What fun it is to watch Theresa Mayormaynot leap effortlessly from her privileged disdain for all things Donald to blowing his Trumpet on the failure of “interventionist foreign policy”. Our Prime Minister’s pyrotechnic political gymnastics just keep on getting better: she is emerging as the nearest thing Britain has to a Cruella D’Evile Knievel peddling like mad through the thin air between two sides of the Grand Canyon.
Mother Theresa had wangled not just the first signature in the Trump Visitors’ Book, but also a joint press conference with he of the preceding hairline. Just think about it: eight months ago she was a failing Home Secretary Remainer licking the likes of David Cameron, Jean-Claude Juncker and Hillary Clinton all over. Now that’s all over, she’s reduced to following in the clod-hopping footsteps of Nigel Farage. Not so much How the Mighty are Fallen, more How the Flighty like Mugging with the Famous.
But of course, this isn’t just Theresa’s ego, oh no – that’s only about 93% of the story. This is about geopolitics: May needs to show the punks in Brussels and the drunk in Luxembourg that she’s a big girl now and can put trade deals together that don’t involve a €58 billion deficit every year.
Talking last night to people in Washington, I think it’s fair to say that May gave good head to the Republican Party (about which institution, Trump gives not a shit) but that the impression made on Day One in US media was close to nothing. But then, Theresa – like all British leaders since Churchill – needs the reflective light of a President in office to capture the average American’s attention. And today was her big day.
To be honest, the occasion was all over the place. The meeting started late; the press pack was told the presser would therefore be very late…but then, ten twenty minutes early, it started. Those of us able to divide hours into minutes therefore concluded that the private meeting had been, um, brief. However, it then turned out that they were going away to talk some more. Make of that what you will.
Trump gave the usual less than convincing we-love-Britain-dearly schmooze that those of us on this side of the Pond have heard 7,405 times; but to be fair he was polite, gracious and sounded more like he meant it than Obama. May’s response was startling in that she talked about “the bonds of history between us”….but she muffed ‘bonds’ and it came out like ‘bombs’. For a moment I thought we were having an outbreak of honesty, but nobody else reacted. So I have to assume that I have Freudian tympanic membranes.
I wanted to give May 11 out of 10 for her response when, Trump having said he wasn’t wild about Russian sanctions, she said well Buddy, we are. I don’t agree with her on this, but she didn’t shrink from her support for State/Pentagon foreign policy. What I found hard to marry was this “viewpoint” with what she’d said in her speech of the day before about less of the intervening thing.
But then, Mother Theresa is inclined to say one thing in May, something different in January, and then something just as different the next day in January. You always know where you are with the Prime Minister: what’s a lot less clear is whereTF she is.
Not surprisingly, the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg got an early question slot. I found her choice of subject and élite bias utterly predictable, in that she focused on torture during interrogation and abortion as Trump views “that most people in Britain find alarming”. As it happens, I do too: but “most people” was one of those bubble-dwelling opinions casually sprayed out by the 3% in W1 and W2 on behalf of the 97% who live somewhere very different, and thus think very differently.
Oddly – given privileged multicultural wild-child Laura had directed the question at Trump – May took it. She took it, blathered all over it, said the President had told her he was “100% behind NATO” and then grinned oddly. So it fell to The Donald to say he believed in torture, but his top general didn’t…but as he’d appointed the guy, it seemed only fair to let him get on with it in his own way.
A question about Brexit had President Trump showing his most unattractive trait – that of “I told you what would happen and I called it right” – but more pertinently saying that it was easier to deal with individual EU member States than Brussels functionaries. This was an obvious dig at those who prefer the TTIP globalist approach.
Much funnier was the Fox News bloke’s question to Theresa May as to whether she was concerned about the US relationship with Mexico. Trump jumped in to suggest she might have more pressing things on her mind, and the PM told a baffled audience that both she and the President had the needs of ordinary people at the centre of their philosophy.
Then Donald Trump said thank you very much to nobody in particular, and the Happy Couple walked offstage.
Over the next hour, the BBC told us what we’d already heard, which was good of them. It was a classic case of regurgitated narrative one hundred per cent deficient in useful analysis or insight. Not once did anyone – anchor, hack in the field or guest talking head – scoff at the idea of two people who, after a twenty-minute meeting, asked us to believe that they had established a viable working relationship.
“I am a people person,” said Trump during the presser, “and I can tell that Theresa is too”. As an example of risible cliche immediately followed by rank bad judgement, that one would be hard to beat.