By Malcolm Strachan
In recent weeks American media outlets exhaustively covered the US senate confirmation hearing of Judge Brett Kavanaugh. Allegations of sexual assault that took place more than 30 years ago came to the forefront and led to mass protests throughout the hearing, as many people believe he is not fitting for the office of the US Supreme Court Justice.
Certainly, his hostile and emotionally-charged opening statement during a Senate Judiciary Committee was not the textbook example of someone who has the temperament of what is required in a Supreme Court Justice.
Similarly, President Trump’s trivialising of the allegations and the trauma experienced by Kavanaugh’s accuser were equally, if not more, undignified. The Trump playbook typically sees stately behaviour tossed out the window and replaced with a juvenile brand of politics. The reality is the US Commander-in-Chief mocks everyone - professional athletes to political opposers and now a potential victim of sexual assault.
It is truly a proliferation of gutter politics on display. And while we may exist in a different jurisdiction, there are some stark parallels to note.
Earlier this month, Prime Minister Minnis took on a much more guarded tone – defending himself and the government’s decisions while being questioned by the media. Inquiring minds sought answers to questions regarding the resignation of former BCA president Leonard Sands after assertions of political pressure from Minister of Public Works Desmond Bannister, as well as the hiring of controversial political activist Omar Archer.
Having pledged to end the era of political favours, it was unfortunate that Dr Minnis’ response did not clarify Archer’s qualifications. Instead, he became defensive and deflected, suggesting that those who have concerns must have an issue with Archer “living, eating and sleeping”.
It was a rather odd approach to take, as it only increased the speculation that Archer was hired to keep him silent.
Subsequently, while on yet another Family Island tour – under the guise of updating residents on his UN visit – he took the opportunity at his stop in Crooked Island to engender support for the Grand Lucayan purchase. While addressing locals at a town hall meeting, he locked Pineridge MP Frederick McAlpine, a well-known critic of the prime minister, in his crosshairs.
Obviously triggered by McAlpine’s sharp commentary on the purchase of the Grand Lucayan, the prime minister rallied Crooked Islanders to shout their support for the government’s decision to purchase the beleaguered resort – obviously his way of jabbing back at his colleague.
Minnis said: “Let McAlpine hear you, one who lives in Grand Bahama [and] want the entire Grand Bahama to suffer. I could not believe what I heard.”
Meanwhile, his deputy, Peter Turnquest, also executed an indecorous, unsubstantiated attack on a respected member of the fourth estate, Clint Watson, on the floor of Parliament. In a very belittling manner, Deputy Prime Minister Peter Turnquest alluded to lack a credibility and a “particular type” or lower pedigree of guests as his reasoning for not taking Eyewitness News seriously.
This was a reprehensible act, as there has long been an unspoken rule and expectation that the fourth estate would be allowed to perform its duties of keeping the Bahamian people informed without being publicly attacked in Parliament. However, Turnquest had no interest in keeping with that tradition as he mocked an entire staff of Bahamian professionals.
If you would recall, Prime Minister Minnis also exhibited this dastardly type of behaviour when he lacerated the press while accepting the 2017 Man of the Year award at the Bahamas Press Club Awards ceremony of all places.
It goes to show how power drunk you can be come when you lead such a lopsided majority.
As civilians, it is disheartening to see such a proliferation of this Trumpian brand of politics, especially in our country.
Prime Minister Minnis, while not being the most adept communicator, may very well feel as though he is damned if he does and he is damned if he doesn’t. And now he is punching back at his critics. However, he must remember the seat of public office can be unforgiving once you decide to live life under the microscopic stares of the electorate. Even if he feels he is unfairly critiqued by Parliamentary colleagues or the media, he must remain poised and stately at all times.
Further, it is very telling that he would conduct himself so childishly when speaking to Family Island constituents. It is as if he feels they don’t need to become informed of the real issues and their implications. He has done this before – transforming town hall meetings into pep rallies to drum up support from Family Island residents and then rubbing it in the face of those of us in the nation’s capital.
President Trump does the same thing. When he is on stages where he has the strongest support, he uses such opportunities to invigorate his base with juvenile tactics to attack his opponents and pat himself on the back.
In all fairness, President Trump has been many degrees viler and more distasteful in the manner he exacts revenge from his opponents. However, some of the parallels that exist between the two are hard to ignore.
In the final analysis, of all the models of leadership that have been exemplified through the annals of time, Prime Minister Minnis could not have found a more unfitting character to be compared with.
Perhaps he has grown tired of all the critics dissecting the way he leads, speaks and represents the country. However, there are much more productive ways to exhibit strength in leadership. When faced with alternatives, Prime Minister Minnis tends to behave in ways that seem weak and unattractive. Without a doubt, he could win over many more Bahamians by simply listening to what our concerns are with the genuine intent of addressing them.
Moreover, he has to be able to stand straight when questioned by the media and answer questions without unravelling.
He needs to move away from political tactics that come across as manipulative and unimaginative and try to encourage the same of his colleagues. The Bahamian people would much prefer a leader able to take criticism on the chin and willing to continually evolve.
As long as his resistance to change continues to exist and he confuses criticism with confrontation, he will continue to stifle his ability to be a good leader of our country.