Public Service In The Age Of Trump

Donald Trump Ronald Reagan comparison photo

Achieving good outcomes is rightly the key barometer of success in government, but it is not everything – selflessly serving the public with honour and dedication matters too

Today I had the pleasure of attending a London Film Festival screening of “The Final Year”, a documentary by Greg Barker focusing on the last year of President Obama’s administration with a specific focus on foreign policy.

Regular readers will know that foreign policy is not my area of expertise, and rarely discussed on this blog. I only know enough to recognise that I am not qualified to pass blanket judgment on diplomatic and foreign policy issues which are fiendishly complex, rely on tremendously detailed knowledge of foreign cultures and regimes, and often require unbearably difficult decisions to be made in fraught circumstances with competing political demands, imperfect information and no crystal ball to see the future.

But it was difficult to watch the documentary and fail to conclude that the main protagonists – former Secretary of State John Kerry, United States ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power and Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes – discharged their duties diligently and with honour. One may not have agreed with all that these individuals did or the political outlook which guided their actions while serving in the Obama administration, but if so these were mere policy differences, not alleged deficiencies of character or behaviour.

It was also difficult to view the documentary and not feel a pang of shame at the composition and antics of the present administration, which even at its dubious best never seemed as functional as its predecessor, and which will certainly now struggle to attract talented, conscientious public servants given the scandals and negative publicity constantly roiling the White House.

Human beings have a tendency to impugn motives and presume character defects in people in public life based on our political differences with them. If we disagreed with the policies of Barack Obama then he also conveniently happened to be a dangerous socialist interloper who simply doesn’t love America the way that you or I love America. And if we disagreed with Mitt Romney or John McCain it was because they were heartless, selfish individuals devoid of charity or empathy, not due to the fact that these conservatives simply saw a different pathway to achieving a just and prosperous society.

This is not a new phenomenon. Republicans questioned the motives and character of Democrats in the Clinton administration; Democrats questioned the motives and character of Republicans in the Bush administration; Republicans had a very lucrative turn questioning the motives and character of Democrats in the Obama administration, and now everybody but the most partisan loyalists can be found expressing grave doubts about the motives character of many of those serving in the Trump administration.

And historically speaking, many of these negative judgments have been unfair. Most staffers in any administration serve out of a sense of public duty with real respect for the offices which they hold, and to impugn their motives at a time in their lives when they are trying to do good is churlish, particularly when there is no evidence of malfeasance.

But this time it feels different. Be it known or suspected acts of misconduct in office or the very public and unatoned-for personal failings of senior officials, the things we already know about less than nine months into the Trump administration should give us grave concern about the calibre of leadership in Washington, regardless of whether or not we agree with the general thrust of policy.

A few weeks ago, the masterful Peggy Noonan (speechwriter to President Ronald Reagan and a personal hero of mine) wrote a particularly moving column for the Wall Street Journal. In it, she conjured a moment of pure escapist fantasy, an alternate reality where all of the dreadful things we know to be true about people in the Trump administration – from the president on downwards – turned out to be nothing more than silly misunderstandings.

Noonan wrote:

I saw this: The exhausted woman on the shelter cot was surrounded by stressed children when Melania came over, bent down and asked, “How are you doing?” The woman said “Well—hurricane.” She realized who she was talking to and got flustered. “Those are nice shoes,” she said. They were flat ankle-boots, the kind you wear on the street or the park, only of the finest leather. “Thank you,” said Melania. She saw the woman’s soggy sneakers. “What size do you wear?” she asked, “Oh, 9,” said the woman. “They got bigger with the kids.”

Melania took off her boots and put them on the woman’s feet. She did this in a way that was turned away from the press, so they wouldn’t see. The woman’s daughter said, “Mommy, they’re nice.” Melania took from her bag a pair of white sneakers, put them on, and said, “Oh good, these are so comfortable.” They talked some more and Melania left and the mother looked to her kids and said, softly, “These are the first lady’s shoes.”

[..] This happened just before the Mnuchin story got cleared up. The Treasury secretary had not asked for a government plane to take him on his honeymoon. His request got all bollixed up in transmission, but there was a paper trail. It turned out he was waiting at the airport with his new wife when he saw a guy in Army fatigues comforting a young woman in a white and yellow dress. She was crying. Mr. Mnuchin sent over an aide to find out what’s wrong.

The guy in fatigues had literally just flown in from Kabul. He and the woman had just married, in a chapel down the street. They’d been bumped from their honeymoon flight to Bermuda. Mr. Mnuchin said: “Give them my plane. Louise—we’re flying commercial.” They booked seats on the next flight to France and went to duty free, where they bought the best champagne and placed it in her Hermès bag. They wrote a note: “Every soldier on leave deserves a honeymoon, every bride deserves champagne.” The couple discovered the bag on the plush leather seat just as the pilot was saying: “Please be seated and buckle up, we’ve got special clearance.”

The column continued in the same hopeful vein – Trump was shown to be unexpectedly humble and empathetic beneath his braggadocious facade, and at one point Hillary Clinton’s post-election book “What Happened” turned out not to be a self-indulgent, self-exculpatory exercise in blame-shifting but rather a sincere and thoughtful atonement for the collective sins of the American political establishment.

But of course, none of these positive, hopeful things actually happened. In all cases, the facts as first reported by the media turned out to be the depressing truth. Noonan said of her reverie:

It made me feel proud, like there’s hope for our political class.

That is what I saw this week.

I should note—this part is true—that I saw much of it while anesthetized for a minor surgical procedure. For an hour afterward, even knowing it was either a fantasy or a dream, I felt so . . . hopeful. Cheerful. Proud. I give it to you.

It is impossible to read Peggy Noonan’s column without aching for a time when public service was a calling reserved for people of character and principle, even if that time exists only in our imaginations, false memories or old episodes of The West Wing.

This is not to say that the Obama administration represented some high watermark of moral behaviour in office. Former Attorney General Eric Holder was less than truthful more than once in his testimony to Congress, while the IRS under senior executive Lois Lerner was found to be singling out conservative organisations for additional tax scrutiny and harassment. But even adjusting for anti-conservative bias in the media, the Obama administration comported itself with considerably more dignity than has thus far been shown by the constantly rotating cast of Trump officials. And it would take a significant change of trajectory, bordering on the miraculous, for this assessment to change.

Is it really possible that in four or eight years’ time we will look back on the people who serve in the present administration, who now represent the federal government to its citizens and the United States of America to the world, and think of them as sincere, hardworking and well-intentioned (if sometimes flawed and mistaken) public servants?

Is Rex Tillerson – a man who showed little interest in foreign policy beyond its applicability to the oil industry prior to his nomination as Secretary of State – presently losing sleep at night trying to implement a foreign policy vision that he sincerely believes will make America and the world safer and more prosperous, as John Kerry did? Are Trump’s other cabinet secretaries maintaining the dignity of their offices and the commitment to fiscal rectitude which is supposed to be a fundamental Republican selling point, or are they all behaving like former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price and current Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, abusing their offices and the public trust by showering themselves with unnecessary perks on the public dime?

And even if Trump apologists, knowing the administration to be deficient in these areas, are willing to sacrifice these qualities for the greater good of bringing down an establishment which ironically seems to be strangely ascendant within the current White House, are the benefits of this governmental shock therapy really worth the side-effects of employing such a motley group of charlatans and opportunists to follow in the footsteps of better men and women?

Watching “The Final Year” at the Odeon Leicester Square today, I could certainly understand how people might feel sceptical or even angry about some of John Kerry’s priorities as Secretary of State and those of his former boss, or be rubbed up the wrong way by the opinionated Ben Rhodes and Samantha Power. Theirs is a specific worldview with which not everybody agrees. But it is also evident that they are patriots one and all, serving the country that they love to the best of their abilities and in line with the values which they believe were twice vindicated by the election of Barack Obama as president. Based on what we know, it would certainly be very difficult to accuse any of these Obama administration alumni of being self-serving, superficial or corrupt in their duties.

I hope that when the time comes to look back on the current presidency, we will be able to say the same of all those who presently serve in the Trump administration.

I sincerely hope so, but I am not optimistic.

 

The Final Year will be released in cinemas in the US & UK in January 2018.

       

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The Clinton Foundation – Noble Charity Or Grubby Political Pay-To-Play Scheme?

Hillary Clinton - Bill Clinton - Clinton Foundation - CGI

Hillary and Bill Clinton continue to insist that there is nothing untoward in the way that their Clinton Foundation sought donations or interacted with the State Department when Hillary was Secretary of State. But how much smoke can there possibly be without fire?

It has been three days now since the Associated Press’s big investigative story detailing potentially concerning links between the charitable Clinton Foundation and individuals who managed to secure private meetings with Hillary Clinton during her tenure as Secretary of State.

A flavour of the story:

More than half the people outside the government who met with Hillary Clinton while she was secretary of state gave money — either personally or through companies or groups — to the Clinton Foundation. It’s an extraordinary proportion indicating her possible ethics challenges if elected president.

At least 85 of 154 people from private interests who met or had phone conversations scheduled with Clinton while she led the State Department donated to her family charity or pledged commitments to its international programs, according to a review of State Department calendars released so far to The Associated Press. Combined, the 85 donors contributed as much as $156 million. At least 40 donated more than $100,000 each, and 20 gave more than $1 million.

Donors who were granted time with Clinton included an internationally known economist who asked for her help as the Bangladesh government pressured him to resign from a nonprofit bank he ran; a Wall Street executive who sought Clinton’s help with a visa problem; and Estee Lauder executives who were listed as meeting with Clinton while her department worked with the firm’s corporate charity to counter gender-based violence in South Africa.

The meetings between the Democratic presidential nominee and foundation donors do not appear to violate legal agreements Clinton and former president Bill Clinton signed before she joined the State Department in 2009. But the frequency of the overlaps shows the intermingling of access and donations, and fuels perceptions that giving the foundation money was a price of admission for face time with Clinton.

Obviously, the Clinton campaign sees it slightly differently.

From the Washington Post:

She dismissed as “ridiculous” Trump’s accusation at a rally in Tampa on Wednesday that Clinton had run the State Department like a “Third World country,” doling out favors and access in exchange for donations to the Clinton Foundation.

“My work as secretary of state was not influenced by any outside forces. I made policy decisions based on what I thought was right,” Clinton said. “I know there’s a lot of smoke and there’s no fire.”

Last week, the Clinton Foundation announced that it would no longer accept foreign donations or donations from corporations if Clinton is elected president in November.

So something which would be unacceptable if Hillary Clinton were president (taking money from foreign donors and entities) was perfectly fine when she was “only” the nation’s top diplomat?

Lots of smoke and yet no fire, the candidate’s own (rather smug) words.

There’s nothing to see here, we are continually told. Move along. Sleep easy in your beds. Everything about the Clinton Foundation is pure, noble and virtuous. There have never been dubious financial dealings, and nothing which might even fall into a morally grey area. Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign isn’t resting on top of a powder keg of suspicion and scandal which could see Donald Trump snatch the election, or at least weaken Clinton to the extent that she effectively becomes an instant lame duck. No, nothing like that. Honest.

The American Conservative’s Patrick Buchanan – perhaps unsurprisingly – disagrees:

The stench is familiar, and all too Clintonian in character.

Recall. On his last day in office, January 20, 2001, Bill Clinton issued a presidential pardon to financier-crook and fugitive from justice Marc Rich, whose wife, Denise, had contributed $450,000 to the Clinton Library.

The Clintons appear belatedly to have recognized their political peril.

Bill has promised that, if Hillary is elected, he will end his big-dog days at the foundation and stop taking checks from foreign regimes and entities, and corporate donors. Cash contributions from wealthy Americans will still be gratefully accepted.

One wonders: will Bill be writing thank-you notes for the millions that will roll in to the family foundation—on White House stationery?

By his actions, Bill is all but conceding that there is a serious conflict of interest between his foundation raking in millions that enhance the family’s prestige and sustain its travel and lifestyle, and providing its big donors with privileged access to the secretary of state.

Yet if Hillary Clinton becomes president, the scheme is unsustainable. Even the Obama-Clinton media might not be able to stomach this.

In one sense, Hillary Clinton is right. At present there is lots of smoke – huge, billowing clouds of the stuff – but not one visible lick of flame. It may well remain like that. It may be that the remaining emails still to be released (and think on that: the world’s superpower having its democracy influenced by shadowy outside actors based on the poor decision-making of one of its presidential candidates) point to more potential tawdry sleaze, but with no smoking gun.

And let’s face it: both Hillary Clinton and her husband are highly accomplished lawyers and politicians – if they did engage in corruption, are they really likely to have left a smoking gun or to have dealt with people who could not be trusted to keep silent? Hardly.

So rather than any concrete ethical scandal which may or may not emerge, I think it again comes down to a question about bad decision-making by Hillary Clinton. The decision to go rogue and conduct State Department business from a bootleg private email server was appalling. Even if the State Department did not have clear protocols in place for how departmental emails should be managed, simply going off on one’s own and setting up a home server is an appalling idea. Under the American system of course there was nobody to stand up to Clinton when she made the decision. In countries like Britain, with a permanent civil service running the show in the background, Clinton’s homebrew server plan would have been slapped down within minutes of it being suggested.

And then there’s the Foundation. I get it: it must be difficult transitioning back to normal life after being president of the United States. One can hardly go back into business working at an ambulance-chasing law firm or a lobbying firm or corporate America. Neither is there an established tradition of ex-presidents seeing out their days as a small town mayor or state governor, charming as the thought may be. After the Oval Office, lesser offices of state understandably seem less appealing.

So what is one to do? Well, George W. Bush provides a very helpful template for us, though sadly too late for Bill Clinton to have followed. After George W. Bush left office with an abysmal 22% job approval rating, he retired to Texas and resolved to see out his days painting unconvincing watercolour pictures of dogs (and some of his less fortunate counterparts and colleagues). Sure he’ll pop up to give a speech every once in awhile, but generally George W. Bush has maintained a dignified and most welcome silence.

Or one can go the other way, and do as Jimmy Carter did, enthusiastically throwing himself into real charitable work – not the running of giant foundations with all the perks that doing so entails (first class or private jet air travel, five star hotels, swanky fundraisers with billionaires, nurturing relationships with the politically active and an occasional conscience-easing cash disbursement to a worthy cause) but rather doing God’s honest work for Habitat for Humanity.

Actually physically building homes for disadvantaged or struggling people – that’s real charitable work. The Clinton Foundation in many respects is quite praiseworthy as some 88% of funding goes on charitable mission, but on $2bn revenue up to 2016 that is still $120 million on “overhead”, which in a family foundation has potential to conceal a whole world of ethical grey areas or outright abuses.

The point, I suppose, is that a family charitable foundation is a perfectly legitimate option for an ex-president and his family who intend to quit the political game after leaving office. But when this is not the case – when Hillary was pursuing senatorial ambitions and later becoming Secretary of State – conflicts of interest are inevitably going to occur.

When one is as rich and well-connected as the Clintons, acquiring more money becomes of limited interest. Instead, the reason for getting up in the morning after having left the White House often becomes the building of power, influence and legacy – and, of course, keeping the family in the style of living to which they have become accustomed (i.e. minimal contact with ordinary people). A family foundation accomplishes all of these objectives wonderfully. But when one or more members of the family are still politically active it is highly questionable.

It would have been far better, when there are still active political careers in play, for the Clintons to have put ego aside and thrown their support behind an alternative, existing foundation – much like Warren Buffett is giving away much of his wealth to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, recognising that it makes little sense to build up his own philanthropic expertise from scratch and create all the overheads which come from a second foundation when a perfectly good one already exists.

Why did the Clintons not take the Warren Buffett approach? Three reasons – ego, power and prestige. It is great that the Clintons are philanthropically active. But nearly all of their philanthropic work is done through the Clinton Foundation ($1 million to the foundation in 2015 and just $42,000 to another charity), meaning they want to do charity on their terms. It is a few distinct shades further away from pure altruism, and more to do with continuing to exercise power after the White House.

When Bill Clinton’s presidency ended in 2001, like a shark he had to keep swimming or surely die. Sitting at home in front of the television was never an option. But neither was Bill Clinton about to show up to work for Bill and Melinda Gates, or Habitat for Humanity. He wanted the benefits of his charitable work to accrue to him and his family, not to the Gates family or anyone else. And so the Clinton Foundation was born.

And since the Clintons choose to conduct philanthropic activities on their own terms and through their own foundation, in a way which aggrandises the Clinton family name and brings them power and influence, it is perfectly reasonable to ask questions about any other “fringe benefits” which Hillary Clinton pursued while holding the immeasurably valuable bargaining chip of being a senior part of the Obama administration. And when there is smoke, it is not churlish or unreasonable for journalists to have lots of questions about these activities.

And yet…

None of this is yet sufficient grounds to choose Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton. Indeed, it is difficult to say just how large an ethical scandal would have to befall Clinton to make her less preferable as president than Donald Trump, a lying, authoritarian would-be strongman who delights in his own ignorance and capitalises on the ignorance of others.

But while the Clinton Foundation smoke machine is no reason to elect Donald Trump, it does paint an even more worrying picture about the quality of decision making and the ethical firewalls which may or may not exist in a second Clinton White House. And it makes one marvel that the Democrats could not follow Barack Obama with a presidential nominee capable of remaining scandal-free at least until Inauguration Day. Nearly every other heavyweight Democrat was intimidated away from the field because 2016 is, we were constantly told, “Her Turn”.

I can’t help but wonder if the Democrats will yet come to regret granting that extraordinary privilege so carelessly and cheaply.

 

Hillary Clinton

Top Image: The Atlantic, Lucas Jackson/Reuters

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American Conservatives For Brexit, Part 4

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Brexit is very much in the American spirit of independence, and in no way harmful to long term US interests

In an excellent piece for Colorado Christian University’s Centennial Institute, James C. Bennett argues convincingly that the US national interest is no longer best served by pursuing the post-war policy of playing midwife to a terminally flawed United States of Europe.

Bennett begins by exposing the sheer implausibility of a stable, functional, democratic European state – the clear and unabashed goal of most EU leaders – ever emerging at all:

To begin with, the idea of a united Europe that would be genuinely federal, which is to say anything other than an empire of one culture over the others, is highly unlikely if not chimerical. To the extent Europe today works, it is an empire of Germans, with the French as their lieutenants, over the rest. The Germans try to be polite about it, unless money is at stake, but the reality is a bit too visible for comfort these days. The British who believe in the idea of their place in a federal Europe, tend to work as lieutenants to the Germans on economic matters, and allies of the French on security matters, except where it comes to cooperation with the US, where they have only minor allies from Eastern Europe, who do not count for much in Brussels.

As many critics of the EU have noted, democracy requires a demos — a distinct national community, which shares the language, institutions, memories, and experiences that make possible a meaningful discussion about the decisions that must be made through political means. There is no such European people, rather, a series of national communities who each have their own discussions. European institutions are therefore particularly prone to decision-making by consensus of elites, many of whom are distant and insulated from the opinions of the people they supposedly represent. However, it is also the case that decisions are often simply not made, and inertia rules, while problems are merely kicked down the road year after year. The Single Currency provides examples of all of these phenomena — it took a long time to come to the decision to launch it; it was only ever wanted by a few elites; popular opinion was almost universally against it; it worked better for some nations than for others, but poorly for most; and there is no momentum either for changing institutions to make it work better, on the one hand, or abandoning it on the other.

This point about the perennially absent European demos is absolutely key. Even if one were to wave a magic wand and instantly make all of the European Union institutions directly elected, properly empower the European Parliament and take other measures to correct what is understatedly termed the EU’s “democratic deficit”, it would not give those institutions any greater legitimacy.

If Britain were suddenly annexed by India and British citizens given a vote in Indian elections this would not be “democracy”, but rather the smashing together of one demos against another. British citizens would not feel part of the Indian state, would have no emotional connection to it and no great political interest in it. And so it is now that Britain is effectively annexed by the European Union. Even building a perfectly modelled federal government for Europe would not erase the stubborn fact that most British people do not “feel” European first and foremost, and therefore cannot participate meaningfully in its political life.

Bennett goes on to criticise the EU as a weak partner to the United States:

Furthermore, the EU is not turning out to be a useful ally for the US, nor is Britain able to influence very much in directions the US desires. To the extent it has ambitions in the security area, these typically create a rival and inferior capability to what already exists through NATO. To the extent it has ambitions in the foreign policy area, it is so hard to establish a consensus among European powers that its policies are usually much weaker than what Britain typically adopts by itself. The European federalists are now agitating for France and Britain to give over their UN Security Council seats to the EU, which will again substitute the weak and uncertain voice of the EU for the more assertive voice of the UK.

While the EU’s leaders clearly have dreams of wielding great influence on the world stage, they are constantly stymied in their ambitions by the fact that they are called on to reflect the squabbling and divergent interests of 28 separate member states. Floridians and Californians are happy to be jointly represented by the State Department because they owe their primary allegiance and affinity to the United States of America. By contrast, Brits and Swedes are not greatly thrilled to be jointly represented on the international stage by Italian former Young Communist Federica Mogherini. On paper, Mogherini speaks for all of Europe. In reality, she speaks only for an EU elite numbering in the thousands, not millions.

Bennett, like this blog and others of The Leave Alliance, believes that an interim EFTA/EEA (or Norway Option) Brexit path is the most likely outcome in the event of a Leave vote, minimising the economic and political risks by guaranteeing Britain’s continued access to the single market:

The international financial community would probably default to the second most desirable option from their point of view, which would be to press for British membership in the European Economic Area and the European Free Trade Association, the so-called “Norway Model.” Although in theory there are a number of potentially viable options for post-Brexit relations between the UK and the remnant EU, the EEA-EFTA model would be the most accessible, best understood, and least disruptive option, and therefore the one the financial interests would prefer. The major European leaders would then come under very strong pressure to announce their support for such an outcome. Once made, along with guarantees to expatriates and other interests, this would restablilize markets and probably become the signal for a sustained rally.

This recognition of economic and political reality immediately puts James Bennett well ahead of serious American journalistic outlets including CNN, USA Today and the New York Times, all of which defaulted to the most apocalyptic and unlikely of Brexit scenarios in their effort to make the idea of Britain leaving the EU seem like a reckless risk with no potential upside.

However, Bennett’s assessment on the impact of Brexit on American interests is better still (my emphasis in bold):

From a short-term perspective, Brexit would have relatively little effect on American interests. Article 50 of the European Union’s current constitutional document, the Lisbon Treaty, provides for member-states to withdraw by giving a two-year notice of intent to withdraw, and mandates the EU to negotiate in good faith for free-trade measures during that time period. During that time period all rights and obligations of membership continue as normal, so US companies operating in Britain would continue to function as normal. The EEA-EFTA option would also permit such companies to operate as normal after EU membership was terminated. Most other US-UK cooperation, such as military and intelligence cooperation, is conducted under bilateral or multilateral agreements having nothing to do with the EU, and would continue to function as normal.

The biggest short-term effect will be on the American foreign policy establishment, in seeing the fundamental assumptions of their world view challenged. Some will cling to the past, and hope that the UK, humbled by life outside of the EU, will repent and ask to rejoin. This is highly unlikely, as it is more likely that the EU, now shorn of the most powerful and stubborn opponent of a United States of Europe, will proceed to greater centralization, although it is also possible that it will shed a few other recalcitrant members, perhaps including Denmark and/or Sweden. The Franco-German core, and the principal Eastern and Southern European dependent states will likely remain. However, this reduced remnant EU will still not become the capable and willing partner the US State Department has always craved. Rather, it will be a medium-large power with problems, somewhat like Japan but with a less capable military.

Exactly so. The only threat posed by Brexit concerns the outdated thinking of certain fossils and arthritic thinkers within the State Department, many of whom seem to be operating based on mental software which has not been updated since the height of the Cold War, when large regional blocs were both the norm and the key to the West’s victory against the Soviet Union. The world has moved on.

And in this age of globalisation, when regulatory harmonisation and convergence are key precursors to unlocking further economic growth, what matters most – though you may not hear many others speaking of it – is ensuring that ordinary people, through their national governments, have the ability to influence these standards and decisions when they are made, and on rare occasions to exempt themselves from them as a last resort. This applies as much to America as to Britain. But from the British perspective, the EU is an active impediment to this process, diluting our influence before we even get to the regional and world bodies which are the source of much new regulation.

And away from the trade sphere, it is self-evident that Britain will remain the only truly indispensable ally of the United States for the foreseeable future. Our shared history and overlapping cultures, together with the fact that Britain wields a military and diplomatic clout far in excess of any other European nation (though recent generations of meek political leaders have often failed to properly leverage this advantage) mean that the idea of Washington pivoting away from London and towards Berlin is pure fantasy. Simply put, you don’t ditch the partner which offers a blue water navy, a nuclear deterrent and a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, no matter how much certain wobbly-lipped EU apologists may suggest that Brexit would somehow damage the special relationship.

Ultimately, a realisation must eventually dawn on the American political elite and foreign policy establishment that the dream of a United States of Europe incorporating the United Kingdom – a term conjured by Churchill but never intended to include Britain – is untenable. A federal Europe may yet emerge from the “core” EU nations, but as James Bennett points out, this will be a distinctly medium-sized power beset with many intractable problems of its own and unlikely to be a great proactive partner to the United States, at least in military matters.

Thus a re-evaluation is necessary. Today, Britain is seeking to assert her independence from a terminally flawed and profoundly, deliberately antidemocratic supranational government of Europe. Americans once knew something about seeking independence from empire and asserting the right of a people to govern themselves, captured in the cry “no taxation without representation”.

America also knows something about turning up a bit late to important, existential fights. And so even at this late hour, it would be gratifying if more American leaders paid heed to James C. Bennett, sought to rediscover that spirit of independence, democracy and national destiny which has been increasingly absent of late, and lent their vocal support to the Brexit cause.

 

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