I read John Le Carré’s classic spy novel Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy a few months ago, and found it difficult but brilliant. (The same can be said of most of his books).
Back in 1979, the BBC made a highly regarded TV mini-series adapted very faithfully from the book, starring Alec “Ben Kenobi” Guinness as protagonist George Smiley. I was keen to see it, and to compare it with the book.
With perfect timing, frequent commenter Robin Jubber has just asserted that “Whatever mental disorder Trump suffers from … it’s not psychopathy”. Is he right?
The Washington Post conducted a dispassionate assessment of whether Trump is a fascist. It scored him 26 out of a possible 44 — a hair under 60% — and concluded “He is semi-fascist: more fascist than any successful American politician yet, and the most dangerous threat to pluralist democracy in this country in more than a century, but — thank our stars — an amateurish imitation of the real thing.”
Can we do the same thing in assessing whether he is a psychopath?
A few commenters recently have expressed some surprise or dismay that I have been so very negative about the Trump regime. Sorry, folks: I never set out to write a political blog, but Trump is without question the biggest problem facing the world. I can’t ignore it.
But I do want to make one thing quite clear: my fear and loathing of Trump is not a partisan issue. It’s not because he is a Republican and most Americans I know are Democrats; it’s not because he’s on the right and I lean towards the left. It’s because he is a dangerous, delusional psychopath with no understanding of how government, diplomacy or anything else works; and because is too arrogant to make up for this ignorance by consulting experts.
Having lost all faith in both the Tory government and the Labour excuse for the opposition, I have officially joined the Liberal Democrats. Yes, they only have nine seats in Parliament. So be it. Whether they can turn that around or not, I would rather go down fighting on the side of the good guys than follow an opposition that has allowed its European policy to be dictated by UKIP.
Wish us luck.
(My thanks to Andrew Hickey and Richard Flowers, who have both helped me understand how Parliament works and what the Liberal Democrats are about. And who both, incidentally, write interesting things about Doctor Who.)
Chamberlain on Hitler: “I have met a man with whom I can do business.”
May to Trump: “Today’s talks I think are a significant moment for President Trump and I to build our relationship and I look forward to continuing to work with you.”
Chamberlain on Hitler’s annexing the Sudetenland: “A quarrel in a faraway country, between people of whom we know nothing.”
May on Trump’s banning people from Muslim countries from entering the US: “The United States is responsible for the United States’ policy on refugees. The United Kingdom is responsible for the United Kingdom’s policy on refugees.”
A Downing Street source has just said: “We will always find ourselves in agreement on some things and disagreement on other things.”
Well. That’s all right, then.
[A companion piece to Why is Theresa May doing this?]
I have tended to be optimistic about Jeremy Corbyn, hoping that his Labour leadership signalled a real change in the nature of political discourse in Britain. Those hopes on the whole have been disappointed — it seems to me that having had to re-fight the leadership election again almost immediately after winning it the first time has left him so drained by his own party that he has little energy left to act as an effective Leader of the Opposition.
But it’s got much worse than that.
If ever the United States of America needed a fourth estate, it’s now. The man-child in the president’s seat is completely out of control even by his own standards. Given his history of vendettas against those who oppose him, it would be easy — understandable, even — for the press to just hunker down and wait four years for all this to be over.
It’s to their enormous credit that they are not doing that. The most respected newspapers and magazines in America are writing boldly and uncompromisingly about the man who every day brings the presidency into disrepute.
I am seriously worried about America now. None of us was taken by surprise by what kind of a person Trump is — it was apparent all through his campaigning. But the sheer speed with which he’s set about dismantling all the elements of civilisation has taken me by surprise. A quick recap:
- Normalising lying, both by Trump himself and by his staff: about the size of the inauguration crowd, about the election result itself, and more generally about everything.
- Press briefings that are used to disseminate propaganda and criticise the press, with no questions taken.
- A self-obsessed focus on the president as a personality, ahead of all policy issues, whatever the setting or circumstances.
- Removal of civil rights, climate change, health care, disabilities, LGBT rights and much more from the administration’s website (and the complete removal of the Spanish-language version of the site).
- Freezing grants for the Environmental Protection Agency, and banning staff from saying anything about it (on indeed about anything) — see Appendix below.
- Gagging essentially all government agencies from public communication.
- A national park forced to remove tweets that contained nothing but scientific facts that are inconvenient to Trump.
- Banning the National Institutes for Health from communicating with policy-makers.
- Unilaterally giving the go-ahead for the Keystone XL and Dakota Access oil pipelines, in which he has a financial interest, in the face of both social and environmental opposition.
- Maybe most worrying, a clampdown on free reporting, with six journalists facing 10 years in prison and a $25,000 fine for covering inauguration protests.
These are unambiguously the actions of a dictator.
This kind of thing worries me: “Every attempt by the political class to delay or dilute Brexit will only increase our anger” — written by Nigel Farage.
Let’s leave aside the fact that Farage has written that a 52-48 result in the referendum would constitute unfinished business and necessitate a second referendum. What worries me here is the implication that because delaying Brexit will cause anger, therefore we should do it immediately.
As though anger in itself is enough reason to go along with a policy.
That is the logic of a toddler.
It’s well established that as recently as last April, Theresa May was strongly against leaving the EU. The BBC reports, for example, that in a speech to the Institute of Mechanical Engineers on 25 April 2016, she said:
If we do vote to leave the European Union, we risk bringing the development of the single market to a halt, we risk a loss of investors and businesses to remaining EU member states driven by discriminatory EU policies, and we risk going backwards when it comes to international trade … It is not clear why other EU member states would give Britain a better deal than they themselves enjoy … We export more to Ireland than we do to China, almost twice as much to Belgium as we do to India, and nearly three times as much to Sweden as we do to Brazil. It is not realistic to think we could just replace European trade with these new markets.
(There is much more: you can read the speech for yourself and reassure yourself that none of this is taken out of context.)