Letters & Opinion, Politics

God Bless America; God Help The Rest Of Us

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John Kennedy Column

SINCE I wrote in this newspaper last month that Donald Trump wouldn’t make it to the White House a lot has occurred and the first woman to become president in 240 years of US history never happened. History has been eclipsed and as one American commentator questioned, how did a country of 320 million people end up with a cruel choice between a crook and a creep?

Hillary Clinton could not pull it off against the outsider, but few properly appreciated, until Tuesday, that the global uprising of the little guy against the establishment had reached land in America. The signs were there, even if most commentators missed them, Trump didn’t. Brexit should have taught us that nothing is business as usual anymore and nothing is entirely predictable where it once may have been. Clinton overlooked the first warning signs when she barely managed to beat off the challenge to her nomination from the eccentric Bernie Sanders, even with the full force and backing of President Obama behind her.

The establishment on both sides of the American political divide has lost touch with reality and the ability to hear its electorate. The reality is now this; Donald J Trump will be sworn in as the most powerful President since the 1920’s, having control of the White House, Senate and the House, a first in 90 years.

When the debate was not about Trump it was about Clinton. Clinton’s team was sophisticated and Trump’s band of enthusiastic amateurs were not, but the candidate himself was smart enough to know that all the time she had negative polling of over 50%, little more was needed than keeping the debate on anything other than Hillary for her to survive and that is what she was desperate to do.

Trump learned to focus his message back onto his opponent’s failings, he became more disciplined in avoiding the kind of outbursts that had taken her off the agenda before. His new self-control closed the gap, and he repeatedly linked Clinton to the failings of big government in delivering to the small guy and the nation’s forgotten people. The silent majority who have lost out heard him and they let out a deafening roar.

Clinton had a ground-game with troops in every key state and she was technically able to out-gun Trump all the way when it came to getting-out the vote. This should have been her life raft as the polls narrowed in the closing days. On Election Day she cast her own ballot at eight o’clock in the morning alongside her husband Bill, not far from their home at Chappaqua, New York. Trump by contrast was relaxed and waited until lunch time to vote, he was only backed by a pint-sized professional support squad, no match for Clinton’s hired army of officers engaged to polish and push her message, but it was enough for Trump.

Trump’s answer was to build a movement instead of a machine, to create a tidal-wave that would move under the force of its own energy. This was not how the rule book was written and he fell out with the Republican Party leadership as a result of this and other issues. An internal email on 15th October from the Republican National Committee’s Lauren Toomey actually ordered a moratorium on the committee’s “Project Victory” campaign designed to support Trump, in which he ordered “Please put a hold/stop on all mail projects right now. If something is in production or print it needs to stop,” under the subject line “Hold all projects.”

Trump was not distressed by the sabotage from his own party leadership, even when two former presidents refused to back him. He repeated his view that organisation was overrated and was confident that his enthusiasm itself would be enough to beat her machine and the whole system.

A coherent decision maker would have been working every second to get the party back on side, but Trump just took on the role of communicating with the American people directly. He got on his plane, cut out the middle-man and hit the battle ground states over and over again.

Image of Donald Trump
Donald Trump

On Election Day Ohio came in for Trump at ten-twenty in the evening. It was the first sign of the night that Trump could take the presidency. The State that has voted for the winning candidate in every election since 1964 and which no Republican has ever won the White House without would be backing the winner again this time around.

At eleven-thirty Wisconsin called for Trump with 10 electoral votes and three minutes later the State of Iowa fell and delivered a further 6 votes. At that moment the race was over and Donald Trump realised he would be President of the United States of America, his momentum was going to carry him all the way up Pennsylvania Avenue NW in Washington, D.C.

Trump’s best organisation apparatus was in marginal Michigan, with its 16 electoral votes, he slipped past the winning line there and also triumphed in Florida where no Republican since 1924 has won without winning that state.

Trump does things his way, he produces results first and dictates the terms of settlement later. Instead of building bridges with the Republican Party Trump has railed against them, escalating his anti-establishment rhetoric, relishing the fact that the Republican base had defied its hierarchy and sent him in as a brawler and knock-down street fighter to carry its flag.

He hired operators to make him look more presidential in a shake-up of his team but the grandiloquence never changed and people liked straight talk over spin.

Clinton wanted to own a legacy deserving of the first woman elected to the highest office in the land, one hundred years after American women got the vote. But the reality was a divided America where people who didn’t vote for her do not just dislike Clinton, they loath her as the epitome of everything they hate about politics. Her enemies wanted to impeach her under rules laid out 147 years ago for the trial of President Andrew Johnson, before she had even been elected.

The Republican Party abandoned Trump, and argued for a triage: sacrifice Trump to save the Party and fight another day. But it was Trump that saved them all in the end and it was Clinton who provided the perfect prop against which the ground-swell could rise.

Barrack Obama’s legacy is now dead, most of his keystone policies introduced during two terms as President, by Executive Order, can be revoked at the stroke of a pen and have already been flagged up by Trump for cancellation. The biggest policy casualty will be the revocation of Obama Care and with it all trace that Obama ever existed.

The rhetoric is now over and the word Democracy has been used to extinction in this election; in its name anything goes. It remains to be seen what the long-term effect of this bitter campaign has had on the American psyche, but God bless America and God help the rest of us – even the atheists are praying.

John Kennedy is President of the British Caribbean Chamber of Commerce Saint Lucia and CEO of Boka Group. The views expressed in this Column are his personal views.

7 Comments

  1. You would like to think President Obama’s legacy is dead, wouldn’t you? But you and President-elect Trump will soon realize otherwise. A Bill can be repealed at the stroke of the pen; the Keystone pipeline may be resuscitated. But President Obama’s legacy is much more than the things he did. It also about the reasons he did these things. Because of him, President-elect Trump will find it virtually impossible to introduce any new healthcare legislation that gives health insurers the right to withhold coverage from people with pre-existing conditions. As for the pipeline Trump will also find himself enmeshed in legal battles instigated by environmental groups and by States along the pipeline’s route.

  2. The writer shows his true colors with that claim that when Obamacare is gone all traces of the Obama Presidency will go with it. George W. Bush spent the better part of his 2 terms in office going after Osama. It was President Obama who found him and took him out. President George W. Bush spent 8 years in countless wars that drained the US economy of its jobs and vitality. It was Pesident Obama who, against all odds and stiff resistance from a Republican -controlled Congress, nursed the economy back to health. It was under President Obama that America’s dependence on oil was broken. Now there is a vibrant renewable energy market that has weakened demand for oil and brought about the lowest gas prices at the pump since the Bush years. Then there’s also President Obama’s Executive actions on Cuba. A Trump Presidency would only seek to reverse those actions at its own political peril.

  3. Shorter Kennedy:
    “I’m forced to eat crow, and I tell you, I’d rather eat partridge, which I’ve grown accustomed to!”

  4. Why is it so important to these Republicans that President Obama is denied a legacy?

    From the day he was elected into office, they vowed to do everything to ensure Obama did not succeed and would have no legacy. They pledged to make him a 1-term President. They failed miserably.

    But what legacy did George W. Bush leave? A mountain of debt; an unstable world especially in the Middle East; and deplorable and backward infrastructure across the U.S to mention a few. By contrast, President Obama made things no worse and he certainly made things infinitely better. Just ask the auto workers in Detroit and the 18 million more who gained employment in the past 8 years.

    Trump hasn’t taken the oath as yet but his legacy of racial division, bigotry, misogyny and bullying is already well cast.

  5. David Prescod wrote this piece .
    IN Parts 1 and 2 of this series, we discussed the excuse given for the sale of our passports under the Citizenship by Investment Programme as being that it was the new way to attract Foreign Direct Investment, indicating that this premise was false and also indicating the type of developer that this scheme was attracting. We turn our attention in this Part to the Boka Group, and to their portfolio of projects.
    Established in the Bahamas in 2005, the company was co-founded by Mr. John Kennedy and Mr. John James according to the Boka Group website. On that website Mr. Kennedy is listed as the Group CEO, with Mr. James listed as the group Chairman. Mr. James’s Linkedin profile however indicates that he is the company’s Managing Director – Group Strategy, Business Development & Investment Advisor.
    The Boka website describes their approach as one that advises on investments in touristic and residential property, and in March 2014 Boka Estates Ltd. purchased the “Mahaut Estate and Bellevedere Plantation” in St. Lucia.
    Their website lists the Group’s projects under two headings, that of “Fund”, the other being “Location”. A click on the heading “Fund” takes you to the Boka Fund which lists ‘B’ Class Shares, and a click on that takes you to a five line description of a closed project consisting of seven mainly residential and touristic properties in Montenegro. There is no description of the individual properties, nor any description of the role that the ‘Fund’ had in either their development or sale.
    A visit to the ‘Location’ tab on the website finds three locations listed for the Group’s projects, namely Africa, the Caribbean, and Europe. Clicking on the Africa location indicates a project in Victoria Harbour, Seychelles. The public record indicates that the Boka Fund had engaged an architectural firm to prepare a conceptual master plan study for the site, and that firm’s website indicates that this assignment was completed.
    The Boka Fund uses the architectural image of that master plan on the Group’s website but indicates that the project is now closed. Although the website indicates that the project was a joint venture, there is no indication of who the joint venture partner was, nor is there any indication of the source of finance for production of that master plan. The listing of the project as being closed on the Group’s website however does not mean that it has been constructed, as a quick check with Google Earth confirms that it has not. There is no further information available on this development, neither are there any other projects listed for Africa on the website.
    The Caribbean tab under ‘Location’ takes you to what we know is still a proposal, the “Mahaut Estate and Bellevedere Plantation”, while the Europe tab under the same heading does not function. The projects which the Group is supposed to have undertaken in Europe can however be found under the ‘Portfolio’ heading of the website’s home page.
    The “Sea Breeze – Kavac” development listed in the Portfolio section is described as 25 high-end luxury detached villas, the site for which was purchased in March 2012. Construction of these villas did commence, with the latest progress update carrying the Boka Group logo on the Sea Breeze website being for Week 76 of construction, in September 2015. At that time progress was reported on work being undertaken on the construction of Villa 5, (of 25 proposed Villas), with no further progress reports being available on that Sea Breeze website.
    While the Boka Ski and Adriatic Fair projects are listed in the Boka Group’s portfolio, a visit to the Boka Ski website indicates that the proposed luxury residences and condominiums will be offered, but there is no indication that construction has commenced. The website for the Adriatic Fair project no longer functions, while the Boka Group indicates on its website that it introduced an alternative investment group for the development of that project although it continues to list it.
    The Porto Montenegro project listed in their portfolio is a marina development project undertaken by a company called Adriatic Marinas, with Mr. Kennedy of the Boka Group claiming to be a Founder, Director of this company. No public information is available on this company, and neither Mr. Kennedy’s nor the Boka Group’s association with Adriatic Marinas can be established. According to a June 02, 2014 New York Times article however, Adriatic Marinas was developing the Porto Montenegro project, with the article listing the main shareholders of the development company. Neither the Boka Group nor John Kennedy was mentioned in that article.
    These are the projects with which the Boka Group claims to be associated, but, with the exception of the Sea Breeze project which is apparently stalled, it has not been possible to identify the Boka Group as functioning in the role of a developer. The Group’s website also indicates that they may have some involvement in “growth capital” and “hedge funds” but no information on this is available either.
    Possibly the “due diligence” checks by Invest St. Lucia or St. Lucia’s CIP office have confirmed the Boka Group’s status and capacity, but neither office has indicated this, and judging from their recent endorsement of Range Developments, we can have little confidence in their pronouncements whenever these are made. Meanwhile, the Boka Group is busily engaged with being a good corporate citizen in St. Lucia, participating in school feeding programmes, carnival, and even buying a TV for the government.
    You might recall Prime Minister Gonsalves’ description of these CIP schemes as being a “race to the bottom”, and you might now begin to understand what he may have meant, and understand as well our reference to us as giving the “Third World” a bad name. We are inviting persons and groups to our shores who have no demonstrable track record of development, and others whose record is questionable, and turning them into “world class” developers with these citizenship by investment schemes. All that is required apparently is that those persons have some scheme in mind which will allow the government to classify that scheme as an approved CIP development. These schemes however are the only project development process in the world that guarantees that the developer will be successful, as no matter what the project may cost he simply has to wait until the required number of passports are sold to collect his money.
    And yet, there is one developer in the Caribbean whom we love to hate but who seems to be consistently investing in hotel plant in these islands. And whether it is in the long standing investments in St. Lucia or the more recent ones in Grenada, or Barbados, or even in Antigua, where, despite that government’s allegations with respect to the hotel’s handling of the sales taxes they are still keen for the company to invest, Sandals has made an indelible mark on our tourism development. Now we hear that Sandals Resorts is planning to invest in a 750-room luxury hotel in Tobago.
    Some might argue that Sandals is so deeply invested in the region that they have no alternative but to continue to invest, while others might suggest that it is not such a good idea for one company to be so prominent in a single sector. But if Butch can see the promise, surely others can too. This seems to be what is happening in Barbados with the new Hyatt Hotel in Bridgetown, now approved for construction. Nobody there is suggesting the sale of Barbadian identity to finance development, even though economic times are difficult. Barbadians are a proud people, and we should take notice of that.
    To close our discussion, in Part 4, the final part of this series, we have a look at one of the principals of the Boka Group who is now an advocate for the CIP.

  6. More from David Prescod about John Kennedy…..
    In Part 3, we examined the portfolio of projects listed on the Boka Group website, and detailed an inability to associate the Group with the successful development of touristic projects. We now turn our attention to the Group CEO and co-founder, Mr. John Kennedy, who, since the approval of the Group’s proposed project here as a CIP development has advocated that St. Lucia should focus attention on its Citizenship by Investment Programme.
    Mr. Kennedy is apparently from Serbia, his name originally being Jovan Gvozdenovich. He has a background in public relations, and for some time during the 1990s worked as Prince Michael of Kent’s Private Secretary. Mr. Kennedy has been active politically in the UK having been the Political Secretary to a member of the British Cabinet during the period 1987 to 1989, and was a candidate for the Conservative Party in both the 1992 and 1997 UK general elections, both of which he lost. Mr. Kennedy has also been active in business as a public relations consultant, commodity broker, and lobbyist.
    While serving as the Private Secretary to Prince Michael of Kent in 1994, Mr. Kennedy had reason to be in contact with a Mr. Anthony Bailey who at the time worked for a public relations firm engaged by Prince Michael. We have met Mr. Bailey before, in an earlier article, as this is the same Mr. Bailey of the Sacred Military Constantinian Order of St. George who received a knighthood from Antigua in November 2014 and who has been very active in the region since then, meeting with Heads of Government and Heads of State. As we have seen from that earlier article, since his introduction to Antigua in November 2014 Mr. Bailey has become a trade envoy for that country and is the holder of a diplomatic passport issued by Antigua.
    As it turns out, Mr. Kennedy is also a member of the same Sacred Military Constantinian Order of St. George as is Mr. Bailey, and as recently as May of this year, according to the Order’s website, Mr. Kennedy attended a banquet in London hosted by Mr. Bailey in his capacity as the Order’s Delegate. In July of 2012, again according to the Order’s website, Mr. Bailey also hosted what is described as a Royal Gala Dinner celebrating ‘Faith in Sport’, which a dinner also attended by Mr. Kennedy. As may be seen, Mr. Kennedy and Mr. Bailey are not unknown to each other.
    While the Boka Group purchased the Bellevedere property in St. Lucia in March 2014, the first visit to St. Lucia by Mr. Anthony Bailey took place in April-May 2014, according to the record of the Constantinian Order’s website. According to that website, Mr. Bailey has since visited St. Lucia on a number of occasions in the conduct of the Order’s business, and though we cannot say whether Mr. Kennedy and Mr. Bailey have crossed paths in St. Lucia, we would only point out that they know each other, are members of the same Sacred Military Constantinian Order of St. George, and have similar backgrounds in public relations, in politics, and as lobbyists.
    Frankly, it matters little whether Mr. Kennedy and Mr. Bailey are connected, or who the investors in the Boka fund are, as the Boka Group’s investment in St. Lucia is welcome provided the money invested is legitimate. What is of immediate concern to us is that, while the Group saw it fit to purchase the Belevedere Plantation in 2014, well before the introduction of the Citizenship by Investment Programme to St. Lucia, immediately following the vote by the British to exit the European Union was taken on June 23 this year, Boka issued a press release promoting St. Lucia’s reliance on the CIP.
    While few in the UK expected the actual Brexit result, and most still don’t know what to make of it, Mr. Kennedy indicates in that press release that the Group had long held the view that Britain would vote to exit the EU and had briefed the leadership of both political parties here in St. Lucia on that view well in advance of the vote. Why, we ask? On what basis was Mr. Kennedy, a real estate developer, presuming to brief the leadership of the political parties in St. Lucia on political matters which were to take place in Britain?
    Having somehow established himself as an advisor to our political parties, Mr. Kennedy then states in that press release that the Boka Group “has expressed full confidence in Saint Lucia’s ability to embrace the changes Brexit will bring and that the country and Company must now grab the opportunity that comes with it”. It would have been helpful if Mr. Kennedy had elaborated on this opportunity which he envisions as a result of the Brexit vote, but he doesn’t. Instead, he indicates that his company “is confident that the local market can adapt and grow as planned and that CIP now offers Saint Lucia its own plan B and must be the focus of attention”.
    In that same press release mentioned above, Mr. Kennedy also indicates that “As an approved CIP development the Belvedere Plantation has been sourcing new capital from outside the GB and Euro zone with almost US$19m of new investment already identified and ready to draw from the Middle East, Far East, Russia and new markets …”.
    Well, the announcement that the Belvedere Plantation was an approved CIP development was made on April 26, 2016, and so Mr. Kennedy is indicating to his investors that in the two months since then to the date of his press release, his company had identified almost US$19m in new capital which was ready to be “drawn”. It would seem that the Brexit vote has given Mr. Kennedy and the Boka Group an opportunity to jump on and to promote this CIP bandwagon, but he appears to have gotten ahead of himself. While he and his group stand to benefit immensely from the CIP, it is not his place to advise us on it.
    In an article appearing in the Star dated July 2, 2016 Mr. Kennedy makes his views on Brexit more clearly known, and it would appear that he not only expected it, but also supported the vote for the UK to exit the EU. That is his right, but in that article he goes on to suggest that “the world has changed and the way we do business with the world has changed as well …”. He adds that both the past and present governments had identified the importance of commercial diplomacy, without however indicating how this had come to his knowledge, and continues with “It is important now, like never before, for Saint Lucia to have the ear of political and financial institutions around the world and particularly in markets that produce the most economic benefit for the country. These include new markets where the Saint Lucian flag has not yet been raised”.
    This may all be perfectly reasonable advice, but we cannot help but wonder just whom Mr. Kennedy may have in mind to be the commercial diplomat doing all of that whispering in the political and financial ears of the world on our behalf, and we can only trust that it would be neither him nor Mr. Anthony Bailey.

  7. David,

    Thanks for the factual context regarding this grifter; it is a welcome change from other commentators who are wont to pass off their misconceptions and gullibility towards corporate media as fact.

    Beware of using the IMF as reference; theirs is a history of predation against sovereign nations in the service of private finance.

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