We’ve launched the US edition of The Spectator and the reaction so far has been great. We held two parties, one in New York and the other in Washington, to show America what The Spectator is all about. Americans can be quite gloomy these days, but business optimism runs in their blood. They seem enthused about The Spectator’s transatlantic appeal. I’ve met no end of Rod Liddle fans who thrilled at the sight of his name on the first US cover. Various people told me that America was crying out for a magazine with our sense of humor.
Not everyone gushed. At our launch party in Washington DC, Anne Applebaum, the historian and journalist, asked how on earth we expected to make ‘the most quintessentially English magazine’ work in the US. The answer is that the US edition isn’t all that English. Most of our writers are US-based; most of the articles are about America. We have endeavored to keep a Spectator-ish sensibility — humorous, heterodox, political not partisan — that appeals to good people everywhere. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to say all that, because our conversation veered on to Brexit. Anne doesn’t like Brexit.
To try to generate buzz and with the help of a PR agency, I did various TV and radio interviews, or ‘hits’ as media-types call them. My favorite appearance was on Newsmax TV’s Liquid Lunch, which is presented by the wonderfully named John Tabacco. The show is filmed in a rinky-dink studio on Broadway. Mr Tabacco is a proper Noo Yawka, an Italian-American boy from Staten Island, a Wall Street veteran who now tips cryptocurrency and other investments, always with the caveat: ‘But do not take any financial advice from me, do your own homework… and remember when I’m talking about stocks I’m also drinking alcohol.’ I loved him. We talked Meghan Markle, Trump, Robert De Niro (‘the guy’s a joke’) and the global elites. During the ad break, the producers brought out two frosted martini glasses and Mr Tabacco fixed the cocktails in a shaker. ‘Let me toast you, my friend,’ he said as we came back. ‘We are colluding with the UK right here!’
On my first night in New York, I went to a RealClearPolitics dinner to mark the publication of a new book, Deceiving the Sky: Inside Communist China’s Drive for Global Supremacy. The author, Bill Gertz, is a sort of American Cassandra visà-vis China: 20 years ago, he published The China Threat, which warned America’s leadership about under-estimating the People’s Republic’s military and strategic ambitions. America’s leadership largely ignored him. The dinner was full of China hawks. Several people asked me, somewhat suspiciously, why so many agents of Beijing influence had British accents. The man from the Asia Times on my right said that the Chinese have ‘effectively bought’ Cambridge University. People agreed that Trump’s tougher approach was welcome, though possibly too late. Towards the end of the evening, as the wine kicked in, a journalist at the end of the table suggested that China’s global takeover might not be so bad: ‘It’s not like we have much freedom today anyway.’ The others murmured in agreement, and said at least the trains might run on time.
A few days later, I learn from Rosie Gray at BuzzFeed that Bill has lost his job at the Washington Free Beacon because of a ‘financial transaction’ with a Chinese businessman, Guo Wengui, about whom he has frequently written. I pick up my copy of Deceiving the Sky. Chapter 9, ‘Influence Power’, begins: ‘Guo Wengui is no ordinary Chinese dissident…’ Oh dear, oh dear, how rum. Whatever the truth, Bill is not all wrong, and his interesting work should not be overlooked.
Impeachment is all over the American news again. It’s a lot like Brexit: zealots on either side see a great conspiracy to thwart democracy; pundits overanalyze every turn — ‘saturation coverage’, they call it. But the experts and insiders are always wrong. Sane people are tired of listening to them. Nobody seems to know if the Trump-Ukraine story is a grave threat to Trump’s presidency or just another crazy episode following the big Trump-Russia squib. At the launch party, Jacob Heilbrunn, the editor of the National Interest, predicted: ‘He’ll be gone in six to eight weeks.’ ‘Didn’t you say that six weeks ago?’ replied the Sunday Times of London’s Josh Glancy.
The 45th president couldn’t make our DC party. Busy, I suppose. That morning, however, in his great and unmatched wisdom, he tweeted about one of our articles. ‘The Republican party has never had such support!’ he declared in response to an essay by Daniel McCarthy saying the Democrats would destroy themselves if they pursued impeachment. I wonder if he read it.
The Republican Party has never had such support! https://t.co/P6GHgBv3v9
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 3, 2019
My children are still deeply amused by Trump. He’s not a monster to them. He’s more a real-life Donald Duck — larger, richer, sillier. They delight in impersonating him. Earlier this year we went on holiday to Florida. Gus, our second, surprised a Latina hotel worker by cheerfully announcing: ‘We’re going to build a wall and make Mexico pay for it!’ She saw the funny side, thank goodness.
On Saturday, back in London, we were all in the car when the radio started intoning on the impeachment latest. ‘Trump! Trump!’ the children shouted. We all tuned in to hear the newsreader say: ‘…the President’s reply on Twitter: “BULLSHIT”.’ My wife hastily turned the radio off. The children laughed all the way home. ‘Bullshit! Bullshit!’ cried Clemmie, the four-year-old.
This article is in The Spectator’s November 2019 US edition.