5 September 2015

America can do better than Donald Trump, surely?


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Donald Trump is not a details guy. That being the case, I recommend – if you want some light entertainment – that you read the transcript of the latest interview with the real estate mogul, reality television star and wannabe President of the United States.

On Thursday, Hugh Hewitt once again interviewed the Republican frontrunner (think about that for a second, the Republican frontrunner is Donald Trump).

The host asked Trump about the Obama administration’s deal with Iran, and this is what transpired:

Hugh Hewitt: “I thought that today, this is our sixth interview, I’d turn to some of the commander-in-chief questions. Are you ready for that?”

Donald Trump: Okay, fine.

Are you familiar with Gen. Soleimani?

Yes, but go ahead, give me a little, go ahead, tell me.

He runs the Quds Forces.

Yes, okay, right.

Do you expect his behaviour—

The Kurds, by the way, have been horribly mistreated by us.

No, not the Kurds, the Quds Forces, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Quds Forces.

Yes, yes.

The bad guys.


Do you expect his behaviour to change as a result—

Oh, I thought you said Kurds, Kurds.

No, Quds.

Oh, I’m sorry, I thought you said Kurds, because I think the Kurds have been poorly treated by us, Hugh. Go ahead.”

On social media a lot of people jumped gleefully on the comments. It confirmed their view of Trump as a buffoon who does not know the basics of foreign policy. That’s a little unfair, although not all that unfair.

Of course, most people do not know the difference between the Quds and the Kurds, but then Donald Trump is not most people. He is running for the Republican nomination and hopes to be America’s commander in chief in 18 months’ time. If he doesn’t know what he is talking about he should be sophisticated enough to either subtly disguise it or to give a considered response that moves the conversation along. That’s not a plea for discredited spin, or chicanery, it’s just the basic intellectual agility that one expects in a man who may get his finger on the nuclear trigger.

But Trump not knowing seems to increase his appeal to many voters, such is the craziness of politics at the moment on both sides of the Atlantic. Expertise, in the political field or in office, is now seen by many disaffected voters as a real disadvantage. Polls conducted in Iowa suggest that Republicans want a candidate for 2016 who is an outsider.

On a smaller scale in the UK there are similar developments, with the hard-left’s Jeremy Corbyn favourite to become leader of the opposition Labour party. It seems to be greatly to Corbyn’s advantage that, despite having been a Labour party member of parliament for 32 years, he has never held office or been offered it. He is a professional activist and serial rebel who has been burbling away ill-advisedly for years on anti-Western propaganda outlets such as Russia Today and Iran’s Press TV. His description in 2011, revealed last week by British tabloids, of the death of Osama Bin Laden as another tragedy, in the same sentence in which he described 9/11 as a tragedy, was a new low point, and there is masses more of this stuff to come. The attack unit in Conservative party HQ has it stored up.

Like Trump, Corbyn is also not a details guy. Whenever he is pressed about his broad brush anti-capitalist ideas – to endlessly print money and nationalise the commanding heights of the economy – he looks mildly hurt. He responds that he simply wants a “debate” and sticks to Marxist generalisations.

The difficulty with these new incarnations of crazy populism is that the challenges – and the considerable opportunities – facing the West are immense in their scale. The upsides of globalisation come, it seems, with complications that must be dealt with and tragic human costs.

This week, Europe has been convulsed by the migrant crisis after the picture of one drowned three year-old boy on a Turkish beach broke the hearts of millions. The fate of thousands of migrants stuck in Budapest, desperate to reach welcoming Germany, has been chronicled movingly. Now they were embarked on a long march from Hungary to Austria and then Germany.

In this maelstrom the line between economic migrants and refugees has become hopelessly blurred, although as Fraser Nelson wrote in the Daily Telegraph, beyond Syria this Great Migration is as much a consequence of increased prosperity and aspiration as it is of poverty.

The world has been getting richer; globalisation is increasing mobility; and technology is disrupting traditional work patterns and creating innovations that will reshape the economy and potentially increase prosperity. Dealing with the consequences of these developments and fashioning institutions that can cope will require proper leaders, serious figures who deal in more than celebrity and glib anti-elite answers. In Europe, the EU as currently modelled is kaput and is proving not much good in the field of economics (in the shape of the single currency) or in border control and security either. What, one wonders, is it good at exactly apart from holding meetings?

The West can remake itself, just as a previous generation deployed its energies and ingenuity in rebuilding Western Europe with such extraordinary results after the destruction of the Second World War and the displacement on an epic scale that resulted from that conflict. We need overhauled defence arrangements, smarter/smaller government and something better than the EU in its current form. We need smart, sensible leaders.

On Trump, I recommend reading the rest of that Hewitt transcript because it actually gets much worse and even more amusing, particularly when it gets to the boastful passages in which Trump witters on about his ability to recondition buildings and how he will read up on all the tricky stuff, such as the difference between Hezbollah and Hamas. He will know the difference, he says, “when appropriate.”

America is such a great country, it can do a lot better than Donald Trump, surely?

Iain Martin is Editor of CapX