I once commissioned Michael Wolff —currently the world’s most talked-about journalist as the author of the White House exposé Fire and Fury — to write for The Spectator. It was just before the 2004 presidential election in which Republican incumbent George W. Bush looked set to see off the Democrat challenger John Kerry, and I invited Wolff to tell us the implications for the stock market. His thesis was that the Democrats had become ‘the party of wealth and Wall Street’ while the Republicans had become ‘non-players’, Bush having turned his back on business to be ‘a God-squad cheerleader’. America was waiting in vain for a president who could ‘cast a spell of optimism over consumers and markets’.
Not even a mind as allegedly inventive as Wolff’s might have imagined that the president who would one day claim credit for a one-third rise in the Dow Jones index during his first year in office would be Donald Trump. ‘Six trillion dollars in value created!’ boasted the tweet — which also claimed incorrectly that recent weeks has seen the ‘record fastest 1,000-point move in history’.
In fact a comparable spike occurred at the height of the 1999 dotcom boom and I’m reminded of a conversation with a grand old Republican lawyer during Bill Clinton’s impeachment hearings, a year before that boom turned to bust. ‘Do you think the President’s behaviour has shamed your country?’ I asked. The answer came with a shrug: ‘The stock market’s doing just fine.’
Down on the farm
The farming community was hoping, until a few days ago, that Michael Gove might be moved to pastures new in the reshuffle that hardly happened on Monday. One Yorkshire neighbour of mine with a big muckspreader used to refer to the secretary of state for environment, food and rural affairs as ‘the Grim Reaper’.