US President Elect – Donald Trump
With the combination of Brexit and Donald Trump subjects likely to remain the order of the day for a considerable while I suspect that in terms of experience I can count myself fortunate in having so many interesting subjects to write about. For the moment and because they are having real impact on all of us as opposed to a few, political matters will take priority along with defence but rest assured that I will not be ignoring financial, equity and industrial matters either.
While the Trump issue dominates now and will continue to provide reams of comment together with unnecessary and damaging speculation from press and media I guess that it won’t be that long before, on this side of the pond at any rate, Brexit negotiation issues resume their place as a priority amongst so-called opinion formers.
Combined, the issues of Brexit plus the election of Donald Trump have sparked wide ranging speculation and a great many different and diverse views. Now, while I would love to be able to say stop worrying, be patient and leave it to the diplomats, civil servants and politicians to work out, I am both old and wise enough to know that in this media dominated and led age, such are no longer options. Speculation can be and most often is very damaging and often causes unnecessary fear. I very much regret that much of what we are seeing, hearing and reading right now in regard of Brexit combined with disparaging and potentially damaging views in relation to Donald Trump are making the already difficult periods of transition on both issues worse. Of necessity I will be cautious in expressing views that I hold in order not to make matters worse!
Rather than build around one specific Trump related issue today, such for instance as the impact that his presidency ‘might’ or ‘might not’ have on defence, what follows will, I hope, be diverse in terms of a range of opinion offered around these great issues of our time. There is as I have already implied, no shortage of opinion available as to what a Trump presidency might look like or of what he might or might not do but, again as I suggested last week, we should, to a greater or lesser extent in my view, attempt to better understand that US Presidents are limited in terms of what they can actually do themselves and that just as most of us are, they have to account for their actions. Donald Trump will be no exception and while that is not to suggest that he will continue along a similar Washington political path to his predecessors, it is to remind that the US system of government is hardly short of checks and balances in order to safeguard the system from becoming a dictatorship.
As the highly respected US commentator John Maudlin pointed out in his latest ‘Thoughts from The Frontline’ column overnight, “no matter what Donald Trump might like to do, 90% of the things he proposes have to [first] be approved by Congress”.
None of the above is to suggest that we should be complacent or believe that, come January, life will just go on unchanged. As my chum Anthony Peters notes in his own daily piece this morning, “the world on Monday, November 14th is a very different place to the one that it was on Monday, November 7th”.
The bottom line is that there isn’t a single one of us that has a clue what the new world order under a Trump presidency will look like let alone what a Britain outside of the EU might be and if that is so then we have no other choice but to be patient, to let our elected politicians do their thing and to wait and see what the outcome is.
One thing is certain though and that is if Donald Trump is to make any mark on the American domestic system he will need to do it during his first year to eighteen months. After that it becomes very difficult to effect real and lasting change. President Obama found that out the hard way and as such, has or will be paying a heavy price in terms of the absence of much legacy.
There has been much discussion surrounding remarks made by NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg over the weekend when he ‘warned’ US President-elect Donald Trump that “going it alone is not an option, either for Europe or for the United States”. In an article published in the Guardian, Stoltenberg writes that, following Donald Trump’s election, “the West is now facing its biggest security challenge for a generation” and he argues that “now is the time to nurture what unites under ‘strong American leadership” adding that “The only time NATO has invoked its self-defence clause, that an attack on one is an attack on all, was in support of the United States after the 9/11 terrorist attacks [since when] hundreds of thousands of European soldiers have served in Afghanistan and [during which] more than a thousand paid the ultimate price in an operation that was a direct response to an attack against the United States”.
While it is understandable that the head of NATO should respond to spurious and unfortunate remarks made by Donald Trump back in 2015 when the now president elect suggested that the collective defence system [i.e. NATO] was “obsolete” I do not read this to suggest that Trump will attempt to take the US away from the NATO alliance structure or indeed, that this indicates that the US would seek to walk away from supporting Europe. But it is to suggest, and rightly so as I said last week, that Europe must now pay a higher cost of defence and accept that the 70% of NATO costs that are currently paid for by the US must be better spread around all NATO allies.
It was pleasing to see the Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Stu Peach countering the Stoltenberg view by saying that he was sure that Donald Trump will [continue] to fully support NATO’s ongoing commitment to provide security. “NATO is”, ACM Peach said “a very durable and enduring collective security organisation and in that role it’s very important that we honour that commitment. I have every confidence” he said “that commitment will be honoured should that be necessary”. On all the above points I completely agree and while I accept that the NATO chief was probably correct to proffer some kind of response to what Donald Trump had earlier reportedly said, I am in complete agreement with the UK view that while there can be no complacency in regard to a change in attitude that has been witnessed in voting out of what we may call conventional government structure in favour of an as yet unknown quantity, NATO will continue to endure.
That of course is not the view of all NATO members and press and media in the UK lost no has been quick to note that while our Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson declined to accept a short notice invitation from German Chancellor Angela Merkel to attend a private EU meeting yesterday to discuss the election of Donald Trump as the next President of the USA, what they failed to mention for the most part is that the French declined as well. Foreign Minister of all EU nations will meet today in Brussels as previously arranged but the conspiracy theory that Johnson snubbed the invitation because he wanted no part in it was completely wrong. Just as the French were also committed to the act of remembrance following the tragic events of a year ago in Paris. So too was Boris Johnson committed to the act of remembrance in Whitehall and places elsewhere yesterday as well.
All of which brings me to my last point in respect of the post Brexit, post Trump scenario – press and media. Never have I read or heard so much drivel spoken or being written on a range of important issues than I have on these two subjects. That’s the way it appears anyway and social media has joined in the fun too. It is as if the only thing that the vast majority of those that write, speak or broadcast on these subjects have in their minds is that it MUST at all costs be opposite and negative to the ‘conservative’ or status quo view.
Leading the left wing dominated plot to paint the US president elect Trump as a potential danger to world peace and stability and one who might well lead to US nay global economic recession comes the BBC. Now, in saying this I am not suggesting that US channels have behaved that much better or that, here at home, ITN or Sky have that much to be proud about either. Funnily enough they all have one thing in common – while they produced countless hundreds of hours broadcasting and many thousands of written lines putting the fear of god into the prospect of a Trump win at the presidential election last Tuesday, all of them failed to predict that he would win.
For the BBC and which is supposed to be a national assets financed by the licence payer, I find the attempted creation of fear and foreboding in respect of a Trump election very concerning indeed. It is to an extent almost a repeat of how the BBC, amongst others, failed to predict a Conservative Party win at the last General Election in May last year and indeed, a Brexit vote in June of this year. In terms of output, BBC viewers and listeners have been paying the price for the shock of the various election and referendum votes ever since and it seems that the only answer that the BBC’s left wing leaning army of journalists can do is to provide whatever hostages to fortune they can in the form of presenting negatives.
Arguably, in its supposed quest to present both sides of the argument, we are well used to the BBC challenging every minister, every department, every policy and every strategy put forward by government. The implication is seemingly always that when they have done something then it is bound to be wrong so let’s tear it to pieces and that when they [government] have not done something and that the BBC thinks they should have then they are equally fair game to tear apart.
I suppose what worries me most is that probably one half of the news stories presented by the BBC today are not really news but moreover, comment and opinion by one particular journalist. I accept that the fault lies more in the editorial staff at the BBC who decide the bias of the various arguments they are looking for from their journalist staff that it is the journalists themselves who are to blame but I tire of listening to one sided opinion from those that have a vested interest in doing an elected government down.
The pity is that the BBC has been given its new charter without being brought to heel in respect of biased and misleading opinion. Better that the BBC should do no other than report news rather than provide opinion but I recognise that is not a possible option. Arguably there is too much news already and the sooner the likes of 24 Hour News channels are dropped the better – not than many watch them really and while I recognise that business often has BBC News Channel on its screens thankfully most of them are on mute.
Of course, I cannot ignore the BBC and I listen to BBC Radio 4 and a dumbed down jangled up BBC World Service frequently. The BBC does have a job to do and to a great extent it does that job very well, albeit with far too many journalists and at far to greater expense. I dislike criticising what is a national institution and asset and one that should be supporting our nation. But when I see an institution such as this playing a part in breaking down society then I start to get very worried about where all this is going!
CHW (London 14th November 2016)
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