Category Archives: Obama, Barack

Trump’s finest hour

Donald Trump: patriotism, generosity and good sense

Reading in his morning newspaper that the General Assembly of the United Nations had greeted a short section of Donald Trump’s speech with laughter, Dalrymple’s esteem for the US president grows. The laughter, Dalrymple writes,

gave rise to Mr Trump’s finest moment. He took it in good part, admitted that he had not expected it, and said it was perfectly all right.

The moment

revealed something about world opposition to Mr Trump: that it is bogus or not deeply felt, and is pro forma.

Dalrymple asks:

  • Would the General Assembly have laughed disrespectfully at Mr Putin or Mr Xi, and would either of them have reacted in the same good-natured way if it had?
  • Did anyone laugh at Mr Obama’s fatuously grandiose claim that his election marked the beginning of healthcare in the United States and the healing of the planet, at least the equal in absurdity of anything said by Mr Trump?
  • Is Mr Trump’s slogan Make America great again any shallower than Mr Obama’s Yes we can?

Barack Obama: absurdity, grandiosity and fatuity

Dalrymple points out that Trump is held to a different standard; and anyone really believing the president was an incipient totalitarian dictator wouldn’t have laughed.

Trump’s speech offered

a more generous view of the world than that of most of his opponents. He called on the people of all countries to be patriotic, acknowledging that people of all countries had something to be patriotic about.

Trump’s was a vision of the world that was

far more genuinely multicultural and multipolar than those who believe in, or call for, a kind of European Union on a global scale, in which all cultures are ground into a food mixer from which a health-giving culture juice of universal rights (to healthcare, social security, etc.) will emerge.

The European Union monstrosity: an emergent bureaucratic tyranny

Trump’s view of patriotism certainly did not entail

the hatred of or disdain for, let alone enmity towards, other countries. What he said in essence was that he wanted a world of live and let live. He appeared to understand that a world government without borders would necessarily be a monstrous bureaucratic tyranny with no possible legitimacy.

To be sure, he simplified problems, but

to look to political speeches for subtle elucidation of knotty problems is like looking to tabloid newspapers for metaphysical insight.

Sneers could not win it for Remain

Screen Shot 2016-06-25 at 00.31.48For a long time, writes Dalrymple, Britons who wanted their country to leave the European Union were regarded

almost as mentally ill.

The Leavers

didn’t have an opinion; they had a pathology. Since one doesn’t argue with pathology, it wasn’t necessary for the Remainers to answer the Leavers with more than sneers and derision.

Even after the vote,

the attitude persists. Those who voted Leave are described as small-minded, xenophobic, and fearful of the future. Those who voted Remain are described as open-minded, cosmopolitan, and forward-looking. The BBC suggested as much on its website. The desire to Leave was a return to the insularity that resulted in the apocryphal headline Fog in Channel — Continent cut off.

Screen Shot 2016-06-25 at 09.52.07If insularity is indeed on the rise, it is, Dalrymple notes,

affecting increasing numbers of Europeans.

Before the vote,

the danger of Brexit to the integrity of the EU was described in the French media in pathological terms, as a possible ‘contagion’ rather than an example to be followed or not.

The EU is faced, Dalrymple points out, with a dilemma.

On the one hand, it will not want to make Brexit too painless for Britain, in case other countries follow suit. On the other, it will not want to disturb trade with one of Europe’s largest economies. Britain’s trade with Europe is largely in Europe’s favour; it’s easier for Britain to find alternative sources of imports than for Europe to find alternative export markets.

One reason for the success of the Brexit campaign

was Barack Obama’s intervention, when he threatened that if Britain voted to leave the Union, it would have to go to the ‘back of the queue’ as far as trade agreements were concerned. This sounded like bullying, and was not well-received by much of the British population, which had already been subjected to quite a lot of such bullying from others. If I were an American, I shouldn’t have been pleased with it either, for Obama spoke not as a president with a few months left in office, but as a president-for-life, or at least one with the right to decide his successor’s policy.

Cowards these attackers were not

Screen Shot 2015-11-15 at 16.51.34François Hollande, the French president, called the November 2015 Paris attacks cowardly. Dalrymple comments:

If there was one thing the attackers were not (alas, if only they had been), it was cowardly.

The attackers were, writes Dalrymple,

evil, their ideas were deeply stupid, and they were brutal: but a man who knows that he is going to die in committing an act, no matter how atrocious, is not a coward.

Screen Shot 2015-11-15 at 16.59.16With

the accuracy of a drone, the president honed in on the one vice that the attackers did not manifest.

This establishes, Dalrymple writes,

Screen Shot 2015-11-15 at 16.52.34that bravery is not by itself a virtue, that in order for it to be a virtue it has to be exercised in pursuit of a worthwhile goal.

Barack Obama, the US president, referred to the values we all share. Dalrymple says:

Either he was using the word ‘we’ in some coded fashion, in spite of having just referred to the whole of humanity, or he failed to notice that the attacks were the direct consequence of the obvious fact that we—that is to say the whole of humanity—do not share the same values. If we shared the same values, politics would be reduced to arguments about administration.

Screen Shot 2015-11-15 at 16.53.19Bono, the Irish pop star, said that the attacks were an attack on music. Dalrymple:

Bono might as well have said that this was an attack on restaurants, or on Cambodian cuisine.

The Guardian, the London newspaper, said the vast majority of Muslims abhorred the attacks. Dalrymple:

I do not exclude the possibility that this is so, but we do not know, and can probably never know, that it is so: for if Elizabeth I had ‘no desire to make windows into men’s souls’, we have no ability to do so, certainly on this question. But the Guardian wanted it to be so, and therefore, to its own satisfaction, it was so. This is a kind of magical thinking that persists in a supremely scientific age, and is dangerous because completely ineffective.

Screen Shot 2015-11-15 at 17.04.00

 

Praise for Libération and the Guardian

Screen Shot 2015-01-09 at 22.17.25The Financial Times disgraced itself, but other European newspapers’ response to the Charlie Hebdo shootings has been admirable, Dalrymple writes.

Libération has bravely given the magazine space in its office; the next edition of Charlie Hebdo will print 1m copies, 25 times its normal run. And in Britain, the Guardian has announced a donation of £100,000 to Charlie Hebdo.

The actions of Libération and the Guardian stand, Dalrymple points out,

in marked contrast to the pusillanimity displayed by George W. Bush during the Danish cartoon crisis of 2006, and by Barack Obama in 2012, when he criticized Charlie Hebdo for being offensive to Muslim sentiment.