Those whom the Gods would destroy

This is my review of Clinton / Trump : L’Amérique en colère by Christine Ockrent.

Anyone who has followed the fascinating but appalling path of the US Presidential election over the past year or more will already be familiar with the content of French journalist Christine Ockrent’s analysis of Clinton/Trump, “L’Amérique en colère” – Angry America. Yet there is some value in rereading an account of the overall course of events with the advantage of sobering hindsight. It is a like reading a series of colour supplement articles, with quite an effective analysis of the situation as at the end of August 2016. The personalities of the main protagonists are explored quite fully, although there is a lack of in-depth consideration of the factors which might have induced quite thoughtful and moderate ordinary people vote for Trump, despite his shortcomings.

I picked up a few fresh snippets, such as Bernie Sanders’ respect for Hillary Clinton, well-disguised in his campaigning, and her taking advantage of his hamstringing reluctance to call for gun control, being a representative of Vermont, where hunting is a major pastime. As for the many revealing lesser known anecdotes about Trump, there is his choice of a non-threatening running-mate in the form of Mike Pence, whom he introduced with his typical chaotic style of oratory, in which the only clear thread was praise for his own achievements. I was reminded of Trump’s past support for Democrats, further indicating that he was motivated by the desire for power rather than principle, having calculated that he was more likely to win if he took a stand against Hillary, playing on Republican prejudices in the process.

A point of which the Democrats could perhaps have made more was the suspicious possible link between the Trump team’s move to abandon a Republican-favoured pledge to give arms support to the Ukraine, and the Campaign Director Paul Manafort’s lucrative but undeclared remuneration as a lobbyist for the deposed Ukrainian President Yanukovitch, a Kremlin protégé. Of course, the wily Trump knew there was no need to worry about such a subtle Achilles heel as this, since he could rely on bamboozling his target audience with razzamatazz and crude slogans to chant about building walls to keep out Mexicans, "lock her up" at every mention of Hillary and "Let's America great again" without ever quite explaining how.

No doubt aiming to pip rivals to the post, Christine Ockrent had this book published in mid-September 2016, too late to include Trump's slogan to "Drain the swamp", with the major downside that not only had the three major debates yet to take place, but other major dramas were still to unfold. On one hand, there was the leaking of the tapes demonstrating Trump’s lewd boasting about molesting women, as recently as 2005 . On the other, there was the extraordinary intervention of FBI director James Comey only ten days before the election, raising the spectre of 650,000 emails to be investigated but then announcing there was nothing incriminating against Hillary some forty-eight hours before the main polling day. In omitting the last two months of the campaign, the book was unable to convey their surreal quality, and the oppressive nastiness combined with a sense of foreboding which affected foreign observers in the final stages, and must have “turned off” many American voters.

Apart from those who wish to practise their French, this being a good source of idioms and political vocabulary, the book may now seem as redundant as an old newspaper, unless Christine Ockrent chooses to update it by filling in the gaps, and providing a powerful analysis of the outcome which caught out many pundits and how it was reached.

⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4 Stars

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