William Hague’s Bizarre Critique Of Donald Trump

Donald Trump Hosts Nevada Caucus Night Watch Party In Las Vegas

William Hague is just the latest media personality to use Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy as an opportunity for virtue-signalling, rhetorical target practice

William Hague is getting rusty.

The former Conservative Party leader has already shredded his reputation among real conservatives through his shameful support of David Cameron and the Remain campaign. And now, added to that, his latest column on the US presidential election is written with all of the insight of someone who has been paying no attention to the American political scene for years, and is basing their hastily-written column on all of the most tired generalisations from a British television news report.

Whatever happened to the sparklingly witty and intellectually nimble political personality who could keep the House of Commons spellbound (or laughing uncontrollably) with his skills as a raconteur? Perhaps that side of William Hague is curled up in the foetal position, rocking backwards and forwards in shame and incredulity at what the europhile side is up to.

Hague begins with this remarkable statement about the main factors which should disqualify Donald Trump from becoming president of the United States:

Two characteristics make Trump fundamentally unfit to be president: his attitude to women and the way he treats rivals. The first of these, including crude and offensive remarks about female interviewers and candidates, shows deeply patronising instincts.

This isn’t just foul manners. It really matters because the way to liberate the greatest quantity of untapped talent in the 21st century is to achieve the full social, political and economic empowerment of women. Having a leader of the world’s most powerful country who shows no recognition of that cannot be a good idea.

His insulting response to rivals is another disastrous weakness in a potential global leader. The belittling of political opponents – “Lying Ted”, “Little Marco” and so on – shows no grasp of the fact that any president must work with them in Congress the minute he or she is elected. Even worse, Trump’s bullying attitude to other countries – telling Mexico it will have to pay for a wall along its border – would be utterly counterproductive and diminish the power of the USA by destroying its moral authority and crucial ability to persuade others to act.

Of all the things that Hague could have picked as Donald Trump’s disqualifying features, he chooses to virtue-signal and cite Trump’s view of women – as though Trump’s public attitude to women is any worse than, say, JFK’s attitude and behaviour were in private. Of all the things about Trump that Hague can think of, his frequent obnoxiousness is deemed the most serious.

Nothing to do with Trump having no functional knowledge of trade or foreign policy. That’s fine, according to Hague – President Trump can pick all of that stuff up on the fly. But God forbid that the next occupant of the Oval Office says off-colour, crass things about people (despite claiming to have “the best words”).

Hague even goes on to specifically mention some of Trump’s more outlandish statements on foreign and defence policy, so it is not as though he is unaware of them:

When Trump says that South Korea and Japan should have their own nuclear weapons, rather than rely on America, and that the US should stop funding Nato, what he is advocating is the collapse of the entire security architecture of the western world. But the people voting for him and such policies are telling us that they are fed up with paying for the defence of other countries who do very little to look after themselves.

[..] Trump’s other main policy with an impact on all of us is trade protectionism: he wants to impose swingeing tariffs on imports from China and Mexico, and withdraw from new trade agreements. This would be another disastrous act. It would result in widespread retaliation against American products, higher prices for consumers, and lower growth for the world. For Britain, the ninth largest exporter in the world, such policies would be very bad news indeed.

But apparently itching to provoke a trade war and undermining the security structure which has protected the West since the Cold War – with no clear plan for its replacement – is less of a disqualifying factor than Trump’s ongoing feud with Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly.

Hague’s broader point – that by supporting Donald Trump, his voters are sending an important message about longstanding, unresolved problems with the American economy – is a fair observation, though it is one which has been made by many other commentators (including this blog) for some time now and so hardly counts as original.

The awkward truth, of course, is that one of the primary drivers of the rise of populists like Donald Trump is the way that mainstream politicians have comported themselves, behaved in power and failed to govern on the platforms on which they ran for office. It is unsurprising that William Hague makes no mention of his, because he is a prime example of the kind of politician who pushes voters toward populists.

William Hague built a career and a reputation out of eurosceptic posturing. Yes, those who paid attention a little more closely could discern that Hague’s euroscepticism was not of the same nature or intensity of that of, say, Iain Duncan Smith. But Hague was nonetheless happy to hoover up eurosceptic support by making the right noises against Brussels and in favour of British sovereignty – right up until his stunning betrayal of the Brexit movement.

Similarly, the establishment Republicans now shunned and held in derision by Trump supporters also have a record of campaigning and posing one way, but acting in quite another. GOP voters have been let down in turn by cynical politicians cosying up to evangelical Christians and promising them the world, but then failing to prevent the enormous recent social changes in America. They have also been let down by the GOP’s brand of faux fiscal conservatism, which preaches the necessity of belt-tightening and cuts but often succeeds only in cutting taxes for higher-earners and exploding budget deficits.

Meanwhile, the Rick Santorum-esque wing of the Republican Party have either pretended that every American is a job-creating millionaire in waiting or talked about solidarity with the American worker while watching the American middle class getting squeezed and then decimated by the forces of globalisation without enacting a single proposal to help them make the adjustment to the new economy.

William Hague is right when he says “my experience of 30 years of elections is that when you think voters might have gone mad, they are actually trying to tell you something”. Unfortunately, what Trump voters are saying is that they are heartily sick of being lied to and peddled shiny promises of a New America which never come true.

Hague can focus on Trump’s abrasive and sometimes obnoxious personality all he wants, but it will not assauge his guilty conscience nor change the fact that his decision to support the Remain campaign in Britain’s EU referendum means that he himself has become just another flip-flopping politician of the type which feeds, not dampens, populist insurgencies like that of Donald Trump.

 

William Hague - Parliament

Top Image: The Spectator

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Defending Gibraltar

It is irking see the Conservatives so publicly and comprehensively outmanoeuvred by Labour recently on a variety of issues, most recently related to education and welfare. To witness the same thing now happen in the sphere of foreign policy is yet another worrying sign that the Conservative-led coalition government is coasting at this point, perhaps made complacent by the recent uptick in economic indicators, and taking their eye off the ball.

The Telegraph reports that Gareth Thomas, the Labour shadow minister for Europe, has raised concerns that Britain is not doing enough to forcefully push back against recent Spanish misbehaviour with regard to Gibraltar:

Gibraltar is a territory “under siege” and Spain should be made to account for its actions in relation to The Rock, the shadow minister for Europe has said.

Gareth Thomas, the Labour MP for Harrow West, said that residents of Gibraltar were concerned that Britain was not doing enough to defend them from Spanish harassment. The past 12 months have seen the highest ever number of incursions by Spanish ships into Gibraltar’s waters, with the almost double the incidents from 2012.

“I was struck by the sense that the Gibraltarians have of being under siege,” said Mr Thomas, who visited Gibraltar in November. “Spanish ships are coming into their waters on a regular basis.”

We have seen this before. The leaders of countries that are in the doldrums, facing economic malaise and restive populations (hi, Argentina), suddenly dredging up ancient grievances against Britain. Grievances that were once dead and buried during happier economic times. If you are going to make the case that the absence of the Falkland Islands or Gibraltar is like a gaping hole in your respective nation, I would have slightly more sympathy if we didn’t hear your plaintive appeals only during times of economic recession.

I refer you to the Treaty of Utrecht.
I refer you to the Treaty of Utrecht.

This continual harassment of a British overseas territory is unacceptable, and one cannot help but feel that the diplomatic protest by the UK in response has been far too small. Relying on a corrupt body such as the European Commission to mediate the dispute by visiting Gibraltar was clearly never going to be the answer, and why William Hague thought that this option would be sufficient to resolve the situation is mystifying. Diplomatic pressure is clearly failing in this case, and more stringent unilateral action may be required to bring the Spanish back into line. Bullying behaviour tends only to respond to a show of strength, a clear assertion that the bullying will no longer be tolerated.

Of more concern to me, though, is the fact that William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, has failed to make it sufficiently clear that Britain will not tolerate these childish antics. I had not expected someone so competent and capable to drop the ball or fail to forcefully defend the interests of the UK to the extent that he clearly has. Showing forebearance to Spain on the issue of Gibraltar, particularly given the childish means by which the Spanish government chooses to pursue its non-cause, is no longer cute or charming or patient. It’s weak.

Michael Gove on education, Iain Duncan Smith on welfare and now William Hague on foreign policy, all caught napping and hit from the right by their Labour counterparts. I don’t know whether a weekend retreat is in order at one end of the spectrum, or a wide-ranging cabinet reshuffle at the other, but David Cameron urgently needs to get his cabinet to come out of cruise control.

The Sheer Unimportance of North Korea

The press coverage lavished on the every theatrical ranting of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un and his propaganda machine is rapidly becoming ridiculous.

Reports The Telegraph:

That American pledge to defend South Korea and Japan is crucial to deterring the North from full-scale war. “Kim Jong-un has to understand, as I think he probably does, what the outcome of conflict would be,” said Mr Kerry.

“I think we have lowered our rhetoric significantly and we are attempting to find a way for reasonableness to prevail here,” he added. “The rhetoric that we are hearing from North Korea is simply unacceptable by any standards.”

The North voiced yet more belligerence on Friday, turning its venom on Japan, saying: “If Japan makes a slightest move, the spark of war will touch Japan first.” The statement added that “Japan must come to its senses” or else Tokyo would be “consumed in nuclear flames”.

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Kim Jong-Un is a pudgy, spoiled little tinpot dictator, presiding over a desperately poor nation and an army which, while large in size, is comically antiquated and under-equipped, and not at all prepared for significant combat.

Like most rational people, Kim and the senior officials around him who pull the strings, do not have a death wish, and are not about to launch a nuclear strike against anyone, with very low chance of success but the certainty of total destruction in retaliation.

It should be obvious to a small child that Kim Jong-Un is sabre-rattling (if I hear the term “bellicose rhetoric” one more time on the news, or read it in print, I think I will go mad) purely to shore up his authority and support at home. Given the fact that none of the poor enslaved citizens of North Korea will ever see the stern-faced responses that our own leaders somehow feel compelled to give every time their babyfaced dictator throws one of his tantrums, we have to ask ourselves why do John Kerry and William Hague (and countless other military and diplomatic officials) feel the need to respond publicly when those responses will be seen only by their domestic audiences?

And incidentally the people at Fox News, who have been covering the latest tensions with great glee as another “Obama foreign policy crisis” would do well to discover some humility and remember that it was their beloved president, George W. Bush, who allowed North Korea to go nuclear in the first place.

That is all.

Diagnosing The Coalition

It is hard to disagree with this uncompromising assessment of the UK Coalition Government’s performance over recent months, by Trevor Kavanagh at The Sun.

In particular:

Unless the PM and his deputy reach a truce soon this partnership will be lucky to survive the year.

A split would force an early election and, incredibly, put Labour back in power after one richly deserved term in Opposition.

The Lib Dems, with only nine per cent of the vote according to a new poll, would be wiped out as a political force.

Labour’s recovery is as astonishing as the slide in Coalition support. Ed Miliband can claim some credit. But this collapse is due entirely to Government bungling on just about every major issue.

Somehow it has allowed the impression that the Coalition, not Labour, is to blame for our economic woes.

Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. It is ridiculous almost to the point of complete disbelief that this government, and the senior Tory ministers within it, have allowed a situation where Labour’s economic policies and statements are given serious consideration only two years after they were so utterly and thoroughly debunked. That really takes a sustained level of incompetence to achieve, and the more you look at it, the more inescapable becomes the conclusion that the majority of the blame lies with George Osborne:

The PM has to decide whether the Chancellor is a statesman devoted full-time to keeping Britain’s precious Triple-A credit rating. Or a political bruiser who risks his credibility in unseemly brawls with Ed Balls.

It is Mr Osborne, not Nick Clegg’s Lib Dem rabble, who is to blame for the Government’s collapse in public esteem.

People don’t mind Westminster thuggery if it works. But torpedoing his own Budget with a catalogue of unforced errors and crass incompetence is unforgivable.

In a few short weeks, Mr Osborne has shredded his reputation and turned the Coalition into a lame duck administration.

It takes a special talent to cast Mr Balls on the right side of an economic argument but Mr Osborne somehow managed to do so.

If the Prime Minister cannot grasp this nettle, he is finished. A job swap with William Hague is the solution.

This is a genuinely interesting idea, though I very much doubt that David Cameron is about to replace his Chancellor in the upcoming reshuffle. But people expressed doubts at the time of his appointment about Osborne’s youth and inexperience, and while he is certainly a political bruiser, it must also be remembered that it was under his political stewardship that the Conservatives failed to gain an outright majority in the 2010 general election, tarnishing his credentials as a political operative as well as a Chancellor of the Exchequer.

It is also amusing that Hague’s name is now being floated as a potential replacement, given the sniping and complaining about his own performance that was taking place a year ago – “Hague Has Lost His Mojo”, etc. etc. In terms of cabinet minister performance, it would appear that slow and steady is winning the race at the moment.