The British foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, also happens to be one of the two finalists to succeed Theresa May as prime minister, which gave him extra incentive to fire at Trump here. The target audience for these tweets is obviously UK voters more so than the president, with Hunt seizing an opportunity to stand up to a domineering American as the Tories prepare to choose a new leader. The British naturally don’t like being viewed as the “junior partner” in the U.S.-UK “special relationship” and now here’s Trump poking them in that sore spot by presuming to tell them not just who their ambassador should be but that they’ve handled the wrenching issue of Brexit badly.
It was a gimme for Hunt to show some spine, not just to keep up morale among the diplomats he oversees but to try to impress the Tory rank-and-file before the PM vote.
Which, as I said yesterday, leaves the other finalist — and favorite — for PM in a bind. Does Boris Johnson lie low and risk looking weak on this relative to Hunt? Or does he join Hunt in vowing to keep Kim Darroch on as ambassador and risk a spat with the White House before he’s even taken office?
1/2 @realDonaldTrump friends speak frankly so I will: these comments are disrespectful and wrong to our Prime Minister and my country. Your diplomats give their private opinions to @SecPompeo and so do ours! You said the UK/US alliance was the greatest in history and I agree… https://t.co/hNeBWmyyVN
— Jeremy Hunt (@Jeremy_Hunt) July 9, 2019
2/2…but allies need to treat each other with respect as @theresa_may has always done with you. Ambassadors are appointed by the UK government and if I become PM our Ambassador stays.
— Jeremy Hunt (@Jeremy_Hunt) July 9, 2019
Johnson’s going to have to line up with Hunt. He’d look like the cuck to end all cucks if he took the boorish Yank’s side against his own team.
To my surprise, Darroch hasn’t (yet) resigned. I assume he’s offered to, just to spare May and Hunt the dilemma of what to do about all this. The fact that his resignation hasn’t been accepted is all the evidence we need that the Brits have had it with Trump’s antics and would rather spite him than make this concession. Besides, as Ed rightly noted this morning, Darroch’s done nothing wrong. He gave his honest opinion about the government of the nation where he was stationed, believing it would remain confidential. The leak was wrong but there’s no evidence that Darroch was involved in that. (Why the hell would he be, knowing what it would mean for him professionally?) If Trump were less narcissistic, he could have channeled his pique at Darroch’s criticism of him into faux concern about British cybersecurity. “Not sure how we can continue to meet with British diplomats knowing that they can’t protect their own secrets! Sad!”
Although after Snowden and Wikileaks and 8,000 other breaches of U.S. cybersecurity, that argument would have been even less convincing than his tantrum over what Darroch wrote about him.
From what I can tell, British media today is a mix of “How can Darroch possibly continue?” and more defiant pieces like this one from Alex Massie at the Spectator, tearing into Nigel Farage for toadying on Trump’s behalf by demanding Darroch be canned:
Still, sides must be chosen. Donald Trump doesn’t like the UK’s ambassador to the United States and if Donald Trump says that then his British acolytes will agree with him. This, it seems, is what believing in Britain is all about. There is something humiliating, even perhaps something servile, about this.
On the right as well as on the left there is now an instinctive willingness to grant foreign powers the benefit of the doubt while reserving nothing but contempt for the claimed fecklessness of our own political leaders, diplomats and other representatives. It is hardly a surprise that Nigel Farage and Jeremy Corbyn each, for different reasons, grant Vladimir Putin a measure of indulgence they would never offer the UK’s own political leaders.
The irony is that if Trump really wants Darroch replaced and isn’t just exploiting Diplogate to pick a fight with May’s government for whatever weird Trumpy reason, the worst thing he could have done is tweet about it. He should have spoken to them privately and nudged them to create some pretext for Darroch to leave his post early or even to resign forthrightly as penance for the leak of his cables. By making a public stink about it, he forced the Brits to make a “him or me” decision in full view of their own citizens. Naturally they were going to side with their own man. Which is to say, this very incident demonstrates the aptness of some of Darroch’s criticism of the administration — diplomatically clumsy, unpredictable, inept.
Here’s Hunt yesterday sounding much more diplomatic about this mess, before the latest round of presidential tweet-farting forced a sterner response.