What Trump Should Have Said

When President Trump was elected, to the surprise and shock of the prevailing wisdom of the Washington elite and New York media, I thought that he had a glancing opportunity to do something meaningful. I wrote at the time that he should focus his energy on getting something done such as an infrastructure bill which would have cross party and national support rather than become subsumed in the Washington political morass. He hasn’t become subsumed, he is drowning. Unfortunately for our friends across the sea, and in fact the rest of the world, he is proving to be completely inadequate on every level. While we could suggest that the world is a more stable place because Trump will more readily project US power than did Obama there is growing nervousness about his personal capacity to exercise good judgement. The events of this week in respect of the race row are especially troubling.

We must be cautious ourselves in the UK about being too vocal on the subject given we have our own significant domestic race issues to contend with. The resignation of a shadow minister this week because she vocalised widely held concerns about the exploitation and grooming of young girls by a very specific racial segment is an example of our own inability to confront tensions within. The United States though continues to struggle to come to terms with it’s own heritage. Racism is never far below the surface wherever you travel. Once, while working for a Mid Western company of some size, I asked a board member why we didn’t employ any black people. “Not here,” was the simple and straight reply. 

The President though, should stand above these arguments. He, like our Queen, represents all citizens. That Trump has failed to put a stake in the high moral ground in this regard has probably damaged him beyond repair. I would not be surprised to see a new president in office by the end of the year. Any president who is seen or perceived to be on one or other side of the racial divide in the United States is holed below the waterline. A pity he did not action his earlier rhetoric to bring safe streets to the worst of America’s inner cities such as Chicago. He has now blown what little credibilty that has survived serial screw-ups over the past eight months.

A friend reminded me with a Facebook post of what is expected of an American president. In 1989 a reporter asked President H W Bush, who was only a month into his presidency, “What does the party do about David Duke?” the former Klu Klux Klan leader who was standing for state office in Louisiana. (It is usually regarded as highly improper for a president to cross the line and involve himself in State politics). Bush senior said,  

"Maybe there was some feeling in Metairie, Louisiana, that the president of the United States involving himself in a state legislative election was improper or overkill. I've read that, and I can't deny that. But what I can affirm is: I did what I did because of principle.”

Later, in 1991 he was asked if he regretted his actions. This was his reply, 

"When someone asserts that the Holocaust never took place, then I don't believe that person ever deserves one iota of public trust. And when someone has so recently endorsed nazism, it is inconceivable that such a person can legitimately aspire to leadership — in a leadership role in a free society. And when someone has a long record, an ugly record, of racism and of bigotry, that record simply cannot be erased by the glib rhetoric of a political campaign. So, I believe that David Duke is an insincere charlatan. I believe he is attempting to hoodwink the voters of Louisiana, and I believe that he should be rejected for what he is and what he stands for.”

Encouraging voters to vote against his own party was a stand-out, stand-up thing to do. Duke lost and Democrat Edwin Edwards was elected. The stand did not later help Bush senior’s re-election bid with voters in that area but he would have slept more easily. Some issues are more important than party politics. A lesson the current incumbent would do well to absorb.

Charlie Chaplin in the Great Dictator; a great speech with no limit of time

Trump could have been the Messiah to cauterise the economic wounds wrought on ordinary decent Americans over the past ten years and he could, should have been the person to bring their nation closer together. That the opposite is happening is nothing short of criminally tragic. What we are looking at though is a mirror. We have many of the same issues at hand in this country and our own politicians, of every hue, are equally ill equipped to confront them. There is, I am afraid, an absence of moral courage and leadership on the international stage the like of which has probably never been seen before in our history. It is all really rather a worry.

The Greatest Generation

By tomorrow morning the people of the United States will have chosen their new president. They will be left more divided than they have been since the Civil War. I hope they can patch up their differences.

It is clear that many American citizens are resentful that what they were brought up to regard as their birthright has been denied to them, through no fault of their own. That is, by following their parents and grandparents in doing the 'right thing,' they could expect to participate in the American Dream which implied a better life in turn for themselves and their children. They feel cheated, left behind and are making their feelings known in a protest vote every bit as big as the one that greeted Churchill in 1945.

Who though, were that older generation who set such a magnificent example and set the pace for all that followed? Typically, they were children of the twenties who came of age in the Great Depression, fought and won the Second World War and then built modern America. Their common values of honour, duty and courage with unthinking service to family and country were the bedrock of all that followed. Poverty and despair during the economic decline in the thirties was followed by a glimmer of hope which was quickly doused at Pearl Harbour. They spent their young adulthood fighting in some of the most brutal engagements imaginable yet at the end of the war they returned to their homes and set to work, determined to rebuild. And they did. They created the biggest economy in history, catapulted science and medicine forward, put a man on the moon and changed the face of the creative arts and media. They stood as a beacon to the free world and broke Soviet totalitarianism. They built a not perfect but fairer society and legislated to make it so.

Certainly, they made mistakes but as that generation marches off into history I am finding reading about them a gentle antidote to the lunatic fringe which appears to be on the brink of walking into the White House. I refer to either candidate incidentally. Both are unsuitable and a long way from what we know is the best of men and women that the US produces.

I can then, if I may, heartily recommend Tom Brokow's book, 'The Greatest Generation.' It is, a thundering good read.

Trumptastic

Michael Moore is not a Trump supporter. In this clip though, he articulates with more ease than anyone else has yet managed, why Trump may win and be the next POTUS. It is surprising that even after Brexit, vast swathes of the media continue to look but not see, hear but not listen. This should be a wake up call, not that their alternative candidate is any better. What a mess they've got themselves into, a state which most of my American friends are simply resigned to with many taking the view that it has to burn down before they can rebuild anew. Well, it's been 239 years but we're an open minded and forgiving country. I'm sure Her Majesty would be happy to squeeze one more country into the Commonwealth. After all, no one has known more American presidents than the Queen and when all is said and done, we do tend to rub along together passably well.

The Real Americans

What with the Donald and Hilary show in full swing, our American friends are getting something of a bad press internationally. "Surely, a country like American can produce better presidential candidates than these two clowns?' the cry goes up. To be fair, most Americans are asking the self same question and of course they will produce better candidates, eventually. As Winston Churchill famously observed, 'Americans will always do the right thing, only after they have tried everything else.'

Despite the tub thumping political rhetoric, only an idiot would assume that the current candidates are a true and fair reflection of the American people. Of course they're not. It is easy to forget when watching the news that the United States is a country of small towns and villages rather than big cities. The cities catch the headlines but the beating heart and soul lies in the vast stretch of land between the east and west coasts. Small towns but big hearts.

Two recent examples of the true spirit of America touched me and I think they are worth sharing with anyone who may be losing confidence in what still remains the leader of the free world. First, the actor Tom Hanks recently appeared on Desert Island Discs in a 30 minute show which revealed his very ordinary start in life, his humility and compassion and an enduring optimism which is so characteristic of Americans. Then, I came across this clip of Florida farmer Johnny Georges appearing on a television programme called Shark Tank, (similar to Dragon's Den), on which he pitched a simple but effective water saving idea. If you could bottle decency, integrity and humility this is what it would look like. For as long as the United States produces men like Tom Hanks and Johnny Georges the world is going to be a better place and believe me, there are more gentlemen like these in the US than there are the muppets in Washington and media land.