By Ronnie Smith
Paris, Being Crass
And so President Trump has arrived in Paris, at President Macron’s invitation, and immediately hit the ground running.
“You’re in such good shape”, he is reported to have said to Madame Macron. “Beautiful.” What he didn’t say, but I heard in my head, was, “…under the circumstances”.
One of the great joys of our age is waiting for Mr Trump’s next social faux pas and there is never long to wait. In a British context Mr Trump has taken over from the now retired Duke of Edinburgh as the leading exponent of this form of entertainment. Of course there are many people only too willing to take offence at Mr Trump’s clumsiness and here’s an example from Friday’s Guardian newspaper.
‘ “Trump telling France’s First Lady ‘you’re in such good shape’ epitomizes men toeing the line between compliment & sexual harassment,” wrote Twitter user Alex Berg, a freelance video producer and writer who works on feminist and gender issues.’
But if they are not careful, these people will start to have real trouble finding time for anything else in their lives.
My grandfather once told me that unless I had anything sensible to say it was better to say nothing. Obviously Mr Trump did not receive this advice and he seems to be one of those people who get nervous during breaks in conversation, silence is a space to be filled. But is this a hanging offence, even for the President of the United States? We will return to the modern preoccupation with being offended, later.
Paris, the Capital of Contrasts
Mr Trump’s visit to France is interesting and highlights a few things about how M. Macron operates. I think that having Mr Trump in France makes M. Macron, a leader working hard to establish his credentials, look pretty good. I imagine M. Macron telling people, “You might not like me yet but look at this guy. You see, things could have been a lot worse”.
Presidents Trump and Macron offer two important insights into their respective country’s politics. Many voters in the US elect their presidents based on the principle that he or she is just like them, that their president understands them and their problems and knows how to fix them. That is why Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush got elected; they worked very hard on the empathy side of their campaigns. Donald Trump did the same. Tellingly, Hillary Clinton found it impossible not to seem too clever and remote and so she became the most prepared and intelligent president the US never had.
This is also why Mr Trump’s supporters out in the country, in the ‘fly-over’ states, generally don’t care about his links with Russia or any other Washington scandal. They care that he won and that they now have their man in the White House. Incidentally, if his opponents move towards impeachment of Mr Trump, I think there will be real trouble.
French voters, by contrast, look for an exceptional leader, a person greater and smarter than them. They don’t want a folksy man-in-the-street, they want Napoleon or De Gaulle, they want exceptional. That is M. Macron’s challenge and that is why his speech to congress was so theatrical and why the Bastille Day production in Paris was so extravagant.
Mr Trump being in Paris is another humiliation for Britain, as if there was any room for more British humiliation. M. Macron issued his invitation when it became clear that Mrs May was unsure how a Trump visit would play in her very troubled country. Now France looks more mature by seeking a stronger relationship with the ‘leader of the free world’ while her neighbours across the Channel flounder in their own mess. And M. Macron gets to show off hugely on the world stage.
Trump and Macron have important things to talk about, and bilateral discussions in comfortable surroundings make real talking much easier, away from the stress of the recent G20 summit. Trade, the Paris climate deal, NATO and how to handle Putin’s Russia are a few agenda items. I also think that M. Macron may wish to hear what Mr Trump has to say about deal-making because he will soon have to make deals with the French syndicates over his changes to France’s labour laws and social benefits system. M. Macron is a technocrat not a businessman.
President Trump’s visit to France will not be a waste of time.
London, the Suicide of a Language
Conservative MP Anne Marie Morris became famous this week when she used the outdated phrase ‘nigger in the woodpile’ to describe an aspect of the Brexit negotiations. The phrase is outdated because its origins lie in the period when slavery was acceptable, it is considered racist in context and because the word ‘nigger’ is regarded as the most offensive way to describe a black person. In my personal opinion the word and the phrase are both disgusting and I have, to the best of my knowledge, never used them.
Having unfortunately publicly deployed the phrase, Ms Morris immediately found herself at the centre of a tornado of outrage by a large number of people who declared themselves offended. Even though her statement had not been directed at any other human being but at a political and legal process, she had the Conservative whip removed and now sits as a shamed independent in the House of Commons.
I am old enough to remember when the nursery rhyme ‘Baa Baa Black Sheep’ was expunged from national culture to be replaced by ‘Baa Baa Woolly Sheep’, because the word ‘black’ was deemed offensive. Who, I wondered, would go out into the fields in Springtime to paint all of those offensive black lambs white? Was a special section of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries created for the purpose?
The hounding of Ms Morris follows the recent public flogging of Mr Tim Farron, an apparently nice man who dared to think that being a devout Christian is still compatible with leading a political party in the United Kingdom. It isn’t as many people declared themselves offended by his private, generally orthodox Christian views on gender issues despite his never attempting to change Liberal Democrat policy in line with his own beliefs. Mr Farron resigned and his case effectively ended any adherence to the concept of freedom of conscience in Britain.
Britain and, as we have seen above in the case of Donald Trump, the US today are experiencing the creation of an intolerant dictatorship of the offended who, simply by declaring themselves offended, seek to prevent others from thinking, writing and saying what they like. The offended are trying to change the English language and to replace it with a robotic, administrative, formulation that murders free thinking and free ex
They, the offended, must be stopped.
Trump in Middle Earth
The funniest thing I saw this week is the video above. You can also see it here.
Enjoy, God knows we need a laugh.