

Trump laughed at people wearing masks. Biden put one on.

In October, Trump was hospitalized with Covid-19, conceding afterward that he'd nearly died.