On 8 January, I tweeted about the Sussex-Markles: ‘Obviously the plan is to return to Canada, lead a revolt against British rule, and establish an independent Canadian monarchy.’ Two days later, the New York Times opened a story about the Canada-bound Duke and Duchess of Sussex: ‘Some have suggested they could become king and queen of Canada.’ IT WAS A JOKE! Otherwise, I’m going to have Canadian security surveilling my cottage in Ontario as a node of Sussexite sedition. Yet maybe I had glimpsed something. A poll has suggested that 60 per cent of Canadians would support the appointment of Prince Harry as governor general. When the Sussexes announced their intention to spend last Christmas in Canada, Justin Trudeau tweeted: ‘You are always welcome here.’ He may not have intended ‘always’ to mean ‘permanently’… but the invitation is in writing.
Seventeen years ago, I was part of a presidential administration that chose war with Iraq. We had with us a broad international coalition, an authorising vote in Congress, majority support in public opinion. We were acting at the zenith of US power, at a time when Russia had ceased to be a factor in international politics and China had only barely become one. And still we failed to leave behind a stable, Western-oriented Iraq. In the weeks since Christmas, President Trump has been driving to a similar conflict with Iran. But Trump can claim none of the advantages behind George W. Bush in 2003: no support from Congress, massive public opposition, no international coalition, and a much less favourable international situation. Unlike the Iraq hawks of 2003, today’s Iran hawks deny they intend a war. They say the plan is to squeeze Iran to the point where the Iranian people arise in democratic revolution. The Iranians themselves will change their regime. But violent revolutions seldom lead to liberal outcomes, in the Middle East least of all. The peace of the region may depend on Trump’s impulsiveness. Last month, he unpredictably picked the harshest measure on a menu of options, a targeted killing of the terrorist-general, Qassem Soleimani. Back in June, Trump equally impulsively vetoed at the last minute a military response to the shooting down of a US drone. Who knows what he will do next? Certainly not him.
Meanwhile, the peace of my house has been hugely improved by the completion of the last revisions of a new book about US politics after Trump (it is released on 5 May). I spent my first post-book weekend starting a long-awaited project to digitise our family photos. It’s been very moving to scan my way through 30-plus years of marriage and the raising of three children. Every phase has been different; all have been sweet. Yesterday’s task was the period 1993-95: the double toddler years. Almost every image of my wife’s beautiful face is shaded by an expression of faint worry. Even when smiling on a beach, the worry appears in her eyes. As Danielle now says: ‘The most beautiful sentence in the English language is, “The bathroom is over there.”’
My youngest daughter Beatrice is completing applications to university this fall. The looming departure casts gloom upon a house that has grown larger as the resident population has dwindled smaller. But at least we’ll have tuition bills for company. A year at a prestigious private college such as Stanford and Princeton costs more than twice as much, after inflation, as it did in 1980. At a state school like the University of North Carolina or the campuses of the University of California system, tuition costs as much as 15 times what it did a generation ago. If young Americans seem in a Bolshie mood, it may be because so many of them are subject to Tsarist-style predation and exploitation.
The next weeks of the US political calendar will be crowded. Trump delivers the 2020 State of the Union on 4 February. If the impeachment trial is still pending, be prepared for an outburst of world-historical insanity. The British election of 2019 offers an obvious warning to Republicans as well as Democrats: unpopular candidates tend to lose. Trump is the most unpopular first-term president in the history of polling, the only president never to attain 50 per cent approval in any reputable poll. A plurality of Americans want him impeached and removed. Trump’s fluke success in the 2016 College startled many pundits into doubting the usual rules of politics. Yet as former Romney campaign manager Stuart Stevens memorably reminds: ‘The casino does not always win. Still, that’s the way to bet.’
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