As a lawyer for more than 40 years, who spent 30 years hearing cases, I have a God-given certainty that there is one true law of advocacy. If you have a point, make it, and don’t spoil it with a dud. I must therefore take my own medicine.
The other day, I spent about an hour drafting a letter to The New York Times about Donald Trump. The first draft is set out below. I then went to their website which told me that the letter should be about 150 to 170 words. The first draft was about 320. I then set about reducing it by half. That produced the final draft which is set out below and which was sent to the paper.
The lesson, and my medicine, is that the second draft was much better than the first.
May an ageing Australian lawyer comment on your politics?
We down here have a lot in common with you up there. I have friends there; I visit there; I have done a Summer School at Harvard; after my home town Melbourne, and Berlin, New York is my favourite city.
Most Australians look on the U S with affection and some respect.
Our respect is qualified because we think that your position on guns and healthcare is odd if not mad – and cruel. But people are different, and we are content to see you as the leader of the free world.
My fear is that we won’t keep looking to you for any kind of leadership if Donald Trump is nominated to stand for President. That for us would be pure madness. We presently discount the impossible – his being elected – but just his nomination would I fear rob the U S of all its standing in the world for the foreseeable future.
I do not think our faith in you could withstand such a shock, and I am revolted by the thought of our Prime Minister being received at the White House by that man and his menagerie. I have no doubt that such is the view in London, Paris, and Berlin.
There are awful precedents of what may happen if a decent nation elects a populist to give a jolt to the political establishment in the faith that educated people will be able to reel him in later. I need not rehearse the dark names that this candidate evokes. And the U S is threatening to split wide open and lose its standing to lead at the same time that Europe looks like splitting up. What is to become of us all?
I have even less standing to comment on the Republican Party, but if it were a public company, its Board of Directors would have been sacked long ago.
A letter from down under
Most Australians look on the U S with affection and some respect.
Our respect is qualified because we think that your position on guns and healthcare is odd if not mad – and cruel. But people are different, and we see you as the leader of the free world.
My fear is that we won’t keep looking to you if Donald Trump is nominated to stand for President. That for us would be pure madness.
I do not think our faith in you could withstand such a shock, and I am revolted by the thought of our Prime Minister being received at the White House by that man and his menagerie.
There are awful precedents of what may happen if a decent nation elects a populist to give a jolt to the political establishment in the faith that educated people will be able to reel him in later. I need not rehearse the dark names that this candidate evokes.
I would not allow Donald Trump into my house. As we face the unthinkable, it will be interesting to see what clout the respectable world press has.
This morning’s AFR carried a piece by Martin Wolf of The Financial Times, one of the best newspapers in the world, and, when last I looked, not Left wing. I want to set out some parts of that piece at length – and not just because it conforms with my prejudices.
What is one to make of the rise of Donald Trump? It is natural to think of comparisons with populist demagogues past and present. It is natural, too, to ask why the Republican Party might choose a narcissistic bully as its candidate for president. This, though, is not just about a party, but about a great country. The U S is the greatest republic since Rome, the bastion of democracy, the guarantor of the liberal global order. It would be a global disaster if Mr Trump were to become president. Even if he fails, he has rendered the unthinkable sayable.
Mr Trump is a promoter of paranoid fantasies, a xenophobe and an ignoramus. His business consists of the erection of ugly monuments to his own vanity. He has no experience of political office. Some compare him to Latin American populists. He might also be considered an American Silvio Berlusconi, albeit without the charm or business acumen. But Mr Berlusconi, unlike Mr Trump, never threatened to round up and expel millions of people. Mr Trump is grossly unqualified for the world’s most important political office.
Yet, as Robert Kagan, a neoconservative intellectual, argues in a powerful column in The Washington Post, Mr Trump is also ‘the GOP’s Frankenstein monster.’ He is, says Mr Kagan, the monstrous result of the party’s ‘wild obstructionism’, its demonisation of political institutions, its flirtation with bigotry, and its ‘racially tinged derangement syndrome’ over President Obama. He adds: ‘We are supposed to believe that Trump’s legion of ‘angry’ people are angry about wage stagnation. No, they are angry about all the things Republicans have told them to be angry about these past seven-and-a-half years.’
Mr Kagan is right but does not go far enough. This is not about the past seven and a half years. These attitudes were to be seen in the 1990s, with the impeachment of President Clinton. Indeed, they go back to the party’s opportunistic response to the civil rights movement in the 1960s. Alas, they have become worse, not better, with time.
Why has this happened? The answer is that this is how a wealthy donor class, dedicated to the aims of slashing taxes and shrinking the state, obtained the foot soldiers and voters it required. This then is ‘pluto – populism’: the marriage of plutocracy with right wing populism.……
It is rash to assume constitutional constraints would survive the presidency of someone elected because he neither understands nor believes in them. Rounding up and deporting eleven million people is an immense coercive enterprise. Would a president elected to achieve this be prevented and, if so, by whom? What are we to make of Mr Trump’s enthusiasm for the barbarities of torture?
This is very powerful writing indeed, and someone might pass it on to the Sniper and his loyal mates in The Australian.
This piece also shows some things cannot be dealt with in the space of Twitter, or the guidelines of the NYT letters, or the Gettysburg Address.
Three things about fascists last century. People did not take the fascists at their word. Liberals thought that they could reel them in later. They were wrong, and their nation was buggered.
And the rest of the world felt the pain.
Poet of the month: Judith Wright
Woman to Man
The eyeless labourer in the night,
the selfless, shapeless seed I hold,
builds for its resurrection day –
silent and swift and deep from sight
foresees the unimagined light.
This is no child with a child’s face;
this has no name to name it by:
yet you and I have known it well.
This is our hunter and our chase,
the third who lay in our embrace.
This is the strength that your arm knows,
the arc of flesh that is my breast,
the precise crystals of our eyes.
This is the blood’s wild tree that grows
the intricate and folded rose.
This is the maker and the made;
this is the question and reply;
the blind head butting at the dark,
the blaze of light along the blade.
Oh hold me, for I am afraid.