Waltzing with Trump: The year of dancing dangerously

Waltzing with Trump: The year of dancing dangerously
5 min read
23 Jan, 2018
(With apologies to Emma Goldman)
It's hard to believe only a year has passed since Donald Trump's inauguration [AFP]

A year has passed since Trump's slow, painful inauguration waltz with Melania: an interpretation of My Way that was half death-grip/half afterthought.

And so, as the US government emerges from lockdown, and partisans remain in lockstep, it seems a fitting time to recall Trump's year of disastrous dancing.

But honestly, with his tweets and his sudden about-faces, his bizarre mis-steps and tripped up policies, keeping up with Trump has been a dizzying - and at times nausea-inducing tilt-a-whirl. Like a trip to the fairground gone on too long, his sinister circus of government-by-social media invites a "please, make it stop!" response from most stable geniuses.

The whole strange Trumpist twist recalls a film from 1969 - when American cinema at least really was still great -  called They shoot horses don't they? - about the Great Depression-era equivalent of today's American rural underclass caught up in a desperate dance for survival. 

When, oh when, one wonders, will the dance marathon end and put everyone out of their misery?

On Saturday, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said dealing with President Trump was "like negotiating with Jello", later adding this was "because he can't stick to the terms".

"As soon as you take one step forward," said an exasperated Schumer, "the hard-right forces the president three steps back." An unreliable negotiator makes for one tricky dance partner. Just when you think you're doing the two-step, it suddenly becomes a murderous migrant mambo.

Or could it possibly be an indication that Trump's "nursing home stomp" at last year's inauguration was really just the rallying cry of a freestyle dancer?

And it begs the question: can a leader's worth be measured by his ability to dance?

Let's see… there was that one time in Tbilisi, when George W Bush's Texan funky chicken attempt at Georgian dancing proved internationally embarrassing.

And could the wave of current Obama nostalgia be partly due to his dancing skills? It can't be because of his record on the Middle East - universally condemned by everyone from Alan Dershowitz (he stuck it to Bibi!) to Medea Benjamin (drones galore!) to Palestinians aghast at his $38 billon dollar settlement and occupation-enabling gift to Israel.

Perhaps in light of recent international political realties - especially tensions between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un being reduced to what one BBC presenter called "presidential willy-waggling" - it's time to replace more traditional negotiations with a dance-off.

I admit to being inspired by the annual Salute to Vienna New Year's Day concert, a Strauss love-in complete with Blue Danube-imbued ballroom dancers.

As tensions mounted and insults flew between DC and Pyongyang, I imagined a slow, strange waltz between Trump and Kim. As events unfolded, the idea grew. Perhaps it could be performed to the strains of the North Korean orchestra that will play at the Winter Olympics, or even to the sounds of the all-woman Samjiyon Band who perform an annual lunar new year, leadership-praising concert.

A more up-tempo foxtrot could take place to the strains of Moranbong Pyongyang's propaganda girl band. Kind of Godzilla meets King Kong (the world watches to see who will be the king of all monsters!) -meets Dancing with the Stars.

Trump is more comfortable with the Sword Dance [AFP]

But who would lead, Kim or the Donald? And would it all be done against the backdrop of a very large button?

When Iranian protests flared a few days later, and Trump and best-buddy Bibi took to the Twittersphere in a delighted dance of schaudenfraude, conveniently forgetting their own countrymen's calls for their resignations on corruption charges, I soon conjured a bold bolero scenario between Trump and Rouhani. Think Dirty Dancing meets Last Tango in Tehran.

And as protests against Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital followed, I envisioned a traditional pan-Arab stick dance led by Mahmoud Abbas, that could escalate to a sword dance (although the Saudis would only supply the swords, and stay quietly at the back of the dancehall, on the look out for dancers to detain in 5-star hotels).

Of course the thing about Trump is he makes all his dance partners look good - even aging autocrats, tricky theocrats and dodgy dictators.

A possible exception to this might be Bibi - it's a draw as to what style might be the most cringeworthy in a diplomatic dance - despotic corruption or unhinged impulse control? It's a tie.

As for the millions of women protesting general misogyny as well as Trump's disastrous dancing year - not to mention his alleged tendency to waltz in on unsuspecting Miss Universe pageant contestants - I've already got that covered.

Picture thousands of angry women at the Washington Monument tap dancing a laFred Astaire down the steps in pink pussy hats singing,

I won't dance, don't ask me
I won't dance, don't ask me
I won't dance, Madame, with you

Think City of Women meets the Pajama Game.

Poor old Trump, unless he improves his political choreography he may find himself partnerless - dancing alone like those mothers of the disappeared in Argentina.

But the scarier option would be a deadly two-step with Mike Pence, which would end badly for Trump and for America, although there would be a certain evangelical apocalyptic flair - think America's Got Talent meets Exodus.


and that's why
I won't dance, I won't dance
I won't dance, merci beaucoup

Hadani Ditmars is the author of Dancing in the No Fly Zone: a Woman's Journey Through Iraq. A former editor at New Internationalist, she has been reporting from the Middle East for two decades. Her next book, Ancient Heart, is a political travelogue of Iraqi heritage sites.

Follow her on Twitter: @HadaniDitmars