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.

Once More Into the Breach, Dear Friends?

American and UK flags flying together

We have spent most of last week trying to explain to Europe why we are quite happy with the election of Donald Trump. As I reflect on what we have said, and read, it struck me that one cannot understand this intellectually. At one point I was asked if I identify as Anglo-Saxon.

Well in a sense, I am heir to that legacy in self-government, and more. But I also combine it with the Viking traditions of my ancestry, and with the specific American ethos. None of these lead to a quiet, and calm citizenry. There is a reason why the Anglosphere is what it is, we are pretty much all this way, if you scratch beneath the surface.

I think this post, written in 2014, explains us fairly well.


On 26 September 1580, a ship docked in Portsmouth, England. That wasn’t unusual, then as now it was one of England’s great ports. But this particular docking would echo through history. For this was the Golden Hind, returning from the first circumnavigation of the world by a non-Spaniard. Soon the captain, Francis Drake, would be knighted on the ship’s deck, by Queen Elizabeth I, and in a few years he would play a key role in the Battle with the Armada.

Elizabeth’s father Henry VIII, did some things that are important to this story, he established the Royal Navy, for the first time it became a force that was always ready. And he took England out of the Roman Church, which allowed her to go her own way, mostly looking outward, and not being involved with European politics as much as before.

But the reason this echoes so loudly in history wasn’t evident that day or even after the Armada had been stood off. It started to become apparent when England went to war with its King in the Civil War and even more so when the second chapter of that war saw the end of the first Empire, and the establishment of the United States.

Because what Sir Francis Drake accomplished that day in Portsmouth, was nothing less than the founding of the modern world, with all its freedom. If you look around at the world we live in. A world without legal slavery, where we are governed by our consent through objective law, and all the rest, you will find something surprising. It is all an English invention. It took England about 800 hundred years to put it together, and the rest of us in western civilization mostly copied it. Too often we forget that as Lady Astor somewhat unfairly said, our revolution was simply, “English freemen fighting against a German King for English rights”.

But now, in 2014, we are watching in horror as an evil group of thugs, misappropriate a religion, Islam, for the purpose of enforcing their will on the world. Nobody can claim they don’t aim high, at any rate.

anglosphere1But once again, the main obstacle between these thugs and their victory are the English Speaking Peoples. We are the ones that could have stopped Hitler easily in say 1934, but we were tired and worried about making a living. We paid for that mistake later, but Hitler and his henchman caused a holocaust of unparalleled scope in Europe. We learned from that and managed to face down Stalin and his successors without ending the world. But as the Soviet Union self-destructed, we declared it the end of history. We should have known better, evil never sleeps, it always looks for room to expand.

And so, we were attacked, in New York, and in London as the new century started, and we responded, as we always have. But this time we tried a kinder, gentler form of war, and attempted to make it easy on the local population, and to help them become like us. It seems as if it may have been a mistake.

The Hollow Men 5And so, here we are, with the weakest leadership our country has had since we entered the world stage in about 1900. They seem to have no clue what to do next.

That’s not surprising, the president has spent his entire life voting present while denigrating the military. Nor has he ever either led or managed anything. And yet, we elected him, twice. I guess we were/are tired of war.

But is war tired of us?

In business, as in war, one must have a strategy (an overriding plan). It seems to me, with an enemy as close to pure evil as ISIS, the only reasonable objective is to destroy it, root and branch, as we did the Nazis.

One level down from that is how are you going to accomplish your goal. Well, kids that’s why we have a military, and all its planners. We knew (and so did the British) on 7 December 1941 the broad outline of how we were going to fight World War Two. It was called RAINBOW. And we went on to execute it, and win, unconditionally. This is a specialized area of planning, and politicians are well advised to leave it to the military, just as I don’t tell a journeyman how to do his job. Give him the tools, and tell him what needs to be done.

And the same is true for tactics, if the guys in the field want an A-10 don’t send a B-2, at least if you can help it. In many ways our forces are best used as a force multiplier, they can do things no one else in the world can do. But a rifleman is basically a rifleman, whether he’s from London, Omaha, or Baghdad.

But the key thing here is, as it always is, the will of the people, and especially the leadership, and that is what worries me. When Obama said these guys are the JV, he spoke the truth, but the JV is much better than the girls 5th grade team, especially if they know that to lose is to die. And the JV will win if the varsity doesn’t show up.

But neither is that preordained, we have not only agency over ourselves but over what we do for and to others, for we are free people, and we are sovereign over our governments. For nearly five hundred years we, the English Speaking Peoples, have built the modern world in our image. We have endowed it with most of the comforts, including a full belly, that we innovated, and with the possibility of making oneself free to act in one own best interest. And so the question becomes, “Have we become too soft, too self-centered, to act once again for the good against evil, or will we once again rise to the challenge to make the world a better place, for ourselves, certainly, but also for others, whom we will never meet or know?”

And some of our nationalities have won their fame with all of us

For a long time now, they have been known as “The Ladies from Hell”, and they have earned it, from friend and foe alike, by their uncompromising stand, for freedom from oppression, no matter the odds.

But this isn’t “proud Edward’s power, with slavery and chains”. This is a bunch of ragtag so-called terrorists, who are really no more than well armed bullies. Are we, the guarantors of freedom for five hundred years really going to sit back while they murder and enslave ancient civilizations? All Europe will do is finance them by paying ransom but, our people learned about that long ago, when we found out how hard it is to get rid of the Dane when you pay the Danegeld.

A bit more than seventy years ago, a guy by the name of Hitler, said he would wring England’s neck like a chicken. Churchill said “Some Chicken, some neck”. A friend of mine, an Englishmen reminded me yesterday that we are the same people who Churchill was speaking of. Maybe we should begin acting like it again.

When have we ever not heeded this call

Truly, it is time to once again

And this explains, above all reasons, why the west is free,

and why Donald Trump will be President, and England shall be free.

A new Trump Tower?

I’m still buried under a mountain of stuff, but shoveling as fast as I can to clean up a field in Louisiana (if you understand that joke, we share a taste in movies). But this is rather important.

It was a feckless and reckless move on the part of Obama, by now that should surprise no one. Krauthammer is right at the end, it’s time to withdraw funding, abrogate the treaties, and evict the whole mess. If they love Zimbabwe so much they can move there. New York could use some new condos, and some more taxable property wouldn’t hurt either.

Whatever happened to:

Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and success of liberty. This much we pledge—and more.

John Kennedy had it right.

Likely though, if Trump does it right, this too will backfire with serious unintended consequences for those who wish us, and Israel ill.

Enough is more than enough.

Hope?

Gladstone quote

[Many of us here in America are very hopeful that Donald Trump will take a start on ‘Draining the Swamp’. I surely am. But I, like many of you, am wary, I have long since learned to not put my hope in princes, either in business or, perhaps especially, in politics. So we’ll see. Back in 2013 Jessica addressed this, and her words are still very valid. Neo]

One of the worst things about the state of our politics is the devaluing of one of its main currencies – hope. When politicians make a fetish of ‘hope’ they are setting both themselves and us for a disappointment. Whatever some people believe, the number of things which the State can actually solve for us is limited. Not all the attempts of the British Welfare State have eliminated poverty, even though the State takes 40% of all incomes above £32k (45% if you earn over £150k), and we all pay 12% of our income toward the National Health Service.  There does not exist a State which has disproved Christ’s dictum that the ‘poor are always with us’, although there exist some where we have effectively nationalised charity in as far as we think it is up to the State to deal with those who have fallen into misfortune.  This is a bad idea, as such people rarely have the command of the Welfare State system possessed by those who live off it much of the time.  It ends up with a situation where newspapers can easily enough find ‘scroungers’ and end up stigmatising whole groups of people, most of whom do not fall into this category, and who end up being at the sharp end of knee-jerk reactions when politicians need to play to the gallery. In this sort of politics, everyone loses, including the State itself, which falls below the level it would expect of any of its citizens with a sense of decency.

But it seems that inflation has taken a real hold. Party X feels obliged to turn up the rhetoric of hope because if it tells anything like the truth, Party Y will criticise it for not having faith in the nation, and promise that hope the other one failed to; it is a bad situation, and one in which we, as the electorate in some way collude.  But such an inflation leads only to a deflation of the very currency of ‘hope’ itself, and it makes us cynical and distrustful.  But quite how one persuades politicians not to debauch this currency is something no one has yet found an answer to.

Of course, to some extent, all democratic politics has at its heart the problem of how you both get a majority of voters to choose you and maintain your integrity, and we probably go badly wrong if we imagine there was a time when it was easy. Many British observers of democratic politics in America in the nineteenth century were appalled at what they thought of as its venality – but as Gladstone once said “there are millions of hard hands to rule and force is not an option”.  His own route was to try to educate the electorate and to appeal to its higher instincts – something his great opponent, Disraeli, eschewed as he tended to go for the lowest common denominator.

At some level, however, our politicians need to capture something of that Gladstonian instinct that nothing which is morally wrong can be politically right, even if it is politically expedient.  But, as our societies discovered with finance and inflation, it is tempting just to print more money and leave it to the next generation to sort it out; but the problem with that is it just gets worse and therefore harder to cure. One of the great achievements of the Thatcher-Reagan era was to bring down financial inflation; we need their like to do the same with rhetorical inflation.  If this fails to happen, then I wonder what future there is for democracy as we know it?

100 Days and Firing Squads

In case you missed it, PE Trump called a meeting with some of the major media figures and unloaded some truth on them. Needless to say, they didn’t like it. Well, one gets to lie in the bed one makes, and Trump, like many of us, is apparently tired of being lied about. Bill Whittle had something to say about it, as well.

Here, listen to the man, not the spin.

Nothing here that troubles me in the least, nor is there anything extra-legal. Too often our leadership has forgotten that the primary purpose of the US Government is to defend and support the United States. Trump seems to understand that.

Soon we will speak here of the people he has asked to join him in the government, while some would not be my choices, they look to me like a very strong team. In fact, they echo the old canard, “First-rate men hire the best men they can find, second-rate men hire third-rate men, and third-rate men hire lackeys who tell them what they want to hear. More to come on this, and soon.

 

The Year of Political Revolution |

The title comes from a talk that Nigel Farage gave at David Horowitz Freedom Center’s 2016 Restoration Weekend, to me it’s appropriate. It seems to me that what we have seen this year is the incipient conservative counter-revolution taking shape, first Brexit, then Trump, tomorrow…well who knows. As I said again the other day, the Anglo-Saxons are again leading the world to freedom, and if we live up to our forebearers, we will succeed.

We see signs of this resistance all across Europe, from Spain thru Poland and the Balts, and further, we are seeing signs of a conservative restoration even in the churches. Here is Nigel’s speech. And yes, he is every bit as deplorable as any of us Americans.

via Nigel Farage on The Year of Political Revolution |

But don’t get cocky, at best we are at the point Churchill described so well.

The bright gleam has caught the helmets of our soldiers, and warmed and cheered all our hearts.

The late M. Venizelos observed that in all her wars England — he should have said Britain, of course — always wins one battle — the last. It would seem to have begun rather earlier this time. General Alexander, with his brilliant comrade and lieutenant, General Montgomery, has gained a glorious and decisive victory in what I think should be called the battle of Egypt. Rommel’s army has been defeated. It has been routed. It has been very largely destroyed as a fighting force.

Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. but it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.

This was said after El Alamein, and it proved to be true. He ended that speech with a bit of Byron’s poetry, which may well also be appropriate for us.

Millions of tongues record thee, and anew
Their children’s lips shall echo them, and say —
“Here, where the sword united nations drew,
Our countrymen were warring on that day!”
And this is much, and all which will not pass away

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