Trump’s equivocating over Charlottesville Nazis embarrasses May and hurts new US Dutch Ambassador

It was interesting to read the free daily “Worldview” newsletter put out by the Washington Post yesterday.

Talking about the unprecedented spectacle of an American President equivocating about how evil heavily armed, swastikas and KKK regalia-wearing racists and neo-Nazis are, the WP draws our attention to how these scary shenanigans embarrass the foreign allies and friends of the USA, especially those who (out of national interests, seldom out of personal sympathy) so far tried to get into Trump’s “good allies” book. The WP takes Theresa May as its case in point in this aspect.

They remind us of the spectacle of May visiting Trump’s White House in January, holding his hand and trumpeting that the “Special Relationship” was well and continuing.

The WP thinks this show of support was a contributing factor when May, a wooden campaigner anyway, held her snap election in June, losing her majority and seeing her ministers returned with lesser majorities. Trump surely didn’t help, attacking London Mayor Sadiq Khan.

The WP only quotes May seeing “no equivalence between those who propound fascist views and those who oppose them”, saying she didn’t mention Trump by name, and her then going on about Big Ben being silenced. WP concludes she is still too cautious to explicitly condemn Trump, contrasting her overall treatment of Trump with the more distance-keeping approach of Merkel and Macron. The WP mentions Tory criticism of Trump from for example minister Sajid Javid MP.

The WP also points to the remarkable “milquetoast” reaction of Israeli prime minister Netanyahu, with his son even trying to put the emphasis on the “Antifa” counter-demonstrators.

But (in my opinion) someone who will be especially embarrassed is the Dutch-born Republican Trump selected for his ambassador in the Netherlands: Pete Hoekstra.  Hoekstra will know this hurts Dutch feelings towards the USA and  especially Trump. Hoekstra, born in 1953 in the Netherlands (his family emigrated 1956 to the US) represented the US federal House district (in Michigan) with the most voters of Dutch descent in 1992-2010. His parents and family will have told him of the German occupation of the Netherlands, which was more intense and brutal than other (Wehrmacht-occupied) European countries, and his former constituents will have known about it too. Hoekstra and his evangelical constituents are Trump enthusiasts, but these Trump equivocations hurt a very raw Dutch nerve which can override that sympathy. And Hoekstra knows his reception in The Hague will be overshadowed by these shenanigans whatever Trump says or does next.

* Bernard Aris is a Dutch historian (university of Leiden), and Documentation assistant to the D66 parliamentary Party. He is a member of the Brussels/EU branch of the LibDems.

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  • the more distance-keeping approach of Merkel and Macron

    Macron welcomed Trump as an honoured guest at France’s most solemn and important national ceremony. If that’s keeping your distance I dread to think what you’d describe as closeness.

    More to the point though — what’s the relevance of the US ambassador to the Netherlands to British politics and specifically to the Liberal Democrats?

  • Bernard Aris 18th Aug '17 - 2:18pm

    @Dav: Oh sure, Macron welcomes him to July 14th, showing him the French military marching and flying past (thus pointing out we still pay our way in Defence; but Trump would have missed that hint)…

    But a French president holding a speech in perfect, almost accent-lees English critizing his withdrawal from an imoprtant treaty, and giving the bully (pulpit) president a handshake the world will remember; a French president dealing with Lybian war lords because the days the US Navy handled the Barbary Pirates of Tunis for us are long gone;
    and the first German chancellor since Adenauer maintaining a frosty silence when dealing with the successor of a “proud Berliner”…

    If the US president treats the state that gave the US of A in 1776 “The First Salute” (see book by Barbara Tuchman; we also smuggled plenty of arms to the US, or Valley Forge and crossing the Potomac would have ended disastrously for George Washingtons ramshackle army), if such a good ally who sacrificed its unarmed merchant navy to help the UK and US implement Lend Lease,
    if the US president out of ignorance (his trademark on many terrains) insults and hurts the feelings of such an old ally, that should give the UK a foreboding of its treatment by this capricious, narcisistic, flippant president, once the UK ties to that “awfull” EU have been cast loose …

    The Economist and other serious foreign policy analysts have pointed out many times that all that “Special Relastionship” talk is (1) a British hangup and (2) just hot air ewhen serious issuese arise.

  • Macron welcomes him to July 14th, showing him the French military marching and flying past

    Right, so, he’s not exactly been ‘keeping his distance’ from Trump, has he? Merkel has, for sure, but Macron has got closer to him than any other European leader, and that includes Mrs May.

    Still not seeing what relations between the USA and the Netherlands have to do with the Liberal Democrats, though.

  • Gordon Lishman 19th Aug '17 - 10:33am

    No man is an island, entire of itself………Every man’s death diminishes me for I am involved in mankind. Therefore, ask not to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

    One way of saying that all politics is relevant to a liberal.

  • David Pocock 19th Aug '17 - 10:36am

    What a sad world we live in really. I watched the rally and seeing those people march with torches is frightening. Still if the most they can get is 1000 it is not all bad, I wonder though of the number of silent supporters.

    Trump I guess just doesn’t want to lose his base. I watch a lot of YouTube “political channels” ones I agree with and ones I don’t and one interesting thing is that a lot of the harder right channels who did denounce the rally are now losing subscribers.

    Regarding antifa, this is probably not the time for it, but i do think at some point we as liberals will need to sit and talk honestly about them.

    But all in all just sad time’s that this happened.

  • Roger Roberts
    Mrs. May’s definition of citizenship includes dislike and suspicion of others- xenophobia.

  • Bernard Aris 20th Aug '17 - 3:45pm

    @ Dav

    I Always thought the Liberals and LibDems were the inheritors of Cobden and Bright who in the founding days of the Liberal party (1848-1880) strove to get all nations to talk respectfully with each other (Cobden & Bright wanted Arbitration as standard procedure if conflicts arose). When an American president makes light of the most brazen Neonazi mass gathering in the US I have ever seen in watching 40 years of TV news (see KALs billiant “hailing” cartoon about that in this weeks Economist: ), he hurts the feelings of citizens in almost every continental EU country (and Britons on Channel islands like Guernsey) who’ve experienced first hand what Nazism feels like .
    That goes directly against the spirit and thinking of Cobden & Bright, and any other liberal thinker, about keeping international relations on a even keel respecting human rights. That, you will agree, is an aim present-day social-liberal parties like the LinbDems, D66, Radikale Venstre and Ciudadanos all share; so that is the relevance of it.
    We social liberals also care about the moral content of what world leaders say and do, don’t we? Or is that a quaint continental hangup?

  • jayne Mansfield 20th Aug '17 - 5:58pm

    @ Bernard Aris,
    Of course many people , not only Liberals, are concerned with the moral content of what world leaders say and do.

    I think that the problem for world leaders who have to deal with Trump, the elected President of the United States, is how best to approach him to modify his behaviour. I think that Theresa May’s approach is the wrong one, he is not a man whose behaviour can be influenced, but I would lay bets on the fact that she scrubbed her hand well with soap or used disinfectant after holding hands with Trump.

    Trump is a very, very scary man, seemingly immune to normal behaviour. That he now holds the position of leader of the Western world, is scary in the extreme.

    The Nazis were chanting anti -Jewish hatred. Trump’s daughter is married to an orthodox Jew!!!! How would you approach and deal with such a dangerous man?

  • jayne Mansfield 20th Aug '17 - 6:09pm

    @ David Pocock,
    Antifa needs dealing with now, not when liberals have sat around and discussed them.

    I attend local anti E-DL meetings and there are some people on the ant-i fascist side ( mine) who wear balaclavas and are as abusive as the opposition. What we need are more people attending anti -fascist demonstrations in this country, people like me , who like me, tell these people to their masked faces, ‘to clear off, you are helping no-one’.

    There are people in this country who think that there is a moral equivalence between Nazis and anti- fascists. We need to address what we have on our own doorstep.

  • I am one of those who read LDV but am not otherwise politically active. I am interested in the many and different views & opinions expressed; but as an ‘outsider’ tend to think that while displaying contributors L(l)iberal credentials, these doesn’t really advance the Party politically – indeed, if anything, it is probably rather off-putting to many would-be readers who might visit your site, yearning to find something more than the sterile two-party stasis to which UK has been subject for so any years.
    In my bleaker moments also, I tend to think that I have to face the fact that, as this state has been the situation for as long as it has then it must be what the majority of the population want, or at least find acceptable, otherwise they would have changed the system long since.
    Depressing, isn’t it.

  • jayne Mansfield 21st Aug '17 - 8:12pm

    J.A Sloane,

    I am not sure that the election of Jeremy Corbyn could be described as two party stasis. He was someone who only stood for leader of the labour party when no other candidate from the left of the party put themselves forward. He has surprised many of us, so credit to him. We are offered a political choice.

    I am afraid that the Liberal Democrats have become a single issue party, the mirror image of UKIP, and similarly, not particularly attractive. In fact, they have chosen to be rude to those who disagree with them, with no attempt to understand the reasons why those who voted ‘leave’ chose to do so.

    There is much comment about a centre party that is pro EU. There is such a party, the Liberal Democrats , but they linger at 6% in the latest poll. And yet there is no analysis or real soul searching as to why? It is business as usual.

  • Richard Underhill 7th Sep '17 - 2:04pm

    Let us think for a moment about the Bible Belt in the USA “Old fashioned religion is good enough for me”. Previously they refused to vote because they believed that God would decide everything and therefore Washington was irrelevant.
    Then they were offered a real life Prodigal Son who had repented his past, become teetotal, understood them and was standing for election, as governor of Texas and then as US President. When hurricane Katrina happened President Bush did very little. They persisted in their views and voted for Donald Trump as US President, although he is not a born-again Christian, is a climate change denier and has withdrawn the USA from the Paris Agreement.
    Hurricanes are labelled alphabetically each year. A, B, C, D, E, F, & G have gone by. What was D? H was severely damaging. Irma is worse and Jose will be a little (!) stronger.
    There is not yet a plague of frogs, but a new Jeremiah may be needed to advocate repentance. Practical steps could include moving for impeachment of Donald Trump, rejoining the Paris Agreement, recognising that even if climate change is not man-made there are things that mankind can do to ameliorate its effects, as George Bush senior (an oil man) suggested when he was President. There is no need to rewrite history.

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