One way to pass an afternoon

In last Saturday’s FT, Christopher Caldwell, a Senior editor at the Weekly Standard, asks what cultural impact will Donald Trump have on America? The Trump Aesthetic is a good article (paywalled), even if somewhat depressing. But why should we be surprised?

I was struck by one sentence,

New presidencies have a ferocious cultural knock-on effect. They change how Washington talks, how provincial America sees itself, and what image the word “America” conjures up abroad.

It’s that last bit I have been thinking about. What image will we see?

Trump may hope it will be the Trump International Hotel in Washington, which Caldwell describes in the opening paragraph of his article.

I have a rather more dystopian image in mind – the Bates Motel.

And one correction.

In the article, Caldwell refers to Meryl Streep’s speech at the Golden Globes, in which, he says, she “deplored Trump’s alleged mockery of a New York Times reported with a withered hand, an accusation Trump denies.” And he points out that the problem with Streep’s comment, “Disrespect invites disrespect’, is that “this is precisely the criticism Trump’s supporters have always levelled at the elites for whom Streep speaks.”

I think Caldwell misses the point. The reporter, Serge Kovaleski, has arthrogryposis, a congenital condition that affects joint movement. Streep talked about Trump (not named in the speech) imitating the reporter (others used the word ‘mocked’) and what Streep was getting at was that by doing what he did, Trump legitimised bullying.

Watch ABC News’ report and draw your own conclusions.

Why is Surrey so loathsome?

Perhaps not so much Surrey, as the people who choose to live there. First there was the furore in July over the purchase by an Armed Forces charity of a house close to the Headley Court Military Rehabilitation Centre, near Ashstead in Surrey. Now, if Boris Johnson is to be believed (The Spectator,15 – 29 December), a woman swimming at a public pool in Leatherhead berated 15 wounded soldiers and their trainers, because part of the pool had been roped off for them. This apparently prevented her from doing her daily laps. “I pay to come here, ” she is reported as shouting at them, “and you lot don’t”. Although one hopes that her problem was that she hadn’t engaged her brain before opening her mouth, I wouldn’t have money on it. There seems to be a deep current of hostility to the military, possibly because many people seem unable to separate their opposition to the war that the Blessed Tony took us into, and the men and women whose job it is to fight it for us. Thankfully the Surrey woman’s reaction contrasts vividly with the recent TV reports of the public lining the streets of Cardiff and other UK cities and towns, to welcome home returning troops.

Not now darling

From the FT today: “The latest debacle in the CGT saga lays bare the weakness and dysfunction at the heart of Gordon Brown’s government,” said George Osborne, shadow chancellor. Vince Cable, acting Liberal Democrat leader, added: “It’s a text­book example of how not to run the Treasury and make tax law.” And what was Gordon doing? Well, he was in Lisbon, late, signing the Treaty.

The clunking fist

Less the clunking fist, more the dead hand.  Once again, as “Pensions ministers fight Treasury for extra cash” [FT Monday December 10], it seems that the Treasury team can make no decision without Gordon’s approval. ‘Careful consideration because of public spending implications’ is no more than an excuse for unappealing timidity. First the Forces, now 120,000 pensioners. It beggars belief.

Dealing with Dictators

Meeting people your mother would not like you to meet, and dealing with dictators are, whatever Jose Manuel Barroso may think, not one and the same thing. However you see the job specification for an international leader, it should not include giving respectability to tyranny. Had Gordon Brown given way to pressure to attend the EU-Africa Summit in Lisbon, he would have been doing just that. Better Kate Hoey’s comments in her letter to the Daily Telegraph this morning: that Gordon Brown should be congratulated for his principled stand.