It ain’t gonna happen soon . . .

The almost endless stream of news stories and articles about Trump, to say nothing of the streams of tweets from Trump, about Trump, in support of Trump, against Trump, makes for depressing reading but there is an appalling fascination in it all.

And then there are the questions. Why are the Republicans so spineless? What are the so-called Grown-Ups in the White House doing? When will the Democrats get their act together? Will Trump be impeached? Will he jump before he is pushed? What is happening to democracy in the US?

My take on it all is this.

The Republicans are doing nothing – because they are secretly hoping that Trump will blow up (possibly entirely the wrong term) before the Midterms next year, allowing Pence to step into his shoes, steady the Republican ship, and prepare for 2020. Two years is a long time in politics.

The Democrats are doing nothing – partly because they are still looking for a candidate who has a chance of success in 2020, and partly because they would like Trump to remain in the White House for as long as possible, to deny Pence any opportunity to fight 2020 as a sitting President. They also believe that the more egregious Trump’s behaviour is, the more likely that the Republicans will find themselves mired in the failure of his presidency.

The Grown-Ups in the White House are doing nothing – because of who are they are: generals, placemen, and family. The family will stick with Trump as there is no alternative; the placemen will stick with Trump as they owe Trump their position and won’t survive his departure; and the generals are the generals. For them, the habit of following orders is very deeply ingrained.

But the political calculations for both Republicans and Democrats are difficult. If the Republicans leave it too long they may find themselves stuck with Trump as their candidate in 2020, against a candidate who will be a lot harder to beat than Hillary. Equally, if the Democrats do nothing, they may find the Republicans move early, get Pence into the White House, and then they will have to unseat a sitting President.

And as for the Grown-Ups? It is probably already too late for them to do anything. They accepted the ride and the hand cart is gathering pace.

And all we can do is sit and wait and watch the reputation of the US get trashed.

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What planet are they on?

There are times when it seems that the City’s great and good inhabit a parallel universe.

This thought been prompted by an article, Bank of England bosses claim Charlotte Hogg’s resignation was ‘disproportionate’, in the Business section of this morning’s Telegraph, and, in particular, that

the outcome seemed to court members entirely disproportionate to the original offence,” said the directors of the Bank in a note recording topics discussed in a teleconference which took place on March 14, the day she resigned.

Any private sector boss making the same mistakes would not have had to quit, the board said.

To which one might respond, #Headinhands, “Up to a point Lord Copper.”

Most observers were surprised that Hogg took so long to resign.

There is no doubt that the Bank regretted her resignation. But ‘disproportionate’? Surely not.

A more considered view was that of the Treasury select committee, whose unanimous report concluded that Hogg’s “professional competence falls short of the very high standards required to fulfil the additional responsibilities of deputy governor for markets and banking” and whose chair Andrew Tyrie offered a much more considered view than it appears the Court held,

This is a regrettable business with no winners. Ms Hogg has acted in the best interest of the institution for which she has been working. This is welcome.

 

Something nasty . . .

For a politician – of any age and any party – there is a narrow line to tread between national treasure and embarrassing elderly relative.

Think Ed Balls.

It may be a little premature to call him a NT but he is staking his claim. First “Ed Balls Day” on twitter, then Gangnam style on Strictly and now his recent Dream Dinner Party on Radio 4 and underpinning all this froth, listen to him talking about his stammer.

But the last few days have also seen a couple of the elderly relatives escape their minders.

First up the moist eyed wet lipped Michael Howard, attempting to conjure the shade of the Blessed Margaret with an ill-concealed warning to Spain (or as he probably sees them, Johnny Dago). Or perhaps he had just misread the Lynton Crosby playbook on dead cats.

And not to be outdone, we now have Labour’s own elderly uncle, Ken Livingstone, bleating that he was “just stating the truth” – something to which I fear he may be a stranger.

One way to pass an afternoon

In last Saturday’s FT, Christopher Caldwell, a Senior editor at the Weekly Standard, asks what cultural impact will Donald Trump have on America? The Trump Aesthetic is a good article (paywalled), even if somewhat depressing. But why should we be surprised?

I was struck by one sentence,

New presidencies have a ferocious cultural knock-on effect. They change how Washington talks, how provincial America sees itself, and what image the word “America” conjures up abroad.

It’s that last bit I have been thinking about. What image will we see?

Trump may hope it will be the Trump International Hotel in Washington, which Caldwell describes in the opening paragraph of his article.

I have a rather more dystopian image in mind – the Bates Motel.

And one correction.

In the article, Caldwell refers to Meryl Streep’s speech at the Golden Globes, in which, he says, she “deplored Trump’s alleged mockery of a New York Times reported with a withered hand, an accusation Trump denies.” And he points out that the problem with Streep’s comment, “Disrespect invites disrespect’, is that “this is precisely the criticism Trump’s supporters have always levelled at the elites for whom Streep speaks.”

I think Caldwell misses the point. The reporter, Serge Kovaleski, has arthrogryposis, a congenital condition that affects joint movement. Streep talked about Trump (not named in the speech) imitating the reporter (others used the word ‘mocked’) and what Streep was getting at was that by doing what he did, Trump legitimised bullying.

Watch ABC News’ report and draw your own conclusions.

Trumped

Am I enjoying the furore over the Trump dossier? Yes and no. It is extremely depressing seeing Trump live up (or is it down?) to his reputation, and yet at the same time such schadenfreude rarely happens.

But what I am impressed by is the skill of the Russians.

My take – and it is simply that – is that at very little cost they have managed to drive a considerable wedge between a US President and his intelligence agencies, even before he has been inaugurated.

Knowing Trump’s character and how he would react, all that was needed was to provide information through sources trusted by those intelligence agencies, and allow us to do the rest. In time we will learn that most of the dossier is false, but in among its lurid (and as yet unspecified) details there is likely to be sufficient truth to make everyone wonder what is and what isn’t true (and there is also a delicious irony in Trump being skewered by facts that aren’t but which might be). And those truths will have been enough to ensure that Western intelligence agencies couldn’t ignore the dossier.

The UK’s former Moscow ambassador, Sir Andrew Wood,  told the Guardian today that “the report’s key allegation – that Trump and Russia’s leadership were communicating via secret back channels during the presidential campaign – was eminently plausible.” But does that really matter?

For what the dossier has done is to destabilise the relationship between a US administration and its spooks. That is what should worry us.

 

Doctor knows best

Therapy wars: the revenge of Freud is a fascinating Long Read in today’s Guardian. It is a very readable analysis by Oliver Burkeman of the arguments, claims and counter-claims advanced on the one hand by psychologists and on the other by therapists, of the benefits and efficacy (or otherwise) of psychoanalysis and various alternative approaches to therapy, in particular cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).

I was particularly struck by this,

David Pollens, in his Upper East Side consulting room, said he had some sympathy for the “dodo-bird verdict”[the idea, supported by some studies, that the specific kind of therapy makes little difference], despite his passion for psychoanalysis. “There was a wonderful British analyst, Michael Balint, who was very involved in medical training, and he had a question he liked to pose [to doctors],” Pollens said. It was: “‘What do you think is the most powerful medication you prescribe?’ And people would try to answer that, and then eventually he’d say: ‘the relationship’.”

My father was a GP in a small market town in the second half of the last century. He would have entirely agreed with Michael Balint. He always maintained that many of the people he saw in his surgery wanted nothing more than the opportunity to sit down with their doctor and tell him or her what was troubling them. For him the relationship he had with his patients was all.