When Donald Trump was elected president of the United States way back in 2016, I struck a £20 bet with a friend that he would not complete his four-year term and would leave office prematurely either by impeachment or through assassination by one of the Mexican drug cartels whose activities he was seeking to disrupt by building a wall along the border between the two countries.
While it now looks almost certain that I will be £20 lighter, even I could not have imagined that his tenure would end in such humiliation and chaos. While I am delighted to have been proved wrong on the assassination bit, I can at least claim a partial victory on the second part of the bet. He was impeached in 2019 because of his Ukraine activities, but the Senate chose not to remove him from office, and even as he enters the final days of his presidency, moves are afoot to kick him out for his incitement of the insurrection which led to five deaths in the Capitol building.
That is almost certainly doomed to failure, mainly through lack of time, but the fact that political opponents, and even some of his hitherto allies, should seek to pursue such a drastic course of action demonstrates what a divisive president he has been.
Mr Trump has shown time and again that he will do what he thinks is right and doesn’t care what others think. But I do wonder whether, deep down, he is embarrassed by the events which have marked his last weeks in office.
He is set to become the first outgoing American president in more than 100 years to refuse to attend his successor’s inauguration ceremony. While he will no doubt seek to reconcile that by repeating his vacuous claim that the recent elections were rigged, he must surely understand what a graceless buffoon that makes him look.
History would look back on him far kinder if he accepted that he is not the much-loved teddy bear he thinks he is and realised that the appropriate thing to do is swallow his pride and join the great and the good welcoming Joe Biden into office. He won’t do that, of course, because accepting he is wrong is not in Donald Trump’s DNA. Even the supreme humiliation of being permanently banned from his much-loved Twitter doesn’t seem to have made him pause for breath and question whether, just once, he may have gone too far in his pathetic attempts to cling on to power.
The good news, as far as Joe Biden is concerned, is that he can be a spectacularly bad president and still be considered an improvement on what went before. Which is a shocking indictment on the state of America’s political landscape.
So we’re in lockdown again. Except we’re quite clearly not.
Faced with an alarming increase in the number of Covid infections, driven largely by the new variant, all four countries of the UK have now imposed lockdowns said to be broadly similar to those imposed when the full extent of the virus became apparent in March last year. We are now officially banned from leaving our homes except for a handful of reasons, including essential shopping, caring for relatives and doing work which cannot be done from home.
We’re also allowed to leave home for exercise, which is supposed to be done locally. This should mean that the town centres and roads are deserted, but nothing could be further from the truth. Driving into the city centre from the outskirts last week (before anyone accuses me of hypocrisy, I am designated as an essential worker), I was staggered by the number of cars on the roads. Leaving the centre just after 4pm, the traffic was just as heavy as pre-virus rush-hour, further evidence that people have become bored with the disruption to their lives.
Added to that, the roll-out of the three approved vaccines has led to a feeling of optimism which is blinding an awful lot of people to the fact that this crisis is not over. Not by a long way. Official data shows that the virus is spreading most quickly among young people, prompting speculation that they have become complacent because they know they are highly unlikely to become seriously ill, far less die, if they are infected.
Today, more than ever, we need to work together. We have endured inconvenience and hardship for almost 10 months. Surely we can manage another two?
Derek Tucker is a former editor of The Press and Journal