The Speaker, Mr Trump and the law

Mr Trump is floundering as US President. He attacks anyone who blocks him: women, Mexicans, Muslims, his own party, the media and now the judiciary.  Whether groping, shutting out or insulting, his mode appears to be aggression to all but those who submit.

It is hardly surprising that our Prime Minister tried to befriend him, since Brexit means a good trade deal with the US is vital. But at what cost? Will Donald misread the UK invitation as general support, and be encouraged to continue his obnoxious style of politics? There is a risk that he may do just that.

If the Speaker’s announcement this week – that he wouldn’t allow Mr Trump to speak in the Houses of Parliament – is seen in that context, maybe his action was wise? Mr Speaker made it plain that it is not Trump’s policies he disagrees with, it is his mode of operation: sexist, racist and compromising the independence of the judiciary. Although connected, the Speaker highlighted process not policy.

Arguably the lying in this new style of politics is not as serious as his assumption that he is above the law. When Donald told stories about groping women, he was boasting about committing crimes and then dismissed it as mere locker-room talk. Rebecca Solnit describes him as patriarchy unbuttoned. Why was talk of assault not more embarrassing to him? Perhaps because his form of narcissism means he sees himself as bigger than social norms, conventions and even the law. 

The big question for me is can Donald Trump learn to do politics in a way that avoids the abuse of power, i.e., is legal and respectful of others. If our Speaker has given him a jolt and made him think twice about what he is doing, then he will be doing the whole world a service. I can appreciate why he thought it was worth a try.