Through a few co-events, I watched two of the most talked-about television programs in America on the same day. On Friday morning, hours after it happened, I watched the final presidential debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden. And that evening I watched the second Borat film on a streaming service.
I think you know what a Borat film is. If you don’t, here is a brief rundown. Sacha Baron Cohen is a British comedian who in recent years has focused on showing us the seam underbelly of American political life. His character Borat claims to be a TV journalist from Kazakhstan and implicates Americans (and his politicians) in exposing the larger side of his personality.
In the current film, a sequel to the first Borat picture, a scene has attracted the most attention. In the film, Baron’s fifteen-year-old daughter (played by a European actress at 20) decided to give herself to former Mayor of New York City and personal attorney and close associate of Donald Trump, Rudy Giuliani.
She calls Giuliani to the hotel suite for a TV interview and then, when the interview ends, asks her to transfer to the bedroom for a drink. Giuliani does not find this request strange and enthusiastically compliant, making headlines in bed as she removes her recording equipment. Then comes a bit controversial. Giuliani puts his hand inside his trousers and appears to be doing some manipulation. It has been suggested that he is playing with, or at least, touching himself, perhaps because he lies in bed to see a beautiful young girl.
Giuliani has denied this interpretation, claiming that he was tying his shirt to his trousers, removing a microphone. I saw the shot and clearly both interpretations I find admirable. And in any case, we never get a chance to find out what Giuliani’s intentions are because Cohen can escalate the events before he enters the room. Cohen’s response to Giuliani’s explanation is that, in any case, it shows a monotonous decision for Juliani to enter the woman’s bedroom and lean into bed.
I won’t make a decision but this episode fits into the slippery trail Trump has followed in recent years: he’s made famous about arming women by the genitals, a porn star revealed to be paid States that she ran her nude with a rolled-up magazine) and several of her colleagues (including those occupying high positions in her White House) are in jail or out on bail.
My second visit to Trump’s world came earlier in the day when I saw the debate. I am not an American and it is not necessary to understand the concerns of American voters, so I cannot say which candidate did better, although I felt that this debate would change some ideas. Those who like Trump will be pleased with his performance while Biden supporters think his man won.
Despite Trump’s use of world ‘filthy’ to describe India, what I feared. (The exact quote is, “Look at India. It’s dirty. The wind is dirty.”) You could argue in defense of Trump that this was a mere statement of fact. But you can also conclude that it was an ugly thing to say about a friend country. America has the highest murder rate in the world, but I can never imagine an Indian prime minister referring to “deadly America” or “America’s bloody streets”. This will also be a statement of fact but there is no such thing about friends. And in any case, is Trump a friend of India? We may realize that this is because our government has sometimes crossed the line to cross it in American domestic politics. (The Howdy Modi rally, for example, may have gone too far.) But it is hard to argue that he has done more for India than George W. Bush, who fought for the nuclear deal, or Barack Obama Those who welcomed Narendra Modi appear in the community of world leaders, even in Mann Ki Baat with him.
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Certainly PIOs living in the US have little attachment to Trump. Polls suggest that 70 percent of them will vote for their opponent. And yet, amidst a small but vigorous minority of NRIs and PIOs, there is a persistent effort on social media to boost Trump’s prospects and even the Indian origin who have so far participated in American politics. Kamala Haris, the only politician from the city, has also had to run. Without fulfilling his Indian heritage.
What accounts for those strong expressions of support for Trump? I could not get it to work perfectly. Four years ago, when the Trump-Hillary fight was raging, I tried to find out in a TV program why Trump was so popular with a certain type of Indian. Some of it was Hillary-hating. (Sufficiently. I was never a huge fan of her, though hatred is putting her very strongly.) But it went beyond the limits of a lot of rationality.
Were there sangh parivar-Tips, who also celebrated Trump’s birthday and others also supported his candidacy. I tried as much and found that it was attracting them to Trump, with only one answer suggested. He liked Trump because he called for a ban on Muslims’ entry into the US.
Anti-Muslim sentiment made many Indian fans of Trump their own kind. Hence the birthday cake and loud expressions of support. To be fair, perhaps some of his Indian fans believed that this sentiment would translate into a pro-India and anti-Pakistan foreign policy. In fact, there remains a continuity in US foreign policy and it is difficult to see how Pakistan has lost due to Trump.
Nor does his alleged anti-Muslim sentiment affect policy in the rest of the world. The US has many friends in the Islamic world (for example, the Saudis, Trump is in his pocket) and the president is happy to visit Muslim countries. To his concern about India’s border dispute, John Bolton, Trump’s former national security adviser, writes that Trump did not know that India had a border with China.
In a few weeks we’ll get to know how it ends. Following the disturbing results in the last election, most American commentators are hesitant to make any predictions about the race. But most polls suggest Trump will lose.
When this happens, the South Bloc will have to make some haste as it will form sections of the Indian political establishment. And his biggest supporters here on social media have to come to the ineffective conclusion that when you love someone just because he uses anti-Muslim rhetoric, which you don’t get very far in terms of foreign policy.
Like Giuliani in the film Borat, many Indian fans of Trump will be left adjusting their trousers. (Or at least, that’s what they would claim they were doing.)
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