A day before his inauguration I thought it’d be good to take a fairly lighthearted look at the president-elect, as seen by the UK’s archetypal political egghead, Michael Gove, together with Kai Diekmann from Bild, on Sunday.
The charm of being there
This is from the full transcript of the interview (sadly, as with the others, behind the Times paywall):
In your campaign you said Angela Merkel’s policy on Syrian refugees was insane. Do you still think so?
I think it’s not good. I think it was a big mistake for Germany. And Germany of all countries, ’cause Germany was one of the toughest in the world for having anybody go in, and, uh, no I think it was a mistake. And I’ll see her and I’ll meet her and I respect her. And I like her but I think it was a mistake. And people make mistakes but I think it was a very big mistake. I think we should have built safe zones in Syria. Would have been a lot less expensive. Uh, get the Gulf states to pay for ’em who aren’t coming through, I mean they’ve got money that nobody has.
Would have been a lot less expensive than the trauma that Germany’s going through now — but I would have said — you build safe zones in Syria. Look, this whole thing should have never happened. Iraq should not have been attacked in the first place, all right? It was one of the worst decisions, possibly the worst decision ever made in the history of our country. We’ve unleashed — it’s like throwing rocks into a beehive. It’s one of the great messes of all time. I looked at something, uh, I’m not allowed to show you because it’s classified – but, I just looked at Afghanistan and you look at the Taliban – and you take a look at every, every year its more, more, more, you know they have the different colours – and you say, you know – what’s going on?
Serious subjects, but I wanted to highlight this:
I looked at something, uh, I’m not allowed to show you because it’s classified …
There’s something charming about someone so artless about to receive the coveted “most powerful person in the world” moniker. As the eponymous Professor Dunning conceded last week – the most sensible comment in the whole NY Magazine piece in question:
Although, to be fair: “I can’t imagine anybody walking into the Oval Office and it not being the Dunning-Kruger effect. The job has so many complex dimensions, there’s economic and social and foreign policies, I don’t know how anybody thinks they could program their range to do all of it. But that’s why you hire good people, I guess.”
And he seems to have done that. I pray for the guy.
46 million reasons to tweet
Later in the same transcript:
When you’re president will you still tweet? And if you do will it be as the Real Donald Trump, as Potus, or probably as Real Potus?
@realDonaldTrump I think, I’ll keep it . . . so I’ve got 46 million people right now — that’s a lot, that’s really a lot … I’m covered so dishonestly by the press — so dishonestly — that I can put out Twitter — and it’s not 140, it’s now 140, 280 [characters] — I can go bing bing bing and I just keep going and they put it on and as soon as I tweet it out
This hasn’t happened before. I don’t know either.
Three sections from Michael’s summary article:
During the race for the Republican presidential nomination, Donald Trump had an insult for every rival. Marco Rubio was “little Marco” and Jeb Bush was “low energy Jeb”. These jibes were more than just debating techniques to unsettle his opponents. They were carefully designed to draw a contrast between The Donald and The Others. Because when you meet him you realise there is nothing, absolutely nothing, small-scale or low-wattage about America’s president-elect.
Donald J Trump appears like a man who has been plugged into some power source where the dial has been turned up to levels well beyond what the safety regulations would recommend. His skin glows a sodium orange, his hair is blonder than any human you will have encountered and his clothes are in primary colours so bold they make everyone else in the room seem dowdy. …
Mr Trump’s view is that Europe is dominated by Germany, and Britain was wise to extract itself: “You look at the European Union and it’s Germany. Basically a vehicle for Germany. That’s why I thought the UK was so smart in getting out.” …
He’s no Kissinger and you’d no more expect him to discuss Clausewitz and Kennan than set fire to his own hair. But intelligence takes many forms. And Mr Trump’s number-rich analysis of defence spending reflects a businessman’s ability to cut through jargon to get to the essentials of a case.
Well, I enjoyed those anyway.
At the end of the transcript:
Are you looking forward to meeting our prime minister?
Well, I’ll be there — we’ll be there soon — I would say we’ll be here for a little while but and it looks like she’ll be here first — how is she doing over there, by the way, what do you think?
She’s got very strong approval ratings.
Popular. How are they doing with the break-up? How’s the break-up going?
Well, the PM wants to get a strong deal with the US.
Well, we’re gonna get a trade deal. Well, how is our Nigel doing? I like him, I think he’s a great guy, I think he’s a very good guy and he was very supportive. He’d go around the US — he was saying Trump’s gonna win. He was one of the earliest people that said Trump was gonna win. So, he’s gotta feel for it. Michael, you should’ve written that we were gonna win. [my bold]
Well, at least let me give you a copy of my book on how to fight terrorism.
Good, I’d love that. That’s fantastic — how to fight terrorism, I can use that.
I’m sure Theresa May was delighted to see a further glowing reference to Nigel Farage. But she’s making her own waves this week. Again, I loved the artlessness of the last line. Others may see risks.
No mention of climate in questions or answers. As Paul wisely said yesterday on my last thread:
I suppose my one-sentence summary [of the past year] would be that the political upheavals of Brexit and Trump seem to have overshadowed climate issues as well as creating an air of increased bitterness and division.
But, as I suggested on the my last-but-one thread, this could just be democracy working at its best, given that climate action of any kind is such a low priority for voters:
On western voters my view is that most people rate policies purporting to deal with climate change as a very low priority indeed. The UN poll is perhaps the most striking, highlighted by Bjorn Lomborg in September 2015 and by Kenneth Richard in September 2016. (Richard also provides other polling evidence from the United States.) Many people weren’t paying attention to climate science as they came to vote in the UK or the US but the success of climate sceptics in those elections is very much in line with their views. And that’s an extremely good thing.
Tom Fuller has since given an alternative, lukewarmer take on the UN polling. (Link welcome.)
In any case, as climate sceptics, or as anything else, we’ll just have to wait and see.