Donald Trump continues to confound his opponents … How Rupert Murdoch promoted Trump’s takeover of New York and then America … China’s star continues to rise … Labour MP who challenged Israel … Paul Ramsay’s bequest runs off the rails … Great Crashing Bores & Festival of Dangerous Ideas
Trump’s crash crusade
When Donald Trump made his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on February 28 the US media labelled it as a “pivot”: Trump had executed a U-turn, they said. The verdict was that he had spoken so “presidentially” that he was now the acknowledged 45th President of the United States. They claimed the Congress speech had buried the free-wheeling rant he had delivered at his open-air inauguration on the steps of Congress in January.
As his poll ratings rose following the speech to Congress, a sigh of relief could be heard from capital cities around the world. “Maybe he won’t be the catastrophe that we all imagined,” was the most commonly-held viewpoint. Then he flew to his fabled Mar-a-Lago residence in Florida for a weekend of golf and began to tweet his innermost thoughts. His startling claim that Barack Obama had ordered the bugging of Trump Tower during the election campaign swept around the world. It was front-page news everywhere – but was it true? No one knows.
However, any cursory reading of Trump’s history will reveal that the anti-Obama tweet was directly from the billionaire’s playbook. In his book, Trump: The Art of the Deal, published by Random House in 1987, the real estate spiv said: “One thing I’ve learned about the press is that they’re always hungry for a good story and the more sensational the better. The point is that if you are a little different, or a little outrageous, or if you do things that or bold or controversial, the press is going to write about you. Sometimes they write positively and sometimes they write negatively. But … the benefits of being written about have far outweighed the drawbacks. The funny thing is that even a critical story, which may be hurtful personally, can be very valuable to your business.
“The final key to the way I promote is bravado. I play to people’s fantasies. People may not always think big themselves, but they can still get very excited by those who do. That’s why a little hyperbole never hurts. People want to believe that something is the biggest and the greatest and the most spectacular. I call it truthful hyperbole. It’s an innocent form of exaggeration – and a very effective form of promotion.”
The book’s crude philosophy certainly impressed the New York Times reviewer whose opinion was slapped on the front cover of the book: “He makes one believe in the American dream again.” That was 30 years ago but today the New York Times editorial policy is decidedly anti-Trump and it is dedicated replacing him with Vice President Mike Pence.
How two Aussie tramps sold Trump
Trump, the outsider from Queens, stole Manhattan and became New York’s No 1 celebrity with the help of two Australians – mega publisher and phone hacking king Rupert Murdoch and Col Allan, editor of Murdoch’s thoroughly disreputable New York Post. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s not a week went by when Trump’s name wasn’t on the front page, the news pages or the gossip columns. His appearances at ball games, social events or conferences were duly photographed by the Post and plastered over the Post on hundreds of occasions.
Trump phoned Post gossip reporters using a false name and disguised voice to leak snippets about himself. When he had bigger stories about Washington politicians he phoned Murdoch. He used the alias “John Barron” when reporters wanted to quote a Trump organisation spokesman It is a mutually beneficial arrangement: Trump and Murdoch used each other to carpetbag their way into the Big Apple. When Trump decided to run for the White House he was in almost daily contact with Murdoch or Allan. At the end of his News Ltd career in 2016, Allan, the Dubbo-born redneck, told friends he would consider moving to the White House as a communications adviser if Trump won. Trump did win but he immediately stopped calling Allan: he had used the rabble-rousing editor and then brushed him off like a fleck of dandruff.
China in the wings
The People’s Republic of China which staged the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party in Beijing this week seems to have an economic, industrial, environmental and social plan. Western academics say that China is “not ready” to assume the role as the world’s leading economic power. And they are correct. But neither was Britain when it became the world’s most powerful empire and nor was the United States when it took over in the last century. I dare say that in ancient times Athens and Rome struggled too. Countries, their leaders and people are “never ready” for world leadership. It is thrust upon them by history.
Trump’s chief policy adviser Steve “Breitbart” Bannon, recently promoted to the National Security Committee, said last year he had “no doubt” that “we’re going to war in the South China Sea in five to ten years time”. Who’s “we”? Australia? Japan? Indonesia? New Zealand? And will Chinese leaders turn a blind eye to Bannon’s provocative prediction?
This is the Chinese Year of the Red Fire Chicken or Rooster when people deal with financial events and share beauty and wealth. If that doesn’t work, you can pluck it and eat it and still come out in front. As they say in China: “Gong xi fa cai!” – Happy New Year!
Hail to Sir Gerald
The biggest danger for an ageing journalist is to turn his or her diary writing into one long obituary of relatives, friends, acquaintances or people they admire. That said, I can’t help recording the death of British Labour MP Sir Gerald Kaufman at the ripe old age of 86.
He was a former political journalist with London’s Daily Mirror who joined prime minister Harold Wilson’s “kitchen cabinet” as a press secretary. A practising Jew, he became one of Parliament’s most outspoken opponents of the Zionist regime in Israel and the pro-Israel lobby in Britain and elsewhere. Around the time of the Israeli blitzkrieg on Gaza, Kaufman said: “My grandmother was ill in bed when the Nazis came to her home town. A German soldier shot her dead in her bed. My grandmother did not die to provide cover for Israeli soldiers murdering Palestinian grandmothers in Gaza.”
A former Labour shadow foreign secretary (1987-1992) he told the Commons in 2002 that it was “time to remind [Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon that the Star of David belongs to all Jews and not to his repulsive government. His actions are staining the Star of David with blood. The Jewish people, whose gifts to civilised discourse include Einstein and Epstein, Mendelssohn and Mahler, Sergei Eisenstein and Billy Wilder, are now symbolised throughout the world by the blustering bully Ariel Sharon, a war criminal implicated in the murder of Palestinians at the Sabra and Shatila camps [in Lebanon] and now involved in Palestinians once again.”
In 2004 he urged economic sanctions against Israel for its apartheid policies directed at Palestinians. The Zionist lobby responded viciously describing him as “anti-Semitic” and “a self-hating Jew”. Kaufman replied with amused insouciance: “They call me a self-hating Jew, but it’s inaccurate because I quite like myself very much.”
Ramsay’s bequest captured
When Paul Ramsay, the founder and chairman of Ramsay Health Care, died in 2014 aged 78, I generously applauded his wish that $3.3 billion of his personal fortune should be gifted to charitable good works. I had not calculated on the ambitions of two former Liberal prime minister John Howard and Tony Abbott.
Now we know – via “Pope” Paul Kelly, the voice of Rupert Murdoch on The Australian – that a large whack of that bequest will be used to fund a “think tank”. Kelly informs us that it will be known as “The Ramsay Foundation for Western Civilisation” which is the polite way of saying that it will be anti-Islam. Pauline Hanson’s One Nation, Cory Bernardi’s Australian Conservatives and the right-wing Howard-Abbott wing of the Liberal Party will be clapping their tiny soft hands until they go pink. And they will be applying for scholarships, study tours and research projects. Guess who will be prominent board members? Howard and Abbott. And what will they use it for? The promotion of their particular brand of “Liberal values”. It makes one’s flesh creep.
What would Ramsay think of this? Ramsay was a lifelong Liberal who benefitted financially from Liberal support of private health care. He bought publicly-owned repat hospitals in NSW, Queensland and elsewhere and turned them into money-making machines. All I know is that the intensely shy ex-Riverview boy was committed to helping out kids from poor and disadvantaged backgrounds. He would probably be appalled.
Great Crashing Bores*
The drinks are on me today, boys, I’m going to be a One Nation MP. It’s all I ever dreamed about – being in Parliament and helping to make Straya Great Again. I think One Nation was impressed with my background, particularly in the military. I fought in the Battle of Britain alongside Douglas Bader and Leonard Cheshire and then I transferred to the North African show with Monty before being captured. I spent most of the war in Colditz, escaping six times, once with Jack Hawkins and Steve McQueen. When I came out out to Straya I joined the RSL, volunteered for Vietnam and fought the slimey commies up and down the Kokoda Track. I’ll never forget the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels and what they did for us. And the media has the cheek to call me racist. It’s a total lie – I’ve always had the greatest respect for coloureds of all races. It’s Moslems and Asians I can’t stand.
Festival of Dangerous Ideas*
Everyone’s heard of Shyam Acharya, the “fake doctor” from India who fooled NSW Health for 10 years, but how did he do it? ABC managing director Michelle Guthrie will reveal all the professional secrets in this once-in-a-lifetime Q&A. Book now to hear how Guthrie, a corporate lawyer from Rupert Murdoch News Corp with no experience in public television, radio or IT, got the ABC’s top job. Sponsored by Channels 7, 9 and 10 and the ABC’s incentivisation unit. Venue: Trump TV ballroom, Interballistic Hotel, Circular Quay. Tickets $1000 each.
*GCB and FODI are works of satirical fiction