Gove on Trump

So Donald Trump gave an interview the other day, to Michael Gove and Kai Diekmann of Bild. Gove’s impressions were written up in the £ Times, it’s pretty interesting. So let’s look at some of it.

During the race for the Republican presidential nomination, Donald Trump had an insult for every rival. Marco Rubio was “little Marco” and Jeb Bush was “low energy Jeb”. These jibes were more than just debating techniques to unsettle his opponents. They were carefully designed to draw a contrast between The Donald and The Others. Because when you meet him you realise there is nothing, absolutely nothing, small-scale or low-wattage about America’s president-elect.

Donald J Trump appears like a man who has been plugged into some power source where the dial has been turned up to levels well beyond what the safety regulations would recommend. His skin glows a sodium orange, his hair is blonder than any human you will have encountered and his clothes are in primary colours so bold they make everyone else in the room seem dowdy.

Ever since a Virginia farmer called George Washington launched his bid for glory, the British have had a tendency to underestimate American presidents. Especially Republicans. When Abraham Lincoln was in the White House, our government sympathised with the Confederacy. When Ronald Reagan was commander-in-chief, the British foreign policy establishment derided him as a trigger-happy cowboy who was in danger of pitching us into a third world war.

But no Republican, indeed no president, has come to office facing anything like the level of scorn and condescension from British politicians and commentators as Mr Trump. When we talked last Friday, however, he had nothing but kind words and generous sentiments for a nation he believes will be his strongest ally.

It’s true enough, the British do tend to denigrate beyond reason American (especially Republican) presidents. I’m inclined to think it’s at least partially because British conservatism is built on the shifting sands of governing efficiently rather than based on bedrock principles, but there is also a bit of condescending in it.

And, ultra-competitive as he is, the president-elect was particularly keen to remind me that, almost alone among international figures, he had had the natural good judgment to foresee our departure from the EU.

“I sort of, as you know, predicted it. I was in Turnberry [his Scottish golf course] and was doing a ribbon cutting because I bought Turnberry, which is doing unbelievably, and I’ll tell you, the fact that your pound sterling has gone down? Great. Because business is unbelievable in a lot of parts in the UK, as you know. I think Brexit is going to end up being a great thing.”

And would he, as our government hoped, move quickly to seal a new trade deal with the UK? “Absolutely, very quickly. I’m a big fan of the UK, we’re gonna work very hard to get it done quickly and done properly. Good for both sides. I will be meeting with [Theresa May] — in fact if you want you can see the letter, wherever the letter is, she just sent it. She’s requesting a meeting and we’ll have a meeting right after I get into the White House and . . . we’re gonna get something done very quickly.”

The president-elect is much less sanguine about the future of the EU itself. A combination of economic woes and the migrant crisis will, he believes, lead to other countries leaving. “People, countries, want their own identity and the UK wanted its own identity. But, I do believe this, if they hadn’t been forced to take in all of the refugees, so many, with all the problems that it . . . entails, I think that you wouldn’t have a Brexit. This was the final straw that broke the camel’s back. . . I believe others will leave. I do think keeping it together is not gonna be as easy as a lot of people think. And I think this, if refugees keep pouring into different parts of Europe . . . I think it’s gonna be very hard to keep it together because people are angry about it.”

Kind of strange those two paragraphs, that’s exactly what I think. Brexit, if they do it properly may be the greatest thing in 150 years for Britain, and the EU has basically committed suicide. And yes, they have created some huge problems for themselves, that I see few solutions for.

While he expresses admiration for Angela Merkel, Mr Trump believes that she made “one catastrophic mistake” by welcoming an unlimited number of Syrian refugees. More than one million migrants from north Africa and the Middle East arrived between 2015 and 2016. He adds that he believes the West should have built safe zones in Syria — paid for by the Gulf — to limit the surge. “I think she made one very catastrophic mistake and that was taking all of these illegals, you know taking all of the people from wherever they come from. And nobody even knows where they come from.”

And that mistake will echo in Europe for decades, very debilitating and possibly fatal. We will see.

Mr Trump’s view is that Europe is dominated by Germany, and Britain was wise to extract itself: “You look at the European Union and it’s Germany. Basically a vehicle for Germany. That’s why I thought the UK was so smart in getting out.”

Well, there’s a reason some of us call it the Zollverein. In other words, he’s right. Once it was Germany and France, but France is declining and so now it is mostly about Germany.

Mr Trump’s hostility to the EU has been matched by his scepticism towards another pillar of the postwar order, Nato. But the president-elect was at pains to emphasise that he is committed to the defence of Europe and the West. His concerns are, principally, that Nato had not reformed to meet the main threat that we face — Islamist terrorism — and its members had relied too heavily on America. “I said a long time ago that Nato had problems. Number one it was obsolete, because it was designed many, many years ago. Number two the countries aren’t paying what they’re supposed to pay. I took such heat, when I said Nato was obsolete. It’s obsolete because it wasn’t taking care of terror. I took a lot of heat for two days. And then they started saying Trump is right. […]

He’s no Kissinger and you’d no more expect him to discuss Clausewitz and Kennan than set fire to his own hair. But intelligence takes many forms. And Mr Trump’s number-rich analysis of defence spending reflects a businessman’s ability to cut through jargon to get to the essentials of a case.

The same Trump who uses gladiatorial press conferences and CAPITALISED tweets to hurl huge crude blocks of rhetoric at opponents is also the master of the P&L accounts and the determined negotiator who sees government as a failing corporation ripe for re-engineering.

I don’t know about you, but I think that a fair description of the swamp.

“Well I don’t want to say what I’m gonna do with the Iran deal. I just don’t want to play the cards. I mean, look, I’m not a politician, I don’t go out and say, “I’m gonna do this” — I’m gonna do, I gotta do what I gotta do . . . But I’m not happy with the Iran deal, I think it’s one of the worst deals ever made, I think it’s one of the dumbest deals I’ve ever seen . . .

It is not just foreign leaders at whom he vents spleen. The invasion of Iraq, he argues, was “one of the worst decisions, possibly the worst decision, ever made in the history of our country. It’s like throwing rocks into a beehive.”

Despite a strong desire to improve relations with Russia, Mr Trump was unequivocal in his condemnation of its role in Syria. He was also implicitly critical of President Obama for failing to restrain President Assad and Mr Putin. “It’s a very bad thing, we had a chance to do something when we had the line in the sand and . . . nothing happened. That was the only time.

Talking of Russia inevitably brings us to the allegations that the Kremlin has compromising material garnered during a Trump visit to Moscow for the Miss Universe contest. The president-elect is, unsurprisingly, dismissive of the allegations but he did express disquiet at the involvement of a former MI6 officer.

“That guy is somebody that you should look at, because whatever he made up about me it was false. He was supposedly hired by the Republicans and Democrats working together. Even that I don’t believe because they don’t work together, they work separately and they don’t hire the same guy. What, they got together?

Sounds pretty sensible to me. And yes, why this clown of a former MI6 officer has clients would bear looking in to.

Mr Trump’s conversation flows like a river in spate, overwhelming interruptions and objections, reflecting the force of nature that is the man. But it would be a mistake to think that he is all instinct and impulse. He wants to bring to governing the same calculating business style that he has brought to communicating. While he has been criticised for tweeting attacks on everyone from Meryl Streep to the civil rights hero John Lewis, he has no intention of abandoning Twitter because he believes it gives him a direct connection to the American people.

He’s right, Twitter has become a direct channel for him, and one of the keys to success for an even moderately successful president is to find a way around the media, if he doesn’t they will destroy them, and him.

via Donald Trump: ‘Brexit will be a great thing . . . you were so smart’ | News | The Times & The Sunday Times

There’s lots more at the link, I took out lots of interesting things here, so do read it.

All in all, Donald Trump sounds like a pretty capable guy, and more or less ready for the job. One hopes so, his watch begins at noon on Friday.

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18 Responses to Gove on Trump

  1. Btw, it was nice to see the British PM May defer to Trump over Paris, sending so-called Junior people to that so-called meeting. It will be interesting to see where May comes down in the long haul with Trump? I hope they can have a positive relationship!

    Liked by 1 person

    • NEO says:

      I think (maybe hope) they will. May is a bit too much a traditional politician for the times, but she’s plenty smart to take a lead. Gove sounded impressed throughout the article. That’s a good sign, and why it’s here.

      Like

      • Yes, we can hope? I am myself NOT a May fan per se, she is too much like the man she replaced to my mind, but we must give both (her and Trump) a chance and support!

        Liked by 1 person

        • NEO says:

          I like her, but a fan is going too far. But if she gets good advice – as rare there as here (maybe moreso) , she’ll likely be OK. She needs to be a lot more decisive, I think. Neither would a lot more conservative.

          Like

        • Indeed good advice in the political life and structure of the UK is I think too often hard to find? But indeed they need to follow out Brexit!

          Liked by 1 person

        • NEO says:

          That they do. I think a good share of the problem is that many of us here, base ourselves on originalism, there is nothing comparable for the Tories (or indeed UKIP), so it all comes down to shifting sands, rather than ink on parchment. I know quite a few, and they’re just different – few principles (as we see them), indeed, rather like our RINOs. Unless I had a really good MP, tere are some, I’d be a UKIPer, I suspect.

          Like

        • I have removed myself from the basic British political labels, and I say this sadly, but I am of course always a general conservative. But now quite enjoying the American Constitution! 🙂 And as an Anglican classical and Reformed Christian, but one who is also close to being something of an Zionist Christian, my focus is surely eschatological today, if we don’t help and support the People and Land of our Lord who is always the Jewish Messiah, we will lose our own identity as Gentile Christians. And this NOT political, as part of our own Judeo-Christian heritage! Which is surely under attack today even in both the British Empire and America!

          Liked by 1 person

        • NEO says:

          Hold that thought, but I think the times they may be a-changin’.

          Like

        • I do have hope, and hope so? But, my real and lasting hope is always ‘In Christ’! I don’t trust in a fallen and broken world. And our Western culture has so gotten worse! Could we be on the brink of a WW 3, type situation? The world is now armed to the tooth! China, Russia, etc. My realist and old “combat” mind always stands on the ready, i.e. for the worst case… But, GOD is Sovereign and Merciful!

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Jan Hanssen says:

    ” I’m inclined to think it’s at least partially because British conservatism is built on the shifting sands of governing efficiently rather than based on bedrock principles, but there is also a bit of condescending in it.”

    This is because efficient governing to the exclusion of ideological constraint is the heart of Burkean Conservatism. You have referred to this several times, but you have completely missed the point of Burke. I paraphrased Burke when referring to Trumps greed and moral failings, and you told me to go read Smith (who did not support avarice either).

    “Brexit, if they do it properly may be the greatest thing in 150 years for Britain, and the EU has basically committed suicide.”

    Why do you think economists, business leaders, entrepreneurs, and the professional classes almost uniformly rejected Brexit. The Pound is significantly down, and numerous businesses are planning to leave the UK. How do you think this ends up, and what is your justification for endorsing it?

    The MI-6 officer in question has an established career of repute. You may not like the report he has crafted, but his credentials are valid. I am not sure you have a basis to call him a “clown”.

    And in the end, nothing about Donald Trump sounds capable. His business history is marked by failure with minimal success, and bombast over substance. He is very much the President in the era of the Kardashian.

    Liked by 1 person

    • NEO says:

      Well, Jan returns. Try to remember Burke was a contemporary of our founders, much more of this country was based on Lockian principles. You are correct about the British Conservative party, and show the weaknesses in Burkean thought.

      The MI6 officer is a stooge finding evidence of things that don’t exist and selling them to the highest bidder, clown was mild. He may have done good work in the past, but he didn’t this time. Have you read the report? I have, it’s bullshit, pure and simple.

      Then you’re simply a bigoted fool, Jan. Trump is no savior on a white horse, but he was simply the best on offer. Your comments delineate completely why the future belongs to the Anglo-Americans, and Europe will become even more of a nonconsequential backwater than it already is.

      Like

      • Jan Hanssen says:

        You are ignoring the fact that the US GOP was Burkean until recently. The ideology of the GOP used to be anti-ideology. When people used to say Conservative they meant Burkean. What currently passes for conservative in the GOP has little association with the term. You, yourself, are not Conservative in a traditional sense.

        Whether or not you disagree with the MI-6 officer, he was a distinguished, capable, and decorated officer. If you disagree with his findings, you are free to do so, but you seem to denigrate unnecessarily. It is completely possible that a distinguished, decorated, and capable intelligence officer could be wrong, but if his work proved excellent in the past, his report deserves consideration.

        As for Trump’s business failures, the issue is as simple a one as could be. The numbers do not bear out. Trumps investments and ventures failed to pass the most simple test, which is whether or not the venture would beat the market return. No businessman or investor goes into a field unless the money they put in could provide more than they could make by putting it into the market and doing nothing. Trump’s numbers can easily be assessed, and his business ventures do not beat the market. Had he done nothing at all, he would be wealthier than he is today. By being Trump, Trump made himself worse off. This is not partisan, it is not biased, it is as cold, logical, and uncaring as if an android made the assessment. It is all simply numbers.

        Like

  3. the unit says:

    Well if his businesses have had so many bankruptcies then he’s used to losing other people’s money. Should work just fine in government. What difference, at this point, does it make? Ahem! /sar 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • NEO says:

      Not sure you needed to turn on the /sar switch – looks true enough for me. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. No one with an honest brain in their head could call Trump’s overall business acumen a failure! And all businessmen have had some failures, that the nature of business. And now he is the American President, time to move on!

    Liked by 1 person

    • NEO says:

      Yep, there will be good things, and bad things, and most of all, some in the middle. Time to muddle on.

      Like

      • Trump’s Inauguration Speech was both honest and really brilliant, for he was made president by the American people for both change and less of the political BS, and he has yet to miss this mark! Indeed things will ebb and flow, but lets just hope the good old political establishment, at least from within will be met with resistance from Trump! But time will tell?

        And the British had better get with the Brexit vote! Their political crust needs big time trimming!

        Liked by 1 person

        • NEO says:

          Yep, I like it pretty well, as well.

          they’d be well advised to, I think.

          Like

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