Somewhere in my book collection and not immediately available to hand I have a copy of Arthur Woodstone’s 1970s book ‘Nixon’s Head.’ The single review of this on the Amazon website (where it’s available for 0.01p) as I recall accurately sums it up “Superb book, albeit of its time, which is based on the statement: 'I think anyone who wants to be president should have his head examined' (Averill Harriman, 1970). Woodstone conducts an arms-length psychological analysis of Richard Nixon based on his speeches, public statements and conduct etc. The reader can almost taste Woodstone's mounting horror at the sheer lunacy and palpable madness of Nixon's public pronouncements. I don't think it would spoil the ending for readers I if were to say Woodstone's conclusions tend to suggest Nixon was as mad as a bag of spanners.” (Credit: ‘Casual Observer’ 2007).
Now in the wake of the latest explorations of the madness of the current ruler in the White House (ref. Bob Woodward’s latest blockbuster and an anonymous op ed in the New York Times) I imagine a sign appearing on the Oval Office door: ‘You don’t have to be mad to work here, but it helps.’ We know of course that pyschiatrists shouldn’t pronounce on the mental health of people they have not directly had the opportunity to diagnose, but isn’t it time to waive the rule in the case of the ‘Leader of The Free World’?
If only Nixon had had the opportunity to Tweet, his tenure may have been truncated sooner. “F*****G BAD! They’re all lying C***S! I’LL GET THOSE B******S! S**T FACED MOTHERF*****S!”
One hopes that one day in the not too distant future we will have our Trump tapes. I suspect if such exist and they are made public our esteem for Nixon will rocket up, for in comparison to Trump Trickie Dickie was not an entire intellectual write off. But having said that, I would be the first to queue up for John Adams’ forthcoming opera Trump in North Korea. It would of course play to more packed houses than any presidential-themed opera before or since, including Abe Lincoln or Barack Obama to mention but two. Or the other 43. Yeah, and Hamilton as well.
This month 550 wildfires have been burning in British Columbia, with whole cities shrouded in smog. Who can say for sure this is the result of climate change? But it’s a fair question to ask, not least since the Canadian government was willing to pump billions of dollars into a new ‘Trans Mountain’ oil pipeline to get more product from the Albertan tar sands to the Pacific coast. But the good news is that a Federal Court of Appeal has thrown out the planned pipeline – on the grounds of objections by the indigenous Tsleil-Waututh Nation, who it appears were illegally sidelined in the whole business and who objected to the pipeline on environmental grounds. Thank heavens somebody can put two and two together, and on this occasion it doesn’t seem to be Justin Trudeau. Looks like his difficulties with Trump may get a bit bigger.
Frank Field’s resignation of the Labour Whip in parliament seems an odd thing to do, since his much aired complaint these last two days seems more to do with the Labour Party per se than the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) itself. He’s surely not so daft as to imagine that the two things don’t go hand in hand, and he will have to leave the Party, one way or the other. I suspect he wants to milk it for all it’s worth and hopes to be expelled, then he can stride with a martyr’s steps into the sunset. At 76 years old, I suspect he was near retirement anyway. His grandstanding reminds me of the sad affair of the late Brian Sedgemore’s departure in 2005. He came from the opposite end of the political spectrum but resigned over Iraq and then joined the LibDems. He was a regular rebel, and in an interesting parallel with Field, Sedgemore was ‘one of only five Labour MPs to vote for the Third Reading of the Maastricht Treaty in 1993, defying his party Whip, which was to abstain.’ (Wikipedia) At least Jeremy only had four rebels to deal with in the last E.U. ‘crunch’ vote. I do hope that now Field is no longer in the PLP he will relinquish chairing the Work and Pensions Select Committee without a fuss – in this parliament, that position is allocated to a Labour MP. He knows this. Will he go quietly, or will it be a case (yet again) of Jeremy being dictatorial/authoritarian/autocratic (also autocratical)/bossy/despotic/domineering/ imperious/overbearing/peremptory/tyrannical (also tyrannic)/tyrannous?*
*delete as appropriate; thanks to Merriam-Webster online dictionary
I met John McCain around 2006 at a Globe* UK meeting in London and now that the Arizona senator has died his work on climate change will no doubt be forgotten - whilst his anti-Trump stance gets all the attention. It is the case that during and after his presidential bid he dropped climate change as a priority, but he was at one time in the extraordinary position of being the leading Republican voice arguing for action. Perhaps I should say the only senior Republican to do so. An excellent review of his climate change activity appears here. Now we live in different times.
*Globe is an inter-parliamentary group campaigning on climate change, originally set up by Al Gore
Hold on to your seats. A former Scottish Labour MP, Tom Harris, who was defeated in the great SNP rout in 2015 has resigned from the Labour Party, citing ‘personal reasons.’ It was only after a friend he had confided in released this shattering news that Tom had to go public, using his column in The Daily Telegraph to list all his complaints, not least about the ‘racist and anti-semitic Jeremy Corbyn.’ I am shocked and horrified, albeit a few weeks after the event. It must have been Tom’s normally retiring personality that kept this one below the radar for so long. His readers must have wept as they cut out his article to stick in their ‘Jeremy Corbyn Is A Right Bastard’ scrapbooks, which they show off regularly to their fellow occipitally challenged friends. Their biggest fear at the moment is that Corbyn is going to scrap Trident missiles by dropping them all on Israel or something like that – we’ll have to wait for the right wing media to make up the story.
Anyway, it is clear that at least one of Labour’s (ex) centrists has forgotten that famous speech, delivered in Scarborough no less, by one H. Gaitskell MP (Leeds South) that “We may lose the vote today, and the result may deal this party a grave blow. It may not be possible to prevent it, but there are some of us, I think many of us, who will not accept that this blow need be mortal: who will not believe that such an end is inevitable. There are some of us who will fight, and fight, and fight again, to save the party we love. We will fight, and fight, and fight again, to bring back sanity and honesty and dignity, so that our party – with its great past – may retain its glory and its greatness.”
I have to say I can’t see a huge amount of honesty and dignity amongst Corbyn’s grumpy detractors, who seem to be making common cause with, errr …. the likes of The Daily Telegraph.
Whether or not the now infamous tape recording of Donald Trump using the N-word ever emerges no longer really matters, except insofar as it may prove yet again that he is a liar. For his core supporters it probably won't matter a jot if he used the word - indeed, his stock may rise even further with them, who probably use the word all the time. As for his opponents, they probably have no doubt that he used it, for the story is after all entirely believable. That Trump had and still nurtures a hatred for a prominent black man, Barack Obama may help explain his problem. Trump, from the days of his 'birther' campaigning never really believed that Obama was legitimate. Indeed, if Obama was actually born in Kenya that would mean he was not only black but alien. Would Trump have clinged to his accusations if Obama had been white? Yes, Trump says unpleasant things about white men and women, but his campaign against Obama was (and remains) visceral, and has followed him into the White House where he seeks to undo or undermine everything Obama did. Indeed, Trump would stand all that he believed in on its head if it gave him the opportunity to have a crack at Obama. Why else, for example would this arch-climate change denier sign (and presumably help pay for) a full page advertisement in the New York Times, at the time of the 2009 Copenhagen climate change summit calling on Obama to take tough action on behalf of the planet's future? One can be certain he was willing the president to fail (which, by the way, he more or less did).
A bit of casual racism for Trump is probably just another dose of 'locker room' talk. What's worrying is that he acts on it. But in defence of Trump his press secretary pointed to 700,000 African-Americans who since his election have now found work. This of course is balderdash. Many of the economic drivers would have been in place before his election, but needed time to work through. All that could be said is that if his policies benefit the American economy, they may also benefit black Americans. A big if and a big may, and colour blind.
If you can’t rig elections, the next best thing to do is to cancel them. Having just won an election, the new premier of Ontario Doug Ford has chosen the latter course. Has he begun as he means to go on? I’ve been following my old friend and parliamentary colleague Gordon Prentice’s blog on what’s been happening since the brother of the disgraced, former mayor of Toronto the late Rob Ford took office. Without so much as a hint in his manifesto (which was policy-lite in most regards) King Doug has set about dismantling democratic institutions in his province. He is a Conservative, and from what I have seen of his behaviour, loud-mouthed, boorish and cunning to boot. Canadian politics gets more interesting by the day for those who need some light relief from our interminable Brexit tedium.
Another spat in Trumpicana has emerged, which whilst not exactly new does provide some entertainment of a sinister sort. New Republic carries a story about how the Koch brothers, amongst the very richest men in the USA have serious concerns about the Donald. I imagine some of this has to do with their likely disdain for a parvenu billionaire – or possibly a pretend billionaire – but has led the POTUS to tweet : “The globalist Koch Brothers, who have become a total joke in real Republican circles, are against Strong Borders and Powerful Trade. I never sought their support because I don’t need their money or bad ideas. They love my Tax & Regulation Cuts, Judicial picks & more. I made..... [second tweet continues] ....them richer. Their network is highly overrated, I have beaten them at every turn. They want to protect their companies outside the U.S. from being taxed, I’m for America First & the American Worker - a puppet for no one. Two nice guys with bad ideas. Make America Great Again!” (tweeted 31st July)
It now seems that the brothers, or Charles Koch in particular is upset that some of the Republican candidates they paid for aren’t sufficiently delivering on their agenda, and they’re going to get tough with them. This could lead to a very interesting battle within the GOP. The Kochs really do spend a lot of dollars on their chosen candidates, some of whom will be facing a resurgent Democratic tide. Who will they turn to – or what will they turn to, Koch money or Trump bluster? It’s a peculiar battle to have, since most of what the brothers stand for aligns with Trump’s agenda – climate change denial, tax cuts, reduced environmental regulation, etc., etc. But in this battle Trump is playing it quite cannily, placing himself with the workers against the tax avoiding rich bastards. A hint of Germany in the 1930s perhaps.