A Tale of Two Cities

Both of which are London.

For the last couple of days, journalists and politicians all over London have been wringing their hands in despair over the disrespectful treatment accorded to a stellar Englishman. No, not Tommy Robinson. Kim Darroch. Sorry: Sir Kim Darroch. Yes, he’s a guy – Kim as in Kim Philby or Kim Jong Un, not Kim Novak. Since 2016, not that you or I would’ve known it, he’s been the UK Ambassador to the US. Before that he was Britain’s National Security Advisor, and before that he was his country’s Permanent Representative to the EU, an organization of which he is known to be exceedingly fond. In short, a career diplomat with predictable PC politics.

And the kind of faceless civil servant whom the public never notices until, as happened the other day, a scandal erupts around him. On July 5, the Mail on Sunday reported on leaked secret cables in which Darroch described the Trump White House as “dysfunctional,” “unpredictable,” “diplomatically clumsy and inept,” and torn by factional conflict, said that Trump himself had led a life “mired in scandal” and might well be indebted to “dodgy Russians,” and warned, after the President’s recent state visit to London, that Trump’s USA “is still the land of America First.”

On wonders: why keep some jerk on the payroll for this kind of stuff when you can get the same thing twenty-four hours a day on CNN or MSNBC? One also wonders: what kind of fatuity, or chutzpah, does it take for an envoy representing the worst prime minister and lamest government in modern British history to describe the most successful American president of our lifetimes as dysfunctional and inept? And one further wonders: did Darroch, while serving in Washington during the last days of the Obama administration, ever once express concern about Barack’s and Hillary’s numerous scandals and “dodgy” foreign connections?

One more thing: what’s wrong with “America First”? If Kim’s boss, Theresa May, had put Britain First, she wouldn’t have screwed up Brexit so royally. And hey, what about the fact that Obama went to the UK to warn Brits condescendingly that if they dared to quit the EU, he’d send them to the back of the trade queue, whereas Trump has taken every opportunity to sing the UK’s praises and promise a terrific post-Brexit trade deal? And what about the fact that Obama banished the Churchill bust from the Oval Office and Trump put it back?

No, this Sir Kim dude is plainly just one more elite schmuck who, out of sheer snobbery, despised Trump from the day he was elected president; one more toff for whom the Donald is just “not our sort,” i.e. not the sort whom the Queen would ever elevate to a knighthood. And of course the voters who put this vulgarian in office are, in the view of Sir Kim and his ilk, so much rabble, like the scum who cheer for Tommy Robinson.

Quite understandably, Trump responded to Sir Kim’s leaked cables by saying that he’d henceforth refuse to deal with the guy. His hand forced, Sir Kim thereupon submitted his resignation, effective whenever Theresa or Boris appoints a successor. This action has led British politicians of all parties and pretty much every member of Britain’s chattering classes to rush to Sir Kim’s defense and to emit such overwrought cries of lamentation over Sir Kim’s fate that you’d have thought he’d been run over by a jihadist-driven lorry on London Bridge. Except in this case they weren’t tiptoeing around the identity of the villain in the story – namely, Trump, whom Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry described as “this dreadful president.” A BBC reporter maintained that cabinet members were “spitting tacks at [Darroch’s] departure,” with one minister saying “this is what happens when you have a stupid, spoiled child as president.”

The thrust of all the British establishment’s hyperbolic rhetoric about Sir Kim was that he’s such a venerable chap, such a distinguished public servant, such an estimable and peerless royal emissary, that the abominable treatment – i.e. public criticism – to which he’d been subjected was an impermissible affront to a man of his rank and splendor. He is, after all, a KCMG, a member of the Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George. Take that, Donald! How many fancy titles you got?

Observing the absurd spasms of pity and compassion for Sir Kim in the British media, one couldn’t help thinking that even as all this weeping and wailing was going on, Tommy Robinson was counting down the hours until his sentencing, on Thursday, for the high crime of standing near a courthouse with a camera and microphone and posing questions of child rapists. While the great and good were all over British TV gnashing their (bad) teeth and rending their (bespoke Savile Row) garments over poor Sir Kim, I didn’t see anybody on the tube who gave a toss about Tommy.

A friend of mine in New York, who is a prominent and highly regarded writer, contacted a bunch of UK editors on Wednesday in an attempt to place a pro-Tommy op-ed, which she thought one of them might agree to publish if only to project a façade of objectivity; but, as one of the editors told her, they had “no appetite for anything defending Tommy Robinson.” As it happened, something called the Defend Media Freedom Conference was also underway in London on Wednesday, offering Rebel Media host Ezra Levant the opportunity to ask a representative of the Committee to Protect Journalists whether his organization had anything to say about Tommy’s case; the rep mumbled something about “contempt of court” (the specious charge leveled against Tommy) and said that Tommy’s fate was a matter “for the UK courts” to decide (an argument that the CPJ would never accept in regard to courts in Third World countries).

Anyway, at midday on Thursday, while all of Whitehall was still whining over poor Sir Kim, Tommy was sentenced to six months in prison, plus nine months of a previously suspended sentence, minus time served, and also minus a few extra weeks for reasons that were not immediately clear, at least to me  – which means, reportedly, that he will probably serve about two months. If he survives. Yet even as a crowd of mostly working-class Brits raised a hue and cry about Tommy’s punishment outside the Old Bailey, elsewhere in London – in the corridors of power, the elegant drawing rooms, and the most exclusive clubs – the toffs were still shedding tears about poor Sir Kim. How could one not be reminded of the Paris of the 1780s, in which the beau monde was blithely oblivious of the increasing restiveness of the sans-culottes? How did that one end up, again?

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