Strange New Thoughts

The place where I slam down gauntlets and pick up the pieces.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Churchill & Trump: Separated At Birth?

I recently commented to an old friend that I didn't like President Trump – I offered no specific criticism or rationale; I simply didn't like the man. My friend responded, “Then you wouldn't like Winston Churchill, either,” or words to that effect. I assured him that I had read a number of books about Churchill, whose only real rival as the greatest man of the 20th century is probably Albert Einstein. After the conversation I thought hard: Churchill, Trump – am I missing something? Having concluded that yes, I was, I humbly submit a few parallels I have tried to draw between the two men: 

‌• Both Churchill and Trump are men steeped in history. Churchill was an historian of considerable achievement, having written, among many other things, A History of the English-Speaking Peoples and the six-volume The Second World War. Donald Trump himself has occupied history, having lived at the time of the Korean and Vietnam wars, the Space Race and the Arab Spring, all of which are historically important historical events in history. He too, has written books, including How to Get Rich and Think Big and Kick Ass in Business and Life.

‌• As a young cavalry officer and war correspondent, Churchill gallantly served his country in combat. In South Africa he was captured and interned in a POW camp, from which he escaped, which made him a bit of a hero back in England. Trump was also captured, in 2005, on tape. Both men went on to become heads of state in spite of the adversity of having been captured.

‌• Winston Churchill's wit was legendary. When he met Labour MP and Tory-hater Bessie Braddock at a party in 1946, she told him: "Winston, you are drunk." "Madam," he replied, "you are ugly, and I will be sober in the morning." Trump also is known for his razor keen witticisms. Referring to the 9/11 tragedy, he quipped, “I was down there, and I watched our police and our firemen, down on 7-Eleven, down at the World Trade Center, right after it came down.” “7-Eleven” ? Get it?

‌• Churchill married Clementine, the love of his life, in 1908, and they remained married until his death in 1965. Not to be outdone, Trump has been married three times, in addition to his various extra-marital affairs, thus proving his love over and over again.

‌• As an orator, Churchill has had few equals in modern history. His speeches, seasoned with phrases such as “their finest hour” and “blood, toil, tears and sweat” galvanized the will of his nation to stand agains the evils of Nazi Germany, and have become part of the English language. In Trump we have a latter-day Churchill, giving us such stirring statements as “Part of the beauty of me is that I am very rich,” and “I’ve said that if Ivanka weren’t my daughter, perhaps I’d be dating her."

‌• Doubtless in response to countless observations made to him by mothers about their offspring, Churchill was wont to respond, “All babies look like me.” Trump has also been likened to a baby.

‌• Like many of his time and station, Churchill was susceptible to the paternalistic racism and perceived European superiority common among such men, having once referred to Mahatma Gandhi as “that half-naked fakir.” In order to combat charges of anti-Mexican sentiment leveled against him, Trump was compelled to insist, “The best taco bowls are made in Trump Tower Grill. I love Hispanics!”

‌• Their countries both menaced by the Third Reich, Churchill and the Russian dictator Josef Stalin formed an uneasy alliance, each aiding the other materially and militarily until the Axis was defeated, leaving Britain and the Soviet Union to square off in an ideological standoff that would last for decades. Trump likewise shares a controversial relationship with Russia's Vladimir Putin. Warning against the Russian president's ordering the killing of journalists, Trump cautioned, "He's running his country and at least he's a leader, unlike what we have in this country. I think our country does plenty of killing also." That a great deal of killing takes place in the U.S. cannot seriously be questioned.

‌• Winston Churchill's record of service in public office was extensive well before he became Prime Minister, having been, among other things, Lord of the Admiralty, a member of Parliament, Minister of Defense, Chancellor of the Exchequer, Secretary of State for War, President of the Board of Trade, and Home Secretary, among many others. Trump's political aspirations are also the stuff of legend, he having considered running for Governor of New York. He has been a member of several political affiliations, including the Republican, Democratic and Reform Parties, thus establishing his credentials as a public servant.

‌• Trump's respect for Winston Churchill is attested to by his reinstatement of Churchill's bust to a prominent place in the Oval Office. While I have been unable to unearth any direct quotes by Trump on Churchill, he has nonetheless expressed admiration for Saddam Hussein, Kim Jong-Un, Benito Mussolini, and Bashar al-Assad, also national leaders, as was Churchill.

is not a scholarly work; rather, I wished to independently affirm my friend's assertion that my distaste for President Trump must translate into an equal disdain for Churchill. I am now faced with a choice: Either admit Trump's greatness as a visionary, courageous statesman and historical figure, or relegate Churchill to the status of an ignorant, narcissistic, lewd, pompous ass. To some this dilemma may seem insuperable, but history must ultimately judge. Out of respect for the office of President of the United States, I hereby abstain. Time will tell. And tell it will.