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[00:00:08]

Hello and welcome to The Stand with Eamon Dunphy. The stand is proudly supported by Tesco at Tesco, our exclusive house for over sixty fives. Family carers and extremely medically vulnerable customers are every weekday, Monday to Friday, up to nine a.m. Health care and emergency services have priority access at all other times now, more than ever, every little helps now, although he has almost two months left in the White House and the presidency of Donald Trump is effectively over.

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He has grudgingly done some of the right things, and the president, like Joe Biden and his team, can get to work.

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However, the state of the United States, the world's most powerful democracy after four years of Donald Trump's presidency, leaves a lot to be desired. Almost two hundred and sixty thousand people have died as a result of the coronavirus. The estimate is just published that by Inauguration Day, January 20th, three hundred and twenty one thousand Americans may well have died. There have been 12 million infections, all of those very sobering numbers. And on Thanksgiving weekend, the Americans will no doubt pause to reflect.

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And it's a great pleasure to welcome their column. Tobane, writer and critic, our greatest writer, really living writer, and his experience of Donald Trump will have been extensive column has worked and lived on and off in the United States for a very long time. Colin. Were you fond of the reality TV star known as the Donald in the program, The Apprentice, and how were you aware of him before he took an interest in politics and started talking about Barack Obama and pushing the birther conspiracy theory?

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Yeah, the first time I noticed him as someone who was obviously interested in becoming a player in the game rather than being just a construction mogul or The Apprentice guy in New York was when he started on the birther matter. And I remember one night listening to be closely because that's what he was saying was so outlandish. But he was saying it with such levels of certainty that he really believed that Barack Obama had not been born in the in the United States and over the over the over the years.

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I mean, one of the problems are maybe the funny part of living in the United States is every so often you get a good glimpse of the strangeness of the place. Yes. And at the time the film Brooklyn came out, there was there was there was a dinner at UCLA, at University of California, at Los Angeles. And it was a fundraiser. It was in the library. But a lot of posh people. It was a movie event.

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So there were a lot of Hollywood people. And Brooklyn was up for a prize. And I was sitting beside a woman. Her husband was opposite and we were just talking a very nice way. And she just said things are really awful in the United States. This was when Barack Obama was president. And I said, have things been getting better? I meant about the economy. But she said, no, no, they have not been getting better.

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The problem is that he's been really good for the Muslims, Obama and really bad for us. Well, I sort of looked at her there. She was a rich woman in California and in a library at a fundraiser for a library. And she told you could say this to me and this would be accepted. Her husband opposite eventually said, you know, what you need to know about the Supreme Court is a Scalia knows the law is the only judge who knows all the other judges don't know the law.

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And later on, it was on the night of the election when Trump was elected first. People didn't know what the result was going to be. And that was the day of the election. I was at a similar event in New York library fundraiser and a lot of rich people, again, sitting beside a woman whose husband was opposite. And she turned to me and said, basically talking about Obama, she said something about him. And I said, no, it's been eight years in office.

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He said he killed a man. And I said, That's actually from The Great Gatsby. It's a line written by Scott Fitzgerald, something. And like it's very old idea that you say about someone to me in all in all seriousness, she said this to me. So that's so that these are not these are not uneducated people. This is not a strange hillbilly group. These are rich, serious people. But you realize that this is a strange country where ideas where those sort of fantasies about public affairs are just that.

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Trump wasn't I wasn't on his own with that. I think that's another thing as well, which people in Europe don't fully get, which is the extraordinary way in which Americans connect to their president, that people really feel the president represents them in some way, way beyond what a prime minister would do or a monarch would do that. And I mean, I was there was there was somebody on the phone yesterday saying for the first time in four years I've been this is an artist.

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I've been able to work again. I'm suddenly able to do I'm in the studio at astonishing amount of energy. And I couldn't understand this because you don't really know how beautiful was that? It was Phenergan and there was a coalition. We just feel the same crew were running saying the same things, but bother us that much. Whether Michael D is in the chorus over there. Patrick, Hillary is in the chorus. I mean, it's nice if the one you support is in the office, but it doesn't really matter to your daily work in America does.

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I remember the first time hearing that was a guy who ran a gay bookstore in Philadelphia just saying you've no idea what happened when George W. was elected. The second time business went right down this kind of corn. And we said basically it was a point story in Philadelphia. Those people were buying less porn because the president, they didn't favor George W. Bush was elected president. It was affecting people's shopping habits. So this is an entirely different way of viewing a head of state in America than it is, I think, anywhere else in the world.

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Yes.

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And in the beginning, when he was running for the Republican nomination, one watched him with 16 others and laughed a bit, but. Never he was never really taken seriously when you reflect now, despite the fact that he his presidency is ended. Seventy four million people just under seventy four million people voted for Donald Trump to stay in office for four more years. I must say, I was one of many people around the world, I'm sure, who have a vital interest in the race between Trump and Biden.

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Whilst Biden was not the most impressive man ever. He was decent. He was sane, and he would be surrounded by people who were fundamentally decent and saying the prospect of four more years of Donald Trump. Did that cross your mind column? Did you care? And what would it have been like to say you're a writer?

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And I mean, even the first morning after the count when it looked as though it could go either way, but it could go in Trump's favor. Remember that the first thought being this means that they can really, really deal with the courts, that in other words, every judge are more or less every judge of any consequence will have been appointed by them, that there will be a further coarsening in the whole and the whole idea of public life, that they will get the Senate as well, that there will be absolutely no progress in any area in relation, for example, to global warming, in relation to to America's relationship with Iran or with China or indeed North Korea.

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And what we've learned from Trump more than anything, which we've also learned from Boris Johnson that we've heard from Modi in India, is that strongmen, politicians cannot sit down in their office and deal with detail. Yes. In other words, the response to the pandemic needed to be done in detail with the scientists and then work out, as they say. The Irish government does decide to say this. Can we put this through? Is this politically advisable?

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Is it workable? But this would have to be done an extraordinary detail, because in America, the states have so much power, you would have to do an extraordinary amount of persuasion because the states not only can implement policy, but can actually impose policy or can go against federal policy. So it would have taken an extraordinary president to be able to gather everyone together to say this has to be done, but you'd have to know what to be done.

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He could do neither. He simply didn't have. What's strange about him is he didn't have the attention span. Yes. And I wanted to say about Boris Johnson, really good at certain things. Trump is, for example, extraordinary at dominating a television screen and holding life in towards him as he speaks on television so that in those debates with by the two debates and it was Trump's face, you remember Trump's voice. You remember I don't remember a single thing Biden said.

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No. So he had this extraordinary skills as a communicator. And we mustn't forget about those. I mean I mean, they're very strong because because his message was not a policy message. It was entirely an aspirational message and it was about forms of strength. And Biden was doing the opposite. He was he was talking he was talking about subtle areas of policy. He was talking in a way about what weakness could look like or how people would want his sort of weaknesses is his inability to really to talk in soundbites.

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And he did have to dominate the screen became great advantages for him. But still, as you say, and Trump won seventy four million votes and he's unlikely to go away and look at figures. For example, in Argentina, it was the return of Peron in Argentina that really became a dominant once Pierron wanted to exert. But his defeat, that countered it with the possibility of his return. And and of course, if there's any as there might be legal actions against Trump, it will make him further into a victim and it will make well, he will again, it will dominate the news cycle, which he won't be able to do.

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And if he just tweets because the tweeting will become less interesting, his tweets have been so outrageous because of the president, people pay attention to them, but his power would begin to wane. But nonetheless, there isn't anybody in the Republican Party who could oppose him in any serious way.

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As someone who was once a journalist, golomb, his ability using his tweet to set the news agenda was incredible. And he he had a genius for that. And would you agree?

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What's interesting is that the first time round, which he didn't manage to do the second time was it was that he he he brought in people. Funded by a family called the Masters who understood something about Facebook, the Democrats didn't understand, which is that you can really find out from Facebook all about somebody. Yes, and all about them. And he worked on that the first time with with with with with a word that was entered into the Spirit of Things algorithms and that he did something in Facebook that the Democrats didn't know the second time.

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And he understood that this tweet business is actually very powerful because it's a headline. It's quick and it can go on all day and people can just open it for a second, show it to somebody else. Oh, my God, look what he said. And that is a very effective way of communicating. And he particularly with him because he didn't have to go into detail that explained anything. He didn't have to justify himself. It could just be the headline, just a sound bite.

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And I think more than anybody else who understood the soundbite and there's something else I think that we have to say about that was almost funny, which was, you know, there's a lot of nonsense spoken about Irish America and it didn't play that game really well.

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He surrounded himself with Irish, in other words, from Mick Mulvaney to Kellyanne Conway to Kelly to Flynn and Spicer to and I mean, there are actually many more. And it was very comfortable with these people. And of course, the reason is pretty simple and it doesn't speak well for the Irish in America is that they didn't like black people want many black people around. He didn't want any Latinos around. He didn't like Protestants because, of course, he always felt socially inferior, a socially insecure, especially in New York.

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He didn't like Jewish people. I mean, even though his son in law was Jewish, he generally didn't like Jewish people around him, me or him, anywhere around him and. Well, who else is there? And so that took Steve Bannon. Yes. Like, it didn't look so tawdry, in other words. And instead of doing, like what Dick Cheney did, like going into the military industrial thing and making millions from big projects, and he and Steve Bannon got a project where he got people themselves to fund the wall.

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He took the money and they took the money. I mean, that is really low. I mean, that's really. And so these Irish people who surrounded him are not people of any special talent took them in because they were so smart, but exactly the opposite reason that they were the only people who would not make him feel insecure. And to actually add to this, the bigger who is the larger than life is the figure of Timothy Dolan, the so-called cardinal in New York, and he sided with Trump.

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I mean, he brought them into your Catholic Church in. And what's interesting is the cops in New York, I mean, they decided that they would support Trump, even though Trump has no support in New York, even though it was going to go against their mayor and against their governor, against all their interests in negotiations for wages suddenly like your Cuomo and you have the head of the cops coming and saying, well, how did that how did that trump that you support do?

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So the cops, of course, that's Irish, the Catholic Church in New York. That's Irish. They all went for Trump. So it's just I think it's the end of our myth that somehow the Irish in America are worlds Democrats and all idealistic and all around the Kennedys and like. No, Kennedy got elected this time. Yes. For the first time ever. We have to quote the title, I think, of Noel Coward's biography, A Talent to Amuse.

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Maybe I want to ask you a column about the world's dependence on America, all the multilateral institutions that we thought didn't matter and spend a lot of time thinking about the UN, NATO, the climate accords from Paris, the there was a sense in my heart anyway and in my mind that if Trump won again. We had lost America as from the family of nations that broadly believe in freedom and democracy, of course that's a simplistic idea. But still, without America, without the United States of America, it's as if the world is missing something important.

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And the world I'm talking about is Europe in terms of the power America has, the energy it has and and if required, the might that it has. I was conscious of losing that if strong today. And again, it would be he'd be more on the side of Putin and then he would be on our side.

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Yeah, I just want to say something just against that for a second. This isn't hot and I can't think of a second one. But when he came into power for us, he found that Obama had made an astonishing deal with the Australians. The Australians don't want anyone who ever comes to Australia illegally by sea ever to be let in. Think a Malcolm Turnbull made a deal with Obama that all these immigrants, every illegal who were on an island, they didn't want a single one of them to get into Australia.

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So he arranged with America, the Americans, to take all of them. How Obama agreed to this, I do not know. But Tom committed just called called Turnbull. And I said, this is the worst you have ever heard. But these phone calls, I mean, in other words, he didn't understand. The part of the reason was a quid pro quo with Australia, because Australia is so pro-American, supports the Americans in every single adventure they have from us, etc.

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And that done that, there was a very good reason for this. But you're absolutely right that it was those institutions from the United Nations to NATO, which America has played a very big part, that Trump had absolutely no interest in them. His interest in NATO was that America was paying too much for it, but we certainly lost Merkel. I mean, Merkel simply wanted nothing further to do with him. And, of course, his power waned with the pandemic because he couldn't control this in a way that the Germans, for example, could have the Scandinavians make it or to do so know.

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So that and of course, with that, the United Nations, he had absolutely no interest in those in those sort of institutions, the Paris accord being another one, that in other words, he was interested in isolating America and he was interested, you know, the the slogan about making America great again actually means something. It means that that that it was within America to make his changes, such as they were. He didn't actually know what they were.

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It wasn't as though he had a great health plan or he had an education plan or he had some sort of dream about it. But for infrastructure and I just with infrastructure, just want to say, you know, watched watched from Italy or Germany or France. America's really astonishing the efforts in California where I am now to build just a fast train that goes from L.A. to San Francisco. I mean, it can just like it's a no brainer, the same as it would be St.

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Paul's to Houston or the same as it would be from Boston to Washington and accountability faster. And they just can't do it. They just can't do it. They have spent billions already here in California. They haven't even they're talking about getting a small stretch ready by twenty, twenty eight, but they're not sure that that that will even be ready. What's the problem? The problem is the deal. Everyone will go to law or farmer along the way in a bit of land take and we'll go to law.

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But, but, but it isn't just that as much as the the just trying to get everything, trying to join all the dots to make that train line has proved impossible in America. There's also, of course, the car lobby doesn't help. This tree trunk, of course, wanted to punish California. So he was not it was not something that he helped with. But I'm just saying that those very basic infrastructure like you try you try and try and using American airports to try and try and working with the American Airlines, it is a constant nightmare like you should.

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You just see what LAX the airport in L.A. is like like like Third World isn't the word for it, because a lot of third so-called Third World airports are not shining and beautiful, courtesy of various forms of investment. And so some of them quite suspect. But but the but but the American airports, a lot of them are really I mean, to try and for example, I don't know if you if you've arrived with air links to try and get a taxi seat out of JFK, the amount of traveling you did to get on a bus and the bus doesn't come, it is a constant sense to the.

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That the smallest thing doesn't work and that those large infrastructure projects from trains to planes that have really changed Europe and are not available here.

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I just want to before we conclude our conversation about this man, the Donald put two propositions to column. One is that wherever he is right now, he will be stewing because he will think if they'd only got that down vaccine one month or six weeks ago, I would have been returned as president. And doubtless that is true. And it's like Jimmy Carter with Iran has just been released, you know, so that he just wasn't lucky with that. But I don't think we can finish a conversation without without just making some reference to race.

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No. And, well, I was going to ask you, because it had occurred to me and you referenced it at the beginning of our discussion, was Trump. Our reaction to the eight Obama years, yeah, that there's a documentary going on about Ronald Reagan showing that the very first time he made his first bid for president in 1976, he did his first speech in a county in Mississippi, which was famous for having murdered these three civil rights workers and was known for all over America.

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That is where he started. He didn't have to say anything about race. You could just show, yes, I have my big wide audience. And in this place and civility, Trump Center sent out messages and those messages were received in that he was actually that that that that civil war has never ended. Yes. Especially in the southern states. You know, I mean, I remember going to Savannah in Georgia and doing a reading and just saying to the organizers, like, there's no one black in the audience of any event during this literary festival, which is a big literary festival.

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It's on posters everywhere, not a single. They just said to me in a really dismissive way, all they don't come to those things as though they were some sort of monolithic literary events. But I mean, this is a small example. There are the large examples are all to do with access to education. We have to remember college fees in America are up to like 40, 50, 60 thousand dollars a year for fees alone. Yes, that is student debt.

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But it's also getting into the colleges is difficult so that if you don't have the proper primary school, secondary school, you just don't get into college. And so and that affects black people much more than it affects white people. And I mean, that was the spread. The discrimination is constant and daily. And the strangest thing is that the efforts to stop black people voting in the southern states of America is still going on. It's run by the Republicans and it's persisted.

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Yes, that that that idea, I think for Europeans. I've tried to stop a group of people voting from voting. Yes, really, really, really. It's some sort of primitive racism that the primitive racism is at the heart of this. And Trump has been able to press those buttons without having to say too much. And yes, the idea that when he I mean, just to put it at its crudest, when he arrived at the White House and he got into bed that first night, he was in a bed that a black man had been sleeping.

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Yes.

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I want to ask you, given the fact that he got four million votes, is it only a matter of time before what I feared and money in Europe feared that we'd lose America for, shall we say, the cause of freedom and democracy? Is it only a matter of time? Before the what you might call the East Coast and West Coasts, intellectuals, the people with a global perspective, people who travel to Europe, who think of Europe before those people are a minority and the governments might be out of the question.

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Twenty five years from now for people of that of those sensibilities. And yes, it's a danger. I mean, there are plus signs, the result in Arizona and the results in the result in Georgia. And both show that once you get those big cities, Atlanta and Phoenix, that those big cities will eventually it will will more or less cancel out the rural places and become become democratic. But on the other side, the what we're facing into in four years time is the possibility that Kamala Harris will be strong enough.

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Yes. To start building a base and will raise enough money that she will be unassailable and as the Democratic candidate and she will lose. I don't need to go into the reasons why she lose. But the misogyny against Hillary Clinton was something to see. I was shocked by that. And the fact that Kamala Harris is not white and will not help will not help her in certain places in the United States and that Trump will then become either the king or the kingmaker.

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In other words, that he will he will end up supporting someone who perhaps younger, who's clever, who's commer, who's who's much more, in a way, policy led and determined than Trump has been.

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So, yes, it's it America hangs in the balance and therefore that person will be and I've been saying this for a while, that the next fascists to emerge in America won't be a clown. It might be somebody with all of those qualities you just referenced. Yes, yes.

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Yes. That's that's that's the danger. On the other hand, our mutual friend, Anthony Cronon, yes, indeed. He could have addressed it at the very end of his life. Trump had been elected. And I asked him what he thought of that. And he said, come, you've got to remember that the American people are forward looking. They're always forward looking like the next good thing that they're not mired in darkness is not as though there's a sort of big fascist movement going as a small fascist movement.

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So there is another way of looking at America, which is that there is always an interesting sort of brightness. And Trump, for some people, oddly enough, represented that it might be that his sidekick, the person we're talking about, just would not have the appeal and that Trump has said that I won't come again in disguise. OK, that's that's that's the hope. But and certainly the seventy four million people and it must feel astonishing resentment. Oh, I haven't mentioned the figure of Hannity as Irish.

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Oh yes. His pal on the Fox News. Hannity. Yeah. On it. I'm still talking about the election being stolen. I mean, I mean I go on to Fox News just to see what's going on in the world. That is Hannity and Tucker Carlson to this day. Tucker Carlson, Stockton and Kanaskie is not. And and he's another Irish person who's got over to the dark side.

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OK, just before we go, on the recent passing of Madonna in Argentina and three days of mourning, first time that's happened since Eva Peron.

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And you lived in Argentina for a while. You wrote beautifully about it and you would have known how much Madonna meant to the Argentine people.

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Yeah, there were. I mean, again, that's ambiguous for I remember someone in Argentina saying to me, just look at Pele, just look at what a gentleman dressed and how he behaved versus Madonna, who, of course, was from what they call a Villa Mzoudi, meaning was from a slum. Yes. I went and see the house where I was born. I mean, it barely had electricity. It had about three rooms. It was it was it was a dirt track of a dirt track of a dirt track.

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So you came out of playing on the street. You didn't have football fields. They had they had dusty lanes. He came out of that. He became known first as a child on the pitch who would be able to keep the ball in the air using his head and his feet for any length of time before the match. That's right. Yes. So so there was an element of someone rising up from the slums and the problems he had. I think it really became serious in Naples.

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Yes. Where he was so famous and he had such an entourage that they couldn't really go to Naples as a. Small city, it had they had about three or four restaurants that someone like him could use because everybody knew him, everybody watched him, his antics off the picture in the papers all the time. It was the same in Barcelona, which which, you know, it's a it's a point. It is quite stiff in the way it functions.

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It's been Catalan. The arrival of Maradona and his people, I think, shocked the Catalans. It was again, again and again. It was talking about a class difference. Yes. And which is strange to me because your attitude, because you talk about football. But but but there was a feeling that somehow or other, he was a genius player and he brought in huge crowds and huge publicity. But but that's socially or in terms of his social class or his course.

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Yes, that was very hurtful. David left him absolutely lonely and isolated. And he was someone who didn't drive outside his own country when a huge city with with many great places to go where he would have any number of choices for what he would go for dinner. And and he was very comfortable there with a lot of people who were like him in his group. And of course. But of course, when he went back there and that's when I wrote about him, he I mean, the whole idea of drugs and, you know, I just just did it.

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When his days were over, he had nowhere to be, nothing to fall back on. It wasn't as though he could become a coach or a manager. No, no. In other words, he had really he had really nowhere to go as a sort of project prodigy. Certain people are like that. They want to live out there. And it wasn't just as though he wouldn't do it. I mean I mean, I remember asking one of these sort of the top football people in management asking him, had he ever been in the place where I was from there?

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Did he know those lanes? Did he know that place? And he looked at me utterly shocking. He pointed at his suit. He pointed at as his soul and said to me, I'm from Buenos Irish. Nobody that I could have ever seen where he's from. So there was and they also one of them referred to me again, we're talking about race as Negrito. Yeah. Archi, in other words, that other Argentines are why they're there.

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There's very few. So there's a very small indigenous thing in Argentina compared to, say, to Chile or Paraguay. And and they saw him as having darker skin or if it and and I think these things matter eventually. What when he went and who he went with became an important part of the sort of legend of someone who was who was, I suppose it was getting older and really had nowhere to go. I mean I mean, it was wasn't as though, as I say, you could work in management.

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No, of course not. Collum, I'm really grateful to you for joining us today. And I hope you enjoy your wonderful Thanksgiving weekend and you stay safe and that we're very grateful to Collum, to all of you who listened and of course, to Tesco, our sponsors.

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That's all we have time for now. We'll talk to you soon.