I suspect people had more blind faith where their leaders were concerned before 1973. If Watergate or a comparable scandal (in terms of cultural impact) was to happen now, how would we respond to the revelation that the biggest elected representative in the land was a bit of a crook? Shock! Horror! Yes, certainly in the media’s delivery of the news to the masses; but what of the masses themselves? A shrug of the shoulders and a resigned ‘Well, they’re all bent bastards’, perhaps; indeed, one wonders if Richard Nixon would simply serve out his second term of office today and face down the challenge of impeachment as Bill Clinton did. The general consensus now we are sufficiently distanced from the activities of Tricky Dicky’s inept White House mobsters appears to be that what Nixon got up to behind closed doors was no worse than what many of his predecessors got up to, not to mention his successors.
It would now appear that, as a collective, the Kennedys got away with far more than Nixon ever managed; this could have been because they always looked good; and in politics, particularly American politics, that helps. Regardless of all the unappetising worms that have slithered out of the Kennedy can over the past half-century, the JFK model remains a potent political sales technique, seen just last week as desperate Democrats continue to submit a succession of bland shirt-sleeves-rolled-up congressmen, senators, governors and mayors from those States where hair is nearly always thick, black and slicked-back. Perhaps it’s a sign of the cynical times that whenever I catch sight of these showroom dummies on TV, my first thought is to wonder how long it’ll be before their campaign is derailed by the inevitable story of an affair with a call-girl or, worse, an allegation of a college rape. In the twenty-first century, it’s become second nature that we eventually expect our leaders to be revealed as bent bastards; in the twentieth, it wasn’t necessarily so.
Yes, opinion of politicians in general languishes so low today in comparison to forty or fifty years ago that it’s hard to think of a profession that outranks politics in terms of eliciting public revulsion. The only one that springs to mind – tabloid journalism – is probably as responsible for this state of affairs as any other, salivating over every scandal it has helped to break with as much energy as the politician has sought to cover-up the one he helped to make. The negative view of politicians has been largely generated by their own wicked deeds, though repeated exposure to them via the media has helped fan the flames. It’s been a partnership that has had disastrous consequences for both parties; and the more polarising politics is, the more determined each side becomes to destroy the other at the expense of everything else that needs dealing with.
Therefore, though I’ve only skimmed through the findings of the Mueller Report (or those sections highlighted online and on television) since its publication last week, skimming was as much as I could be bothered doing. I mean – is anyone going to be remotely surprised by anything it has to say, even its most damaging indictments of a presidency few outside of the most devoted rate much higher than the nearest sewer, anyway?
The reaction to the Mueller Report from both sides of the ideological barricades is a perfect portrait of a wider political divide and how the media has played its part. The anti-Trump brigade, religiously dedicated to every website and rolling news channel that reinforces their viewpoint of the Donald as the Devil incarnate, furiously rifled through the report in search of anything that confirmed what they already believed – and that was all they were looking for; similarly, the pro-Trump crowd did likewise, bringing all their gun-totin’ baggage and unswerving love of the Man from Del Monte to the table, solely seeking to finally prove he ain’t no buddy of Putin. Consequently, Mr President can confidently declare the findings exonerate him and extinguish the Russian rumours once and for all, whilst his more vocal political opponents can also locate plenty in the report that supports their opinion of Trump and can perhaps act as the launch-pad for a renewed attempt to oust him from office. Who in 2019, I wonder, could possibly approach such a report with a totally unbiased perspective?
Numerous senior Democrats have played the part of TV talking heads in the wake of the Mueller Report, furtively speculating on what fresh opportunities for attack its revelations have presented them with. But Democrats really need to get over Trump. I think western liberals in general need to get over Trump, but US opposition politicians and their supporters especially need to get over him. Their fanatical, foaming-at-the-mouth obsession is proving an obstruction to the one legitimate and indisputable means of evicting him from the White House – the ballot-box. If they don’t get their act together soon and push forward a candidate the entire Democratic Party (and then the majority of the country) can rally round before 2020, their nightmare is simply going to be prolonged for another four years and make their meltdown a permanent one.
The Democrat fixation on dislodging Trump by any means, fair or foul, is almost comparable to the similar tunnel vision some backbench Tories have on Brexit, with the potential to destroy their party if they don’t put the brakes on. The man’s not going anywhere for at least another eighteen months, so cease and desist from wasting time trying to evict him other than by persuading the electorate to do so when the time comes. Otherwise, Democrats risk being defined solely by their disproportionate hatred of Trump as much as the ERG is defined by its disproportionate hatred of the EU.
Yes, we’ve all enjoyed Alec Baldwin’s impersonation of the President, but let’s not pretend poking fun will change anything. One could evoke Peter Cook’s sarcastic summary of the spectacular success German satirists had in preventing the Nazis’ rise to power or perhaps remember how the Alternative Comedy generation had a thing about Thatcher without their fury making the slightest bit of difference to the Iron Lady’s staying power; in the end it was her own insane sense of invincibility that did for her, without any assistance from Ben Elton. Indeed, as a stand-up, Elton was as indebted to Margaret Thatcher as Mike Yarwood was to Harold Wilson. Lest we forget, one prominent member of the 80s comedy club is now a Dame of the British Empire; she burned a pin-prick in the ozone layer last week by jetting over to Central London during its reinvention as Glastonbury to link arms with trustafarians and tell us how we’re killing the planet. Some of us already knew that, just like we know the best way to get rid of Donald Trump is to find a better man – or woman.
© The Editor