President Trump says that in many ways, the United States’ infrastructure is like “a Third World country” and is an “embarrassment.” I don’t often agree with our Twitter warrior in chief, but the guy’s got a point. America’s roads are crumbling. Our airports are retrograde: Only four are in the global top 50, and Denver’s takes the top U.S. spot at No. 29. Sad!
This gives me an idea. If Trump thinks that the United States is truly like “a Third World country,” maybe it’s time to start treating him the same way we treat the leaders of such nations. My immodest proposal: Let’s save America from itself and the ravages of this presidency by offering Trump a big bundle of money to leave. I’m serious. There’s an African precedent for this. Let me explain.
As I said, America does resemble a developing country in many ways. It is embarrassing that one of the most powerful countries in the world still can’t get clean drinking water to citizens in Flint, Mich. Our maternal mortality rate is the worst among wealthy nations. We are awash in gun violence. Extreme poverty is so bad in parts of Alabama that some communities are testing positive for hookworm, long thought to be eradicated from the United States.
But back to Trump. Comedian Trevor Noah once said Trump, then a candidate, would be America’s first African president. He compared Trump to some of Africa’s most notorious leaders and dictators. Like former South African president Jacob Zuma, Trump blames migrants for crime. Like Gambia’s former president Yahya Jammeh, who claimed he had an herbal cure for AIDS, Trump has cast doubt on vaccines. As president, Trump has attacked the press, run a Cabinet mired in corruption scandals and given his children incredible — and undeserved — political power and access. That’s a familiar story in Africa: If you think Ivanka Trump is getting a sweet deal out of her father’s presidency, read about Angola’s Isabel Dos Santos, who was given the control of the country’s state oil firm and became Africa’s richest woman. Noah was right: Trump, not Barack Obama, is America’s first African president.
Here’s where the money part comes in. Every year, the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, founded by a wealthy Sudanese businessman of that name, offers a prize of $5 million, payable over 10 years, to an African leader who exemplifies quality leadership. The prize, which was created in 2006, also offers the possibility of $200,000 per year for the rest of the winner’s life. The requirements? Change your country for the better, and step down at the end of your democratically elected term. Seems pretty easy — except Africa’s leadership has apparently been so bad over the past 12 years that only five presidents in the continent’s 54 countries have been given the prize. (Liberia’s Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf was the 2018 awardee.)
I find it hard to believe that a number of African leaders who sit atop resource-rich countries and embezzle endlessly from the state would be motivated by a measly $5 million. But Trump, America’s first African president, just might be tempted by a nice payday. He may be rich, but he’s not Teodoro-Obiang-of-Equatorial-Guinea-level rich, you know? The promise of $10 million or $100 million (we have to offer him more than the Africans, of course) just might induce Trump to change course for the better. If cash prizes are supposedly good enough to improve democracy and development in Africa, they should be good enough for us, right?
Besides, nothing else has worked to rein in Trump’s behavior. We thought the military generals would be a moderating force. White House aides have tried to keep the president off Twitter. None of it has worked. He’s still railing against immigrants, stoking trade wars and assaulting democratic norms. At this point, we might as well try throwing cash at our Trump problem. At least we know that Trump, a businessman, former game show host and beauty pageant impresario, is preoccupied with how much money he has. He’s been known to overstate his net worth. In 2006, he unsuccessfully sued a journalist who claimed he was worth only $150 million to $250 million.
So Mr. Ibrahim, if you read this, perhaps you might consider adding Trump to the list of candidates for the Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership in the next year or two. Maybe the payments could be in bitcoin. Whatever it takes. Nothing less than the future of the United States is at stake.