With respect

Conrad Black does me the honour of responding to my column on Donald Trump with a splendid example of polemics done right. His piece pulls no punches but throws them all above the waist. As Chesterton says “People generally quarrel because they cannot argue” and Conrad Black can certainly argue. I still respectfully disagree. When he says “Foreigners like Robson should remember that Americans, unlike most nationalities, are not accustomed to their government being incompetent and embarrassing” I respond that “People with Ph.Ds in American history like Robson remember that Americans are thoroughly accustomed to their government being incompetent and embarrassing, under presidents from John Tyler to Andrew Johnson to Warren Harding.” Remember Henry Adams’s quip in The Education of Henry Adams that “The progress of Evolution from President Washington to President Grant, was alone evidence enough to upset Darwin.” What distinguishes Americans is their commendable determination to keep government small because they understand that it is usually incompetent and often sinister.

Regrettably Donald Trump does not share this understanding. Indeed, he himself would be both incompetent and sinister in office. That is why I continue to maintain that while he taps into legitimate anger, he does so in ways that are profoundly illegitimate.