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Tuesday 24 October 2017

Disappointing and limited 'stump' speech offered Ireland little by way of consolation

IT WAS a poor speech with little sense of occasion. For all his insistence on 'Making America Great Again', there were few statements about human values and a very limited sense of the 'Great United States of America' having a meaningful role in the greater world.

The global political realpolitik is that whoever is in the White House has a huge influence the world over. In the English-speaking world, that influence is considerably magnified.

Here, in what is often derisively called the "51st State", the White House reach is huge. The term "51st State" should not be a term of derision - it should be seen as a recognition of the fact that people on Ireland's western seaboard often knew far more about Boston, New York, Chicago, or even the wilds of Oregon, than they ever did about Dublin or the east coast of this country.

The term speaks to a deep-rooted economic reality of emigration which dates back to the Great Famine. In the day-to-day reality, it means 'President Donald J' has the capability to set a tone in our world.

Hopefully we will have the cultural depth and strength to resist this hectoring and bullying populism and think a little deeper.

Yes, we have big problems in Ireland of disenchantment with conventional politics, and grounds to believe that the establishment failed us rather badly. The past decade has been very grim for all working people who have had to do more with vastly less.

We must understand why so many disillusioned American people, many of them with strong Irish links, were attracted by 'The Donald's' rhetoric. But we must absolutely avoid following their example for the simple reason that it will not help us.

The speech by President Trump - for that is what he now is and we must get used to call him thus - was a disappointment. We were looking for signs that he would, eventually, be "presidential".

That he would speak to higher human values on one of the few occasions when politicians are given an opportunity to do just that.

Instead, we got a "stump speech", reiterating all his campaign rhetoric. He won that election on November 8 last.

So, two-and-a-half months later, it is time to park the political guff and be the president. He spent his time attacking the "Washington establishment" who were cheek-by-jowl with him on the podium.

It is beyond time that he recognised the reality that he is the very heart of the "Washington establishment".

It is time for work, not rhetorical cant.

Astute Irish listeners will have heard him yet again refer to bringing multinational jobs back to America. All through the election campaign, these cries have been downplayed by officials in Dublin as "the usual election sloganising".

Granted, tough talk about repatriating the US multinationals has been a feature of US presidential campaigns for the past three decades. It has been a feature of candidate pitches from both sides of the US political divide.

The assumption in Dublin, largely correct as it has transpired, is that after the election things would slope back to the old ways.

US multinationals would continue their established practices. There was always talk about the "heart of the US establishment" needing them as a manifestation of "America's latter day empire".

We also know that big industrial investment decisions are not made in a trice.

Happily, for Ireland, it takes a minimum of three to five years to make any kind of meaningful changes on big overseas investments.

But we must by now also take a more serious view of Mr Trump's multinational pronouncements.

What if he means it?

Irish Independent

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