Not being a subscriber to The Independent, I haven’t read the whole article. But the title told me everything I needed to know: George Clooney Says Capitol Riots Have Put Trump Family into ‘Dustbin of History’.
Venting the effluvia of the likes of Clooney must be one reason for the paper’s paid circulation languishing at around the 50,000 mark. But the problem goes beyond this scurrilous sheet.
Many other news outlets also provide a forum for ‘celebrities’ to share their insights into subjects they know nothing about and understand even less. Clooney, for example, is constantly egged on by his pseudointellectual wife to pontificate on matters cultural, and he is never short of conduits into which his newly acquired wisdom can flow.
So empowered, he has agitated for the return of the Elgin Marbles to… whom exactly? Here’s how George joined the battle some seven years ago: “I had to do a little bit of research to show I’m not completely out of my mind. Even in England the polling is in favour of returning the marbles to the Pantheon.”
Which Pantheon, George? The one in Paris or the one in Rome? Perhaps a wee bit more research would have come in handy, although these days it’s fashionable to plug holes in education with ideology – provided it’s the right, which is to say left, ideology.
What his ideology is comes across in Clooney’s choice of phrase. The destination he envisages for the Trump family was first mentioned in a similar context by one of history’s most sinister monsters, Leon Trotsky. When on 25 October, 1917, the Menshevik faction walked out of the Congress of Soviets to protest against the Bolshevik coup, Trotsky shouted: “Go where you belong from now on – into the dustbin of history!”
It hardly needs saying that George isn’t familiar with the provenance of the phrase. He may not even be able to tell Trotsky from a casting director. But he must often have heard that expression bandied about by his friends, who also got it third-hand, as a distant echo of a heart-warming manifesto.
In the same vein, someone who is steeped in Western culture will often use scriptural phrases even if he may be unaware of their origin. For example, the sentence “I’m at my wit’s seeing Western culture falling by the wayside or, at best, hanging on by the skin of its teeth” contains three biblical expressions that not everyone will identify as such.
Then there’s the issue of that proverbial repository awaiting not just Trump, but his whole family. How many generations of it? Perhaps the body text answers this question but, as far as I know, neither Ivanka nor Jared nor their children were implicated in inciting the Washington debacle.
Perhaps in this instance George takes his cue not from Trotsky but indeed from Scripture, with himself acting in the divine capacity: “I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generations…”
There’s no doubt that Trump’s incitement of the riot, which he didn’t have the courage to lead, was a disgusting act – regardless of whether or not some electoral irregularities had indeed favoured Biden. The president’s delusional solipsism is such that in his own mind he can never lose fair and square. If it appears that he indeed lost, he must have been cheated or betrayed.
In that he’s closer to the French than to the English. When the French lose a battle, they utter the stock phrase nous sommes trahis – we’ve been betrayed. The English know, or at least used to know, how to win and lose with grace and dignity.
Grace and dignity just aren’t part of Trump’s makeup: his experience in real estate development and presenting a reality TV show instilled in him a different set of character traits. This came to the fore throughout his presidency, but especially since he lost it. Trump’s appalling behaviour has besmirched his legacy, there’s no doubt about that.
But this doesn’t mean there is no legacy. I’m not sure if his tenure was indeed the most triumphant first term in history, as Trump has claimed with his typically unpleasant braggadocio, but it was generally a success.
The economy was ticking along nicely until Covid arrived and effectively lost the election for Trump. The government can do little to affect a relatively free economy positively, but it can do much to affect it negatively – and Trump didn’t do anything like that. His tax-cutting policies were especially beneficial, but then his career had trained him to detest taxation.
Trump’s foreign policy had its share of victories too. Though his natural tendency is to treat international relations as a business transaction, he managed to restrain himself long enough to put a squeeze on Iran and North Korea, even though his record of dealing with Russia and China leaves something to be desired.
He also took America out of several corrupt international setups, such as the Paris Accords and UNESCO. The latter departure was prompted by that organisation’s several anti-Israel resolutions, and Trump was perhaps the best friend Israel has had among US presidents.
He certainly did more to normalise relations in the Middle East than any other president since Carter, who was instrumental in bringing about the Egypt-Israel peace treaty in 1977. And, though seemingly contemptuous of Nato, Trump strengthened this guarantor of Western security by forcing European governments to beef up their commitment to defence.
Throughout Trump’s presidency I praised most of his policies without making much of an effort to disguise my contempt for his personality. Unfortunately, the latter eventually overrode the former, and last Wednesday Trump came perilously close to any reasonable definition of sedition.
Yet professional Trump-haters, who number in their ranks most media and academic types along with intellectual giants like Clooney, should have been careful what they wished for. Having got rid of Trump, they’ve handed unchecked political power to the blatantly socialist Democrats, who now control not only the White House, but also both Houses of Congress.
Those of us who understand both the destructive potential of socialism and the vital role America plays in the well-being of the West, can only hope that the country won’t follow Trump into the Trotskyist receptacle invoked by Clooney.