Calculated Buffoonery: Trump in the UK

Photo by theodoritsis | CC BY 2.0

Blighty this week saw Trump arriving in the UK for a much scaled-down “working visit”, after being invited by the boot-licking and masochistic Theresa May for an official state-visit that was never going to materialize because of the prospect of massive protests.

The Orange Man avoided London, except for a night spent at the US embassy, because of the anticipated street-blocking protests.

Apart from that night sequestered in the US embassy, Trump was relegated to non-metropolitan venues, without the official state dinner hosted by the queen at Buckingham Palace, and the military parade and gun salute so loved, perhaps to an inordinate degree, by the Vietnam draft-dodger.

But there are, after all, convincing psychological theories about such “compensatory” phenomena.

Hence, given his similar avoidance of service in Vietnam, Dubya Bush’s absurdly faked “Mission Accomplished” episode, landing him in pilot’s regalia on an aircraft carrier conveniently positioned just off the US coast, was probably “compensatory” in a similar fashion.

(With the US’s somewhat immoderate propensity to invade and bomb other countries, it is perhaps ironic that the submariner Jimmy Carter was the last US president to serve in the military.)

For a formal dinner during his UK visit Trump had to settle for a venue in the provinces, the albeit vast Blenheim Palace, where Winston Churchill happened to be born.  But the queen would not be there.

The Brits were probably hoping to compensate for Trump’s obvious downgrade with a little bit of “symbolism”.

Any of Blenheim’s gold accoutrements, some stashed away in its basement for centuries, no matter how tacky, were likely to be brought upstairs for the delectation of the gold-obsessed American dignitary.

Putting on this kind of tawdry show wasn’t a problem for the UK’s establishment—it  has after all been utterly willing to entertain criminal, and sometimes brutal, heads of state during the reign of Elizabeth II.  To provide a few examples:

Hirohito of Japan; Nicolae Ceausescu of Romania; Mobutu of Zaire; the Shah of Iran; Suharto of Indonesia; Mugabe; Reagan, Bill Clinton, and Dubya Bush; Giscard d’Estaing (those gorgeous diamond gifts from the “Emperor” Bokassa),  Mitterrand (the Vichy collaborator), Chirac (the master of accepting bribes), and Sarkozy (donations from Gadhafi) of France; Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan; Sultan Bolkiah of Brunei (knighted by the queen, and where “homosexuality” is punished by stoning to death); and several Saudi despots anyone?

Given this record, Blighty’s establishment wasn’t therefore batting an eyelid on the principle of hosting Trump on this visit.  Their main concern was twofold:  (1) shielding someone with an unbridled narcissism from huge protests all over the country that could, even for a tiny moment, impinge on that narcissism; and (2) protecting the queen from possible future bad publicity ensuing from Trump’s complicated and conceivably compromised dealings of multiple kinds (especially given that the Mueller investigation into these and other matters is not yet over).

If you kill millions of your opponents, as Suharto did in Indonesia, and still manage to get a state visit involving a carriage ride with the Queen and a formal dinner in Buckingham Palace, then entertaining Trump outside London, without affording the orange-hued Trump what was given the brown-skinned Suharto, is mere chump change for Blighty.

“Perfidious Albion”, for centuries, has had a fully deserved reputation when it comes to such unprincipled accommodations with any number of despots, crooks, and charlatans.

So Trump’s bizarre Blighty show simply went on.  And it was some show!

Trump heralded his visit by giving an interview to a Murdoch-owned rag, in which he said Theresa May’s Brexit proposal was a betrayal of British voters, and “would probably end [Britain’s] major trade relationship with the United States”.

Trump went on to say that Boris “BoJo” Johnson, who resigned his cabinet position in protest at May’s “soft” Brexit proposal, would make “a great prime minister” (the narcissistic BoJo was a complete disaster at his two previous jobs, mayor of London and foreign secretary).

Trump then took a bash at immigration:  “I think it changed the fabric of Europe and, unless you act very quickly, it’s never going to be what it was and I don’t mean that in a positive way”.

He then accused London’s Muslim mayor Sadiq Khan of abetting “terrorism”:  Khan has “done a very bad job on terrorism by allowing so many migrants to come to the city”.

Khan’s supporters pointed out that immigration-policy for London, as with the whole of Britain, is the brief of the home secretary/interior minister (a position held by May herself for years before she became prime minister).

More surreality was to come the next day.

At a bizarre and largely incoherent press conference with May, just before he left for tea with the queen prior to his golfing break in Scotland, Trump repudiated nearly everything he had said the day before in his interview with the Murdoch tabloid.

After grabbing May’s hand, and refusing to take a question from CNN’s Jim Acosta (“fake news”), he now, astonishingly, pledged support for her post-Brexit plan, saying it would not preclude a US trade deal.

Trump insisted, with his snake-oil bombast, that the US’s relationship with the UK was “the very highest level of special”.

Trump is renowned for having no sense of humour, and so does not do irony intentionally, but he then denounced Murdoch’s rag for spreading “fake news” by publishing his interview.

A spokesperson for the (pro-Trump) Murdoch tabloid later debunked Trump by saying they had the audio tape of the interview and offered to make it available to the public.

Trump then went on to repeat his claim that BoJo would make a “great” prime minister (because “he’s been nice to me”), while May stood next to him with a pale and expressionless look.

Later, at tea with the 92-year old queen, the monarch was kept waiting at the entrance to her Windsor Castle apartments for 15 minutes. Trump then strode ahead of the no-longer sprightly monarch when they began inspecting a military parade.

As prime minister, the Maybot has a weekly audience with the queen.  Many, like me, would love to be the proverbial fly-on-the-wall at their next audience.

Meanwhile massive anti-Trump protests were occurring all over the UK in a carnivalesque atmosphere.

In addition to the blimp of Trump as an angry baby, the London demonstration saw Trump toilet paper being sold on the street, and protesters carrying signs which said:

“Bastard has ruined orange forever”, “Piss off you orange bastard”, “I could shit a better president”, “Free Melania”, “Even Melania thinks you’re a dick”, “Too many tweets make a twat”, “Big orange twat”, “Trump as welcome as a World Cup 3rd place playoff”, “Tyrant racist umpa-lumpa misogynist psychopath”, “You’re even worse than Morrissey”, “In England Trump means fart”, “All in all you’re just another prick with no wall”, “Sorry but you’re just not our cup of tea”, “Take Boris with you”, “Don’t let Trump grab us by the country” (sign held by a woman), “Go home Trump we have enough racists as it is”, “If the US government was an orchestra Trump would be its air guitarist”, “Fake-off Donald!”, “Can’t comb over sexism”, “We shall overcomb”, “No to torture no to Trump”, “Keep your tiny hands off our queen”, “Feed him to the corgis”, “Golden towers & golden showers”, “This crowd is bigger than your inauguration crowd”, and so forth.

Trump arrived at his luxury Scottish golf resort–  supposedly for a “private” visit, but with UK taxpayers stiffed for the considerable security costs–  while a paraglider flew overhead with a banner which said “Trump: Well below par”.

The angry baby blimp reappeared in Edinburgh for its protest.

Meanwhile there has been some tongue-in-cheek speculation in UK social media about the possibility of a mistake being made in the prescription for the Orange Creepoid’s medications for his “mercurial” demeanour during his visit to the UK.

As a Brit living in the US for 31 years, I intervened in some blogs to say (albeit not tongue-in-cheek) that the possible prescription mix-up scenario is decidedly implausible.

Meds–  we know that one, propecia, is needed to grow hair for his baroque combover despite having well-publicized adverse side effects–  or no meds, Trump’s always like this.

Brits probably don’t realize that Trump’s buffoonery and coarseness in the UK was calculated, purely and simply, for his base in the US. That is, if “calculation” was involved, because what we saw was in keeping with what is now instinctive for the Donald.

Many belonging to Trump’s “populist” US base feel disadvantaged by individuals with rank and status, and here was their man socking it to those snobby Brits, the way he does to the “elites” in the US!

Meanwhile Trump and his grifter family continue laughing their way to the bank at the expense of these populists.

Trump’s populist supporters are being taken for an almighty ride, though to exculpate them, so was Blighty’s Oxford-educated Maybot, with the queen as her unwitting accomplice.


Kenneth Surin teaches at Duke University, North Carolina.  He lives in Blacksburg, Virginia.