Tariq Al-Homayed
Saudi journalist and writer, and former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper

Washington and a Different Kind of Madness

Amid the hustle and bustle of the 2008 US presidential elections, former president Barack Obama hit back at criticism saying it suggested that his nation had been in "silly political season." Election season is often referred to as the "silly season" in the US.

In the famous American media-political series "The West Wing", the actress who played the role of the White House press secretary says, "Everybody's stupid in an election year." Is this hyperbole?

I think not. No one following the lead-up to the elections can fail to overlook that the United States is gearing up for a different phase of "madness," amid unprecedented back-and-forth legal accusations.

On one hand, there are the charges against the Republican frontrunner Donald Trump. A US Special Council asked the judge to place a gag order on Trump. These accusations may impede Trump’s path to the White House, and if he wins, he would be a lame duck from day one.

On the other hand, we have an array of charges against President Joe Biden's son, Hunter. They may create problems for President Biden and his campaign, which faces other challenges, among the most prominent of which is his age.

Recent opinion polls have shown that even Democrats are concerned that Biden might not be fit to govern for a second term, especially since his age has clearly taken a toll on him.

It's also notable that the US media, especially outlets considered favorable to Biden, have begun openly criticizing him. Indeed, CNN has reported on the inaccurate statements Biden has made recently.

Also worth noting is the article that David Ignatius wrote for the Washington Post calling on Biden not to run for a second term. The piece is also notable for its criticism of Vice President Kamala Harris, and this came from a newspaper that is unequivocally favorable to the Biden administration.

Here, the reader might say that this is a domestic American issue, but the truth is that it is not. This sharp polarization in the United States and the uncertainty around the leading candidates, Republican Trump and Democrat Biden, could engender global political perturbation.

It is difficult to predict the outcomes of the presidential elections. Alternative figures may emerge at different moments, both Republican and Democrat, especially as Trump's legal case, and that of Hunter Biden, progress.

Political actors around the world could be left confused. Who, for instance, would finalize an agreement or take a binding stance in cooperation with a president whose supporters are urging him not to run due to his age and whose son’s legal issues could get worse?

And who would bet on a Republican frontrunner whose legal problems could prevent him from reaching the White House, especially given the specter of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who is in line, making progress in the polls?

This different kind of "madness" will create global apprehension and hesitation about taking positions right now, amid the ambitious state of the United States and the depth of its divisions, especially with the introduction of legal and judicial problems.

It's enough, here, to contemplate the implications for the Iran nuclear deal, relations with China, and the US stance on the war in Ukraine among other issues.