KUWAIT: Massive fires engulfed the Kuwait Airport cargo store yesterday. Firemen from the Kuwait Fire Service Directorate (KFSD) battled the blaze. — KUNA
KUWAIT: Massive fires engulfed the Kuwait Airport cargo store yesterday. Firemen from the Kuwait Fire Service Directorate (KFSD) battled the blaze. — KUNA

Fire ravages Kuwait Airport warehouse

Republican tycoon looks as strong politically as he ever has

WASHINGTON: He was impeached twice, found liable in fraud and sexual abuse lawsuits, charged with dozens of felonies and declared politically dead again and again — but count Donald Trump out at your peril. Eight months ahead of the US presidential election, and days before he is due to stand trial for alleged 2016 campaign finance violations, the Republican tycoon looks as strong politically as he ever has.

After winning his party’s primary contest without really breaking a sweat, the scandal-prone 77-year-old is on course to contest a third straight election, and his second showdown with Democratic President Joe Biden. Confident of avenging his defeat in 2020, Trump boasts polling leads in almost all of the swing states against Biden, who is only four years older but has struggled to allay concerns over his age.

Trump’s detractors have watched with a mix of frustration, disbelief and awe over the years as the man whose downfall has been prognosticated ad nauseam has turned every scandal into campaign speech punchlines and fundraising dollars. For Princeton University political scientist Julian Zelizer, the fact that Trump remains the only politician Republicans have thought worthy of leading them in the past decade is nothing short of “stunning.”

“This is a unique moment where the party has embraced someone who has been in political trouble as president, legal trouble as post-president and who was a one-term president,” he told AFP.

Deluged by lawsuits and buried under indictments from four different jurisdictions, Trump is frequently called “Teflon Don” — a nickname first used for mobster John Gotti — by US headline writers. Through it all, the onetime real-estate magnate has been able to keep his supporters onside by playing the part of the heroic outsider — targeted, in his words, by corrupt elites for his insurgent campaign to shake up politics on behalf of the forgotten millions.

The potency of Trump’s victim narrative has been clear since his 2016 presidential campaign, when an old tape resurfaced capturing the ex-reality TV star boasting about using his celebrity status to get away with groping women. Opinion leaders penned his political obituary, concluding that he had killed off any hope of winning the White House — only to see him ascend, phoenix-like, from the embers of scandal to defeat Hillary Clinton.

It is a playbook to which he has returned amid the legal woes overshadowing his 2024 campaign, with the now-familiar denunciations of a “witch hunt” orchestrated by Biden and his cabal of “Marxists and fascists.” “They’re not coming after me, they’re coming after you — and I’m just standing in their way,” is a regular applause line at Trump rallies, where the crowds who pack arenas to see the former president are as large and loud as ever.

Yet for critics, it is still too early for Trump to be picking out new curtains for the Oval Office. The tycoon may have sprung one of the biggest surprises in modern politics in 2016, but his “America First” movement has been blamed for Republican underachievement in almost every election since.

Nikki Haley — Trump’s last standing opponent before he bagged the Republican nomination — repeatedly warned her party about his inability to broaden his appeal beyond his hard right, nativist base.

Bucking tradition, the 52-year-old withheld her endorsement when she bowed out after getting trounced in last week’s multistate “Super Tuesday” voting. Zelizer points out that come November, the man who has bragged that his supporters would eventually get “tired of winning” will face one of the few political foes he has never managed to beat.

And while Trump’s legal troubles may not have impeded his march to the nomination, there is plenty of evidence in the polling that wavering voters would view a conviction in any of his criminal cases as disqualifying. His trial for covering up alleged hush money payments to a porn star in 2016 begins on March 25 in New York, and — if prosecutors get their way — Trump will face further court dates in Florida, Georgia and Washington. The ex-president — whose career-long stock-in-trade in legal disputes has been to force delays — is pinning his hopes on putting off some of these cases until an election victory that would greatly improve his chances of avoiding trial altogether.

But his chances of punting a verdict in New York into the post-election period are vanishingly small — meaning that, one way or another, his famous Teflon coating will be put through its paces this year. — AFP

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