Terry Prone advises Enda Kenny on how to approach Donald Trump ahead of his St Patrick’s Day visit to America.
You’ve loads of people giving you advice about the upcoming St Patrick’s Day trip to the US, starting with instructions to stay at home and eat the shamrock yourself.
Then you have folk who want you to go to the White House in order to deliver a tutorial on human rights, common decency, the moral responsibilities of being what used to be called the leader of the free world, how not to fast-track the wrecking of the global environment, and how to distinguish truth from lies.
Good luck with any of that.
Not saying you won’t try, because, knowing you, you’ll do your level best, but let’s not forget what happened to the prime minister of a slightly bigger country than ours — Australia — when he gave it the old college try about refugees. He got the phone banged down on him.
Took it very well, he did. Gained, if anything, by refusing to publicly share the details of what we’ll laughingly call “the conversation” he’d had with the man with the rampant forefinger. If you get your shamrock and your tutorial handed to you on Paddy’s Day, no doubt you’ll demonstrate matching dignity. Let’s be honest, to be outdone in discretion by an Australian would amount to a serious letting down of the side.
I wouldn’t dream of trying to influence you on that big stuff, but it strikes me that you might address a few ostensibly less important things with POTUS. Like the dress code. You have something in common with him on this. No, don’t get upset. It’s a good thing. He says he wants his team to dress sharply, and when it comes to sharp dressing, you’re positively pointy, with your good suits and your colour co-ordinated shirt and tie combos and your highly polished shoes. That’s all fine.
The issue is him announcing that he wants the women working for him to dress like women. This is a bit of a puzzle, because I haven’t seen many of the women around him dressing like men. Even if they did, so what? I have my days when I turn up to the office in a pinstriped trouser suit, shirt, tie, and cufflinks. Admittedly, it’s usually because I can’t find anything clean to wear without invading the wardrobe of the man in my life, but nobody at work gets pass-remarkable about it.
Between you and me, Taoiseach, I think this demand from the man in the White House stems from the fact that he’s a lascivious old fart. No, don’t tick me off. I’m neither being abusive or ageist. Just factual. This man has talked of women in a way that suggests he wants them dressed for easy access by his roaming hands. Also, he IS a bit on the old side. The oldest incoming president in history, right? Makes you look like a stripling, so he does. Maybe, therefore, this is a harking back to the days when Katharine Hepburn created scandal by wearing tailored trousers, a “mannish” look which of course, she being no dozer, made her much more feminine. He does strike me as a man reared on the notion that skirts are attractive and sexy, trousers not.
Because you work all the hours God sends and then some, you may not have had the chance to see the social media backlash to his proposition, so let me tell you about it. Firefighters (female), plumbers (female), police officers (female), and surgeons (female) all posted shots of themselves in their appropriate work uniform. We’re not talking Ralph Lauren dresses, here, although one pathologist (female), deploying a massive shears in the process of a postmortem examination of a very dead patient, did point out that, in among her scrubs, she was wearing pearls. Maybe she saw the necklace as a consolation prize for The Donald. I don’t know.
The point is this. He’s got away with all that gross anti-women behaviour up to now, and we know that more women voted for him than voted for Hillary Clinton. But you know yourself. He now has a lot of angry women out there, and one of life’s eternal verities is that angry women stay angry and go on to organise. He’d really be better off pretending to be a civilised man of his time.
Therapists maintain that patients who ‘behave as if’ they were, say, unfrightened in a frightening situation tend to become more courageous. Similarly, if you could persuade Trump to behave as if he respected women, he might eventually get around to respecting women for real. I know the odds are against it, but you don’t tend to recognise bad odds. That chosen blindness is one of the strengths that has you were you are today.
Another of those strengths is not caring what media says about you. You don’t, as most politicians do — including the man in the White House — fall on the broadsheets each morning, agog to find out what they’ve said about you. You probably won’t even read this column (sound of quiet sobbing.) This undoubtedly contributes to your impregnable good humour, and is a practice he could usefully emulate, just as he could usefully emulate your attitude to your enemies.
Please don’t be offended by this, but in this regard, you’re like a really well-trained cold caller. Just as an experienced cold caller expects eight out of 10 calls to result in being cut off or abused, and comes to almost relish the quota filling up, confident that two of those called will buy the service they’re flogging, so you seem to view enmity or disloyalty as nothing more than an interesting thread in the weft and warp of humanity. Those around you may think bad thoughts about, for example, someone calling you a political corpse, but it didn’t knock a feather out of you or prevent you dealing with the speaker in total amity. You might pass it on to Melania’s husband?
The other thing you might pass on is fitness. Quite apart from having a doctor who seems to be afflicted with terminal indiscretion, the US president doesn’t look like a man who spends much time on a bike. Admittedly, this does mean he doesn’t often turn up for work sporting a black eye, as you did last week, but he really doesn’t look healthy, and since he demonstrably needs a stress-reducer, a recommendation of a good bike might be productive.
Let’s not discuss the challenge to a bike helmet represented by the man’s hair. And no boasting, either, when you meet him, that your hirsuteness is not dependent on daily ingestion of chemicals, as, apparently, is his. Not that you would. Ever.
Honestly, though, I suspect all you can do is dress sharply, make sure Fionnuala dresses like a woman, hand over the greenery, and get out of there in one piece.
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