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Saturday, 15 July 2017

Water off the Donald's Back

The pictures of yesterday's ceremonies in Paris feature two utterly bizarre couples. Wearing an almost-pristine Dior A-line dress of 1953, Melania Trump looked about the right age [but, certainly, not the right temperament] to be Mme Macron. Dressed for today, the real Mme Macron obviously made no positive impression on her near-contemporary, Donald Trump.

President Trump lapped up the limelight - it helped to correct the hassle he has been having at home - but it will be hard to find any evidence in the coming months that he actually feels any strong fellowship with a younger man who is trying to be monarchical while scrambling to assemble a sustainable government. Macron went home feeling that the day had been a success for French diplomacy: by the time Trump was in Air Force One the flattery had gone where the water goes off a duck's back. The net impact of the event was nil: except to reinforce the reflection in British minds that the French will never forgive the UK for saving them twice in the twentieth century. The French were thanking the US for entering the First World War in 1917, by which time hundreds of thousands of young Brits had been killed and wounded at the battle front in France.

Donald Trump is so used to apparent adulation from his TV audience, his minions in his patchily successful businesses, and the recent audiences at his campaigning rallies that he takes all such responses in the same way. He welcomes them, as reptiles welcome the warmth of the sun, because he needs them: but the impact of each day's intake is trivial in context of of the extent his previous experience. It has become apparent that he bridles - and twitters - at any critical comment that gets onto his radar; and this trait, too, seems now to have become ineradicable.

The progenitor of modern political campaigning in the United Kingdom, Benjamin Disraeli, was a magnet for criticism, much of it vitriolic. Some was easily turned aside as ignorantly antisemitic. For the more substantial venom of his many enemies [including much from his own party as he rose through the ranks] he had a well-studied display of contempt. He knew that success came to an outsider like himself by using his verbal facility and quick wit to pour flattery on those who could be useful to him. Once, when he was commended on this attribute, he responded on the lines of: "Everyone likes flattery; and with royalty I lay it on with a trowel". He showed the virtues of resilience and intelligence that have yet to be displayed by Macron, and which are apparently completely alien to Trump.

Another politician who combines indefeasible egocentricity with insensitivity to other people's opinions of him is Tony Blair. He has now imagined what shall happen to keep Britain in a 'reformed European Union'; or, perhaps, just within a European Economic Area where the continentals will surrender their 'red line' insistence on the free movement of peoples. It is sad that any newspaper would pay him for such tosh.

Politicians do almost nothing to deny to their fellow citizens the right to despise them.

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