We had Trump the liar, then we had Trump the bully
May looked nauseous while he displayed unpleasant qualities that inspired massive protest
A drag queen joins protesters against the UK visit of US president Donald Trump as they gathered to take part in a march and rally in London on Friday. Photograph: Niklas Hallen/AFP/Getty Images
From the moment Donald Trump’s interview appeared in the Sun, criticising Theresa May’s Brexit strategy and suggesting that her rival Boris Johnson would make a good prime minister, there was little doubt how their meeting in Chequers would unfold. As cowardly as he is cruel, Trump specialises in bad-mouthing leaders such as May and Angela Merkel when they’re not there, only to backslide and make nice to them face to face.
“I have been watching her over the last couple of days. She’s a tough negotiator, she’s a very, very smart and determined person,” he said.
“I can tell you there are a lot of people that are looking up now that are saying, ‘Gee whiz, she left a lot of people in her wake.’ She’s a very smart, very tough, very capable person and I would much rather have her as my friend than my enemy, that I can tell you.”
The prime minister looked nauseous with embarrassment as she listened to Trump, who kept his eyes half closed with his lips puckered into a pout whenever she spoke. Standing before a row of British and American flags in the garden of the 16th-century mansion, May looked awkward as usual while Trump displayed the grim catalogue of qualities that inspired up to a quarter of a million people to protest against his visit on Friday.
Trump the liar
We had Trump the liar, accusing the Sun reporter of producing fake news because the president failed to notice that he had quoted his praise for May as well as his criticism. He also claimed to have predicted the outcome of Britain’s EU referendum on a visit to Scotland which in fact took place the day after the referendum.
There was Trump the bully, refusing to take a question from a CNN reporter because his network too was “fake news”, choosing instead a correspondent from Fox News, which he described as a “real network”. Trump’s cruelty and mendaciousness are now so familiar and come wrapped in a kind of comic bravura so that at Chequers, many of those watching laughed along.
It was not until he was asked about migration in Europe, however, that the ugliness of the president’s mind emerged in all its fetid vividness.
“I mean, you see the same terror attacks that I do. We see them a lot. I just think it’s changing the culture. It’s a very negative thing for Europe,” he said.
“I know it’s not necessarily politically correct to say that, but I’ll say it, and I’ll say it loud. I think they’d better watch themselves because they’re changing a lot of things.”
This was too much even for May, who had endured almost 50 minutes of lies, bluster and bullshit with an expression of tormented forbearance. Now she found her voice.
“On immigration, we have always said that people from all over the world have come here and made this country what it is and we welcome their contribution,” she said.
“Britain is one of the best countries in the world to come and live – but at the same time we want to put in place a system which ensures we have control of our borders and that is what we are going to do later this year. But let’s be clear: this is a country where people come from all over the world and make a fantastic contribution.”
It was not, perhaps, the Love Actually moment some British citizens may have hoped for. But it was a relief.