THERESA May has flown to the US to address Republicans today, ahead of a meeting tomorrow with Donald Trump. A quick trip to America will be a happy distraction from all the Brexit chaos back home, where she increasingly looks small-minded, petty and horribly insular.
All that and not fully decisive either – hence her nickname in some quarters of “Mrs Maybe”.
Her haste to meet Trump is unseemly, and has echoes of smarming up to the playground bully in the hope of not being pinched. Or indeed worse in the company of a man whose notably small hands are said to enjoy a wander.
Will Mrs May tick him off about his sexism? Apparently not. Although she has previously expressed concerns about the video in which the President boasted about grabbing women “by the pussy”, she reportedly has no wish to raise his attitude towards women. To be fair, it’s hard to know exactly how you’d bring that up.
Instead she will talk about “pressing global issues” rather than flesh-pressing issues. My advice is not to stand to close to the man.
Mrs May wants to meet Trump so that she can seem important, being first in the queue, and so that she can issue some triumphalist blather about how Britain can cut a trade deal with the US in her brave new world. This is something she cannot in fact do until she has completed the Brexit folly and untied Britain from the other 27 EU countries. You know all those tangled up and overlapping wires at the back of your television? Multiply that by a million and you have a picture of the European knot that faces Britain now.
Mrs May’s short break in Washington is basically for show. A two-day charm offensive that is likely to be more offensive than charming.
As for Trump the Terrible, he has been firing off a volley of orders, and his latest at the time of writing is to proclaim that torture works. Trump told ABC News that waterboarding works, and that “we have to fight fire with fire”. It’s a distraction, I know, but that man does mix his metaphors – as well as use far too many – and here seems confused between fire and water.
Trump said in the interview: “I have spoken with people at the highest level of intelligence and I asked them the question: ‘Does it work? Does torture work?’ And the answer was: ‘Yes, absolutely’.”
Saying “torture works” sounds tough and yet is nonsensical, too. Inflicting pain on a person “works” in that they will break down and confess; but it doesn’t “work” if they don’t have anything to tell you or if you are torturing the wrong person.
On the BBC News website, you will find a film clip from a Panorama investigation into waterboarding. A reconstruction using a volunteer shows a man being strapped to a board, with his head held in place and his arms and legs secured. The ‘torturer’ then shouts at the man while pouring water into his mouth. As the clip explains, waterboarding is basically drowning.
That wall to keep out Mexicans will also be built, Trump insisted yesterday. This policy always raised a cheer at his rallies, especially when he said that the Mexicans would pay for it. American’s southern neighbour has an answer to the Trump Fence or whatever it is: “Mexico doesn’t believe in walls.”
That’s what the Mexican president Enrique Pena Nieto said in a message to the nation and it is a good reply, creating a sense of openness to counter Trump’s aggressive bullying and isolationism. President Nieto also said he had no intention of paying for the wall; and who can blame him?