There is No UN backing there is No Westminster backing there is No transparency and there is No process. The strikes on Syria have little to do with seeking peace and everything to do with covering the domestic shambles of Trump and May, the Prime Minister’s Brexit embarrassment and the President’s unfolding legal humiliation. Theresa May has usurped the UK parliament and Britain’s vague quivering set of constitutional ambiguity is once again used as cover for direct rule.
As Caroline Lucas has it: “Air strikes on #Syria have done nothing to increase chances of peace so far & no evidence they’ll do so now. We need consistent foreign policy – stronger sanctions, more peace building, end arms sales to Saudi Arabia etc – and it needs to be set by parliament not US President.”
Meanwhile in Trumpland El Presidente foams rage and fury at the publication of James Comey’s A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies and Leadership, like a teenager on an endlessly needy dopamine hunt, Trump wails into the ether:
“Do I look like a guy who needs hookers?”
… to which the entire world nods in unison: “Yeah, yeah you do.”
It’s not exactly a revelation but Comey’s declarations are still astonishing.
“This president is unethical, and untethered to truth and institutional values,” he writes. “His leadership is transactional, ego driven and about personal loyalty.”
But reviewing the book in the Irish Times, Michiko Kakutani suggests a deeper decay. Trump is either the infection or part of a wider disease:
“The central themes that Comey returns to throughout this impassioned book are the toxic consequences of lying, and the corrosive effects of choosing loyalty to an individual over truth and the rule of law. Dishonesty, he writes, was central “to the entire enterprise of organized crime on both sides of the Atlantic”, and so, too, were bullying, peer pressure and groupthink – repellent traits shared by Trump and company, he suggests, and now infecting our culture.
“We are experiencing a dangerous time in our country,” Comey writes, “with a political environment where basic facts are disputed, fundamental truth is questioned, lying is normalized and unethical behaviour is ignored, excused or rewarded.”
Kakutani returns again and again to the analogy of the mafia, a technique that you suspect is not purely a literary one. He compares Trump’s demand for loyalty over dinner to “Sammy the Bull’s Cosa Nostra induction ceremony – with Trump, in the role of the family boss, asking me if I have what it takes to be a ‘made man’.”
Kakutani has a ruthless eye for detail, noticing for instance that he’s never seen Trump laugh, an inability to “be vulnerable or to risk himself by appreciating the humor of others, which, on reflection, is really very sad in a leader, and a little scary in a president”.
If Trump is forensically described as a quasi-Mafioso lying narcissist, his Special Relationship with Theresa May makes her, a weak and precarious Prime Minister, look weaker than ever. Like many weak leaders she has turned to the military in time of need, but all the indications are it will give her less not more security. She has little public support for her actions which she has gone ahead with without the backing of parliament. This is dangerous ground for Theresa May emboldened only by her party colleagues grand ineptitude and the frenzy of propaganda surrounding her Opposition leader.
May has at least unlocked one achievement from her time in office: she has managed to make her relationship to the POTUS look even more craven than Tony Blair’s relationship to Dubya.
These are dangerous times for both leaders clinging to power. But while they are locked in this common madness they are very different. Trump is frenzied, thin-skinned, incoherent. May is calm amongst her own debacle, uttering only her famously meaningless mantras carefully prepared by someone somewhere, whilst Trump just spools out a constant stream of verbal diarrhoea. Trump is the son of a Property Magnate from Queens, May is a clergyman’s daughter from Eastbourne. One is hiding behind the law one is hiding from it. One is a TV Personality acting in a Bad Box Set. The other is an Un-Personality propped up by the apparatus of office. Both are now more exposed than ever before.
If Trump cracks under the pressure (after the Cohen raids pressure on the president has grown so intense that he is once again flirting with the idea of removing Mueller, or his boss, Rod Rosenstein), his presidency will end. Even the uselessness of the Republican leaderships won’t protect him. And, if May’s gambit fails to take public opinion with her it will just add to the mountain of evidence that she is unfit for office and the nest of enemies in her own party may surround her.
So we have the most remarkable President hand in hand with the most unremarkable Prime Minister. A New York Mobster and a Home Counties Maid, extrovert and introvert disgracing their office in very different ways. Theresa May and Donald Trump decided to bomb Syria before the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons provided evidence from its fact-funding mission to #Syria. Both are an affront to democracy.
In America at least we have someone chronicling the political and moral decline. Here our Sir Humphrey’s are much too discrete.
On Friday the former FBI chief James Comey said: “I honestly never thought these words would come out of my mouth, but I don’t know whether the current president of the United States was with prostitutes peeing on each other in Moscow in 2013.
“It’s possible, but I don’t know.”
This is the world we live in.