When will they learn? Donald Trump’s liberal Left detractors, I mean. Yesterday the man they love to disparage and diminish, whose critics were certain he would have been brought down by now, surprised them once again.
The revelation in the Washington Post that the Director of the CIA (and possibly soon to be Secretary of State) Mike Pompeo had met Kim Jong-un over the Easter weekend as a precursor to face-to-face talks between the North Korean leader and President Trump had the BBC’s US correspondent Jon Sopel reaching for his smelling salts.
You have to hear his interview in full here from the BBC’s Today programme with Nick Robinson to enjoy his discomfiture:
Straining to be positive about the man he’s always rubbished; trying not to hate an outcome – talks – that all good liberals are meant to love; and struggling to acknowledge that maybe, just maybe, Donald Trump’s threat of bigger and more powerful nukes tweeted to the bizarre and cruel dictator (ridiculed by Trump as ‘Little Rocket Man’) had worked, had Sopel stumped for words:
‘I find it difficult to – kind of – find the words to convey this sense of shock, disbelief. It’s jaw-dropping.’
Poor old Jon. Trump’s election to the presidency had stuck in his craw from the start. Sopel was at the forefront of the BBC’s ‘election campaign’ against Trump; the correspondent who queried Trump’s ability to shake off allegations of racism and sexism in a presidential victory he described as ‘the most shocking in American political history’.
To Sopel’s chagrin, Trump has done just that. And here he is, the US President, still riding the tide of attempts to bring him down all at the same time as taking decisive action on tax and tariffs and acting in Syria where his predecessor prevaricated. Now, if the meeting with Kim Jong Un – planned for late May or early June – comes off, Sopel has to compute this in too. The first face-to-face meeting between a sitting US President and a North Korean leader. No mean achievement for a man the New York Times portrayed last January as, if not mentally ill, a jerk.
From the moment Mr Trump sought the Republican nomination this has been the meme. The latest attack just this week from former FBI director, James Comey, doing the rounds of the US TV studios to push his book, cast him as morally unfit and a threat to bedrock American values.
Only for the Donald, right on cue, to surprise again.
So could we have, as Victor Davis Hanson moots here, not a nutcase rather an American hero in the making?
If so, it will be because of (not despite) ‘his tweeting, his rallies, his feuding, his nonstop motion and unbridled speech’. For this is his brand and however uncontrolled it may seem, it is what makes Trump what he is even if, Hanson predicts, it eventually banishes him from establishment Washington, whether after or during his elected term.
Mr Trump does not care whether he is acting ‘presidential’ or not. ‘He does not worry whether his furious tweets, his revolving-door firing and hiring, and his rally counterpunches reveal a lack of stature or are becoming an embarrassing window into his own insecurities and apprehensions.’
The real moral question that Hanson poses, is not whether Trump could or should become ‘civilised’ (presidential), but whether he can be of service at the opportune time and place for his country.
It seems he can.
Nearly half of all Americans probably always thought he could and would. Given the direction of their country, they needed an outsider to protect their interests, to restore some sense of morality nationally and internationally, which he is proving to be doing. That was why they voted for him – it needed someone different.
I wonder now, in light of these unprecedented North Korea talks, whether even the great Victor Davis Hanson will think he has spoken too soon.
His very flaws, Hanson writes tentatively, may be his strengths. What if they are his strengths? What if the current US president has the last laugh?
The question I ask is this. Has the entire establishment – from Left to Right – totally underestimated Donald Trump, the man they all accuse of suffering from a short attention span? Maybe it is they who are unable to think as clearly or as quickly as Trump, and who can’t gauge, as this businessman does, when to step on the accelerator, when to brake and when to change gear.