Flag-hugging bully and simpleton Donald Trump did not disappoint yesterday, speaking at his Ceausescu-style parade in celebration of American Independence from the UK. He had been practising his Buzz Lightyear face, which even when he was not talking conveyed resolve, farsightedness and statesmanly emotion. Much has been made of his airports gaffe (the Independent has a very amusing and persuasive article about how he came to make this and many others, if you have the time: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-politics/trump-airports-revolutionary-war-4th-of-july-speech-gaffe-a8990021.html)
Others have privately mourned the missed opportunity for a briskly carried out assassination a lá Sadat (that may have only been me), or have marvelled at how jaw-droppingly vulgar and grotesque the whole vanity project was. However, what was truly and genuinely bizarre was Trump’s delivery of his speech. Have a listen to this excerpt, which also contains the ‘took-over-the-airports’ and ‘rammed-the-ramparts’ stuff. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g6mZ1ofj2Vo
I have tried to find the words to describe the creepy, would-be sonorous, oleaginous falseness of Trump’s tone here, but they elude me. I ask myself what other politician would be allowed by his minders to sound like this, but perhaps they can’t do anything with him. It all adds to the enduring Trump enigma: it isn’t hard to understand how so many Americans lap up his jingoism and xenophobia, his sexism, racism, homophobia and philistinism, because after all they feel these things too, and they admire someone who doesn’t give a monkeys and just says them. The mystery is how such people fail to see how personally ridiculous he is, what an ass he makes of himself and of America.
Crumbs! I doubt one person in ten thousand had heard of cuddly, balding diplomatic fixer Kim Darroch until yesterday, but overnight he has ushered in the Post-Lies Era with the mischievous publication of his insightful views on the Trump gang. Given that Darroch had no idea that his memos would be made public by some Brexiteer mandarin (he is a dyed-in-the-wool Europhile who it seems somebody wanted rid of) they are notable for their moderation, though one could scarcely expect inept, insecure and incompetent Donald to see it that way. The language is dry, descriptive, restrained, rueful: ‘we don’t really believe this Administration is going to become substantially more normal; less dysfunctional; less unpredictable; less faction riven; less diplomatically clumsy and inept,’ mourns one letter, culpable perhaps for its awkward use of the semi-colon, but surely for nothing else. Trump is much more fun, and has taken to the twittersphere like a wounded and barely literate teenager, calling ‘the wacky Ambassador that the U.K. foisted upon the United States’ a ‘very stupid guy’. Warming to his theme, the President sulks that ‘we’re not big fans of that man, and I can say things about him but I won’t bother’, and takes the opportunity for a side-swipe at poor old Teresa May while he is at it. I had completely forgotten she is still Prime Minister.
Her office, meanwhile, has issued a statement supporting Sir Kim but citing the United Kingdom’s “special and enduring relationship” with the United States. Peter Spiegel, the US Managing Editor of the Financial Times, observed drily this morning that The Special Relationship is a term more often used by British people than Americans. In fact, I doubt that most Americans had any idea that it existed. It reminds me in this way of the enduring football rivalry which English journalists and commentators detect between England and Germany. I think it was a puzzled Lothar Matthaus who once suggested politely that, insofar as Germany had any particular rival at all, it might be Brazil, or Argentina, but no, not really England.
But where was I? Oh yes, the aptly-surnamed Boris Johnson, who struck a new nadir on TV last night, laying unchallenged claim to the moral low ground on the Kim Darroch story. Jeremy “Mike” Hunt could scarcely believe his luck, as Johnson writhed and prevaricated and publicly did everything he could to avoid backing Darroch in the face of Trump’s petulant bluster. Mike kept it simple, said the obvious right thing and looked good by comparison. But the cowardly Johnson will go on leading a charmed life as the UK’s next Prime Minister, delivering British industry and services into the hands of American big business.
As perhaps expected, Kim Darroch has jumped before he was pushed, giving Boris the opportunity to disgrace himself further as he embarrassedly vows this and insists on that. It calls to mind the image in Samuel Johnson’s delicious letter to Lord Chesterfield, who belatedly had a good word to say about Johnson’s dictionary, having declined to be his patron in the writing of it:
‘Is not a patron my lord, one who looks with unconcern on a man struggling for life in the water, and, when he has reached ground, encumbers him with help? The notice which you have been pleased to take of my labours, had it been early, had been kind; but it has been delayed till I am indifferent, and cannot enjoy it; till I am solitary, and cannot impart it; till I am known, and do not want it.’
Meanwhile, Sir Kim is Britain’s newest National Treasure, and the world is surely his oyster. Before the year is out, he will be on I’m a Celebrity Get me Out of Here.