Lindsey Graham: The British ambassador got a raw deal from ... the press

No, Kim Darroch didn’t get a raw deal from the press. He got a raw deal from whoever leaked his private diplomatic cables to the press. And he got a raw deal from Graham’s golf buddy, who passed on a chance to do the Brits a favor by being magnanimous about this and ignoring the criticism of his administration in those cables.

But this may be all Graham can muster anymore by way of criticism of the president at this stage in his evolution towards total Trump sycophant. He recognizes that Darroch was treated badly. He feels strongly enough about it to say so publicly.

Yet he can’t bear to place the blame where it really belongs. So he complains, but subs in a scapegoat. “Darroch was mistreated by the, er, media” is as close as he can get in Lindsey-speak to saying “bad Trump.”

If Graham’s eager to blame someone else for Trump’s tantrum over Darroch’s cables, I have a much better candidate than the press. As Ed noted earlier, it was Boris Johnson’s pitiful cuckish refusal to say he’d keep Darroch on as ambassador if he succeeds Theresa May as prime minister that convinced Darroch to quit. And critics are rightly letting him have it:

“Boris Johnson isn’t even PM yet and he is already responsible for a grievous blow to the UK’s international reputation…,” tweeted Nick Boles, an independent lawmaker and one-time Johnson adviser. “The British people can now see that Boris Johnson will be Donald Trump’s poodle, that his response to any command from the White House will be: ‘How high, Mr President?’”…

Tom Tugendhat, chair of the foreign affairs committee, told Sky News: “If we allow ourselves to be bullied in who we chose to represent us, then frankly, what does sovereignty mean? If you can’t even choose who represents you, then in what way are you in charge of anything?”

It wasn’t just gutless but stupid of Johnson, as his diplomatic corps might hold it against him. “He has basically thrown this fantastic diplomat under the bus to serve his own personal interests,” said one junior officer in the Foreign Ministry to Reuters, a point echoed by others who spoke to the Financial Times. An ambassador from a different country remarked to the NYT how ironic it was that Darroch was being bounced for criticisms of the Trump administration — inept, unpredictable, diplomatically clumsy — that routinely appear in cables sent by other foreign diplomats. Actually, said a British official to WaPo, you don’t even need to ask other diplomats whether Darroch’s criticism was apt. “Trump’s own aides, advisers and friends” will tell you that it is.

British columnist Brendan O’Neill asked a fair question: Why is it that Johnson and Nigel Farage, two of the UK’s loudest voices in favor of Brexit and sovereignty, were so quick to kiss the ass of a foreign power by tossing Darroch in the trash?

These are people who are supposed to be taking back control. Who are meant to be resuscitating Britain’s sovereign rights. Who have promised to bring legal, political, economic and diplomatic affairs back under the say-so of ordinary Britons and the people we actually elect.

And yet they flat-out failed to confront Trump, whose comments on Darroch — he branded him a ‘stupid fool’ and a ‘pompous guy’ and said his administration would no longer work with him — were in essence an ultimatum: get rid of this guy or there will be trouble.

The response should have been a clear, polite ‘Mind your own business, Donald’.

“It is for Britain and Britain alone to choose its ambassadors. And therefore Kim Darroch will be staying in his role,” O’Neill wanted them to say, insisting that Darroch be kept on if only for a few months longer as a gesture to show that the UK doesn’t take orders from anyone, particularly a president whose complaint here involved nothing grander than a bruised ego.

Maybe this is a defect of nationalism. Just as European “nationalists” seem eager to toady to a foreign nationalist power like Putin’s Russia, the British nationalists Boris and Farage seem to tremble at the thought of antagonizing Trump in even the smallest way, never mind that, Trump being Trump, it’s possible that he would have changed his mind about Darroch and dropped the whole “persona non grata” thing tomorrow. The best one can say of Johnson here is that he was legitimately worried that if he didn’t soothe Trump’s ego by abandoning Darroch, a post-Brexit U.S.-UK trade deal would have become much less likely. Imagine believing that the president would be so thin-skinned that he’d refuse to trade with a major western power because their ambassador hadn’t been punished for criticizing him confidentially. That’s … that’s …

That’s totally understandable on Johnson’s part, now that I think about it.

Exit question from Twitter pal “Lesser Frederick”: What’s the lesson American righties mean to impart by supporting Darroch’s ouster? That American diplomats stationed abroad should “go native” and never criticize the governments they’re interacting with — not even privately? “If diplomats are not willing to report anything to their government that they think might potentially embarrass the host country,” says LF, “then diplomats are useless as an intelligence source.”