Observations of an ex pat: Wounded Special Relationship

Donald Trump has just shot the special relationship in the foot.

It will recover. The special relationship between the US and Britain does not rely on one president, one prime minister or even one monarch. They are all relatively ephemeral influences in a relationship based on centuries old links involving a common legal foundation, a common language (almost), cultural and family ties, and common philosophical roots.

But the hole in the foot hurts. It means that the relationship will now limp along at a time when frighteningly unstable events on both sides of the Atlantic and elsewhere in the world demands the normal good steady stride.

So what did Trump do and—more importantly– why? Well, for those who have just emerged from a spelunking trip, the president has been tweeting again, or, to be more precise, retweeting.

This time President Trump retweeted a video from Jayda Fransen, deputy leader of the far-right Britain First Party/movement.  The video purported to show the violent activities of Muslim immigrants in Europe. Its clear purpose was to support the movement’s racist, hate-filled, anti-Islamic, anti-immigration message.

Setting aside the morality of such a goal, the videos had virtually no basis in fact. They were the fakest of the fake news that Trump loves to attack. But this did not bother the president  or  his spokesperson Sarah Huckabee who dismissed the credibility issue. It’s the threat that counts, she said, and the threat is real.

Threats, like medical diagnoses, must be based on hard facts. If a doctor makes the wrong diagnosis then the prescribed treatment will be wrong and the patient will die. If a politician—especially the president of the United States—makes his decision on false information then the resultant actions will cost lives.

Surprise, surprise Trump’s retweets and subsequent spirited defence, provoked an outcry of rage from every British public figure starting with the Prime Minister Theresa May and working itself all the way through Parliament, over to the office  London Mayor Sadiq Khan and finally the Archibishop of Canterbury Justin Welby.  A country that is hopelessly divided over Brexit was completely united against Trump.

I am certain that the horse-loving Queen is chomping at the bit to put in her two pence worth. Her advisers must be having a difficult time restraining her with the reminder that she must remain above politics..

So why did  Pesident Trump set out to damage relations with his country’s closest ally. Was it just a thoughtless shoot-from-the hip- off- the- tip- of- the- fingers retweet? Or was there an actual carefully thought out reason for it?

I don’t know which scenario is more fightening, but I tend towards the second one.  Trump has been completely convinced by people such as Nigel Farage and his former Chief Strategist Steve Bannon that Britain is being dragged into political oblivion by unbridled Muslim immigration.

To him the UK is an object lesson for America. It is part of his presidential mission that the same fate does not befall the United States. Forget the special relationship, it takes the seat at the back of the bus when set against the racial and immigration goals of the president’s twisted America First policy.

The retweets may also be linked to another chapter in the travel ban saga. On Wednesday Trump’s proposed ban is back in court.  The 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments in the case. The travel ban has been expanded since it was first blocked. It now includes people from six Muslim countries plus Venezuela and North Korea.  The Trump Administration is hoping that the inclusion of non-Islamic countries in the ban will enable the administration to circumvent the freedom of religion argument. He may be using his Twitter account prepare the ground for the appeal.

Terrorism and hate politics are indeed a threat and an abomination, whether they come from the left, the right, Muslims, Hindus,  far right Christians or the White House All of them have featured in the news at some time. Britain First is a hate group. Trump’s decision to retweet their message in pursuit of his domestic political agenda only feeds further division and hate in Britain and America.

* American expat journalist Tom Arms is LDV's foreign affairs editor and author of the forthcoming book “America: Made in Britain.”

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  • Coming out of my flat yesterday I met a very nice woman who introduced herself as one of my new neighbours. Noting her accent I made the obvious smalltalk: “Are you American?” Her friendly smile turned to a sort of panic: “Yes – but I didn’t vote for him. Most of us didn’t!” I assured her that I didn’t blame her.
    It was quite funny in the moment, but thinking back on it she was actually pretty upset. Clearly a very nice person but she feels she has to walk around under this shadow.

  • David Becket 1st Dec '17 - 10:18am

    A number of issues arise from this Tweet

    The danger of tweeting is that the process in the hands of a total idiot will go to the wrong address, which is what Trump did.

    As Vince has stated he is an Evil Racist.

    He promoted False News, as encouraged by his friend Farage.

    He is not fit to be afforded a State Visit. Diplomatic Immunity prevents him being arrested, which is what he deserves.

    We will get no favourable Brexit deals from this man.

    With a dangerous idiot in the White House we need closer relationships with Europe in order to protect the free world.

    As we are becoming more isolated any Prime Minister with the interests of the country at heart would stop this Brexit nonsense now.

  • Trump is flim flam man and narcissist. That’s what his tweets reveal.
    As for the “special relationship”? I’ve never been convinced it was an actual thing.

  • Yes, culture and history place us in a close relationship with the US – and with Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the Irish Republic. Although it may not be so obvious, the relationship is pretty close with India too and it has a similar love/hate quality.

    However, the relationship has been getting less important as US cultural trends like the religious right move us further apart, US politicians and businesspeople increasingly look across the Pacific and our “lead” over. say, Germany, Japan and China gets less as American culture permeates them.

    It bothers me that some people move on from recognising the closeness to an inability to oppose bad American international policies. If we survive his presidency, Trump could even do some good getting us out of that attitude.

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