Tina Brown

Diary - 9 November 2017

Also: Why I shouldn’t let my son answer my phone calls

Diary - 9 November 2017
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It’s remarkable how fast the unthinkable becomes the expected. It felt almost routine to pick up the New York Post last Sunday morning and see the front page mocked up as a wanted poster for Harvey Weinstein and the news that the NYPD is preparing to arrest him for alleged rape. Between the daily barrage of Trump’s lies and excesses and the sexual harassment tsunami, America has outrage overload. The result is that all the predations, political or sexual or both, come close to drowning each other out. Already Weinstein’s legal advocates are test-driving the theory that the Harvey ‘pile-on’ is really about Trump — that thwarted feminist fury at the serial sexual harasser in the Oval Office has flushed out a surrogate who’s even more gross. This spiel attempts to give Harvey cover that’s highly unlikely to work, especially given that we now know he deployed former Mossad agents to get the skinny on which girls were talking. He’ll be lucky to find work farming coconuts in Fiji.

Reading about the fall of Defence Secretary Michael Fallon reminds me of a visit in 1985 to a much kinkier former Tory defence minister, Lord Lambton, at his house near Siena when Harry and I were on holiday in Florence. After Lambton resigned in 1973 from the Heath government in the call girl scandal, he lived there in exile with his mistress, Claire Ward, whom he always referred to languidly as ‘Mrs Ward’. The house, Cetinale, a historic pile that once belonged to Pope Alexander VII, was at the end of a long, lonely avenue of cypress trees. Inside, it had overtones of seediness: a fat stone cherub slung on a messy console, the shades on the lamps askew and ancient copies of the Daily Mail yellowing on the table along with books of horror stories. He told me he’d just had the pleasure of a visit from an old friend, Claus Von Bülow, accused (and acquitted) of murdering his wife. All through lunch, I could see Lambton watching me behind his dark glasses like a horny reptile. The fact that I was six months pregnant and had my husband with me seemed only to add to his perverse interest. There was a pretty blonde secretary floating around with whom he probably enjoyed recreational humiliation. After lunch, he waved goodbye gauntly from the door amid a sea of frenzied dogs.

Our Manhattan apartment is always Book Party Central. No invitation had a faster response than for Cass Sunstein, the Harvard legal professor married to Samantha Power, former US ambassador to the UN, for his new book, Impeachment: A Citizen’s Guide, a subject that seems, to many of us, burningly relevant. Last week, Trump declared, when asked about all the scarily empty vacancies at the State Department, ‘I’m the only one that matters.’ He called the Justice Department ‘a joke’, adding, with his usual pouty sneer, ‘I’d like to run it myself.’ He pressed America’s still occasionally independent judiciary to ‘go after’ ‘Crooked Hillary’. However, by the time Professor Sunstein had teased out the level of iniquity that must be reached before a president can be indicted by the House and convicted by two-thirds of the Senate, present in the flesh, the assembled hacks and politicos at our house looked increasingly glum. Though Trump seems to be doing his best to make King George III look like Gandhi, in the current state of partisan feeling even the right set of high crimes and misdemeanours might not guarantee impeachment. Sighing for the more efficient parliamentary vote of no confidence, we called it a night.

One of the unsung pleasures of having a son with Asperger’s syndrome is his wonderful, nonchalant ability to speak truth to power. Georgie is now 31 and lives a swinging life in his own apartment downtown. So that he doesn’t lose his iPhone (again), I’ve given him an old flip phone of my own for nocturnal crawls. A few weeks back, it rang when he was speaking to me on the other line. ‘You better answer that,’ I told him. (Pause.) ‘It’s for you,’ he replied. Me: ‘Give them my new number. Who is it?’ G: ‘It’s the White House.’ Me: ‘Well, just give them the right number.’ G (outraged, very loud): ‘I don’t want anything to do with Orange!’ Me: ‘Just give them my number!’ G: ‘How can you speak to Orange? You hate him too! Orange is toxic hairspray!’ Me: ‘Take their effing number!!’ G: ‘Why are you being a snapping turtle?’ (Pause.) ‘OK, I’ll tell them.’ (Another pause.) ‘They’ve gone.’ Ten minutes later, I receive an email from the office of Dina Powell, Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategy to President Trump. ‘Just to say, Ms Powell regrets to say she cannot get to the cocktails after all.’

The Vanity Fair Diaries: 1983-1992 by Tina Brown is published this week.