Richard nixon

Was China’s economic boom ‘made in America’?

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Today, the US and China are at loggerheads. There’s renewed talk of a Cold War as Washington finds various ways to cut China out of key supply chains and to block China’s economic development in areas like semiconductors and renewables. There’s trade, of course, but the imbalance in that (some $370 billion in 2022) tilts in China’s favour and only serves as another source of ammunition for America’s Sinosceptics. China, on the other hand, is also decoupling in its own way, moving fast to cut its reliance on imported technology and energy. At this moment, it seems like US-China tensions are inevitable – but look into the not so ancient

Why the world needs Richard Nixon

Gstaad The Speccie arrived just in time for me to read about the rudeness of one Lyndon Johnson, then vice-president, toward Lady Antonia Fraser. A later occupant of the White House, Jimmy Carter, was not as discourteous as the Texan, but in somewhat similar circumstances he left the poor little Greek boy standing alone surrounded by secret service heavies. This took place at a grand New York dinner party given in Carter’s honour by a real-estate lady, and I was seated with Norman Mailer who was busy trying to make whoopee with my ex sister-in-law, Betsy Kaiser. Norman and I had talked about democracy at the start of the dinner,

When did postmodernism begin?

There’s a scene in Martin Amis’s 1990s revenge comedy The Information in which a book reviewer, who’s crushed by his failures and rendered literally impotent by his best friend’s success, is sitting in a low-lit suburban room beside a girl (not his wife) named Belladonna: ‘She was definitely younger than him. He was a modernist. She was the thing that came next.’ Stuart Jeffries argues in his new book that the thing that came next was in fact a thing that started a couple of decades before Amis wrote The Information. In Jeffries’s telling, postmodernity can be dated to 13 August 1971, when Richard Nixon held a closed-door meeting that

The interview on screen: from Frost/Nixon to Basic Instinct

Whilst not exactly (to paraphrase Richard Burton as Marc Anthony in Cleopatra) the ‘biggest thing to hit Rome since Romulus & Remus’, Oprah Winfrey’s recent interview with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex was certainly A Big Deal. With over 17 million viewers watching in the States and 11.3m here, the renegade former royals cannot be ignored.  High-stakes interviews have long been a favourite subject of movies. The onscreen celebrity interview is obviously not a recent creation, with the phenomenon depicted in films as far back as Sunset Boulevard, Champagne for Caesar (both 1950), A Face in the Crowd (1957) and of course Fellini’s La Dolce Vita (1960). But as these films

Where are the Henry Kissingers when we need them?

It was not until I went to Harvard in 1988 to take a year out from the Foreign Office that I came to realise how riven by ideology the world of US foreign policy had become. For 20 years I had been moulded by the resolute pragmatism of British diplomacy. My American sabbatical threw open the door to intellectual conflict in the study and practice of international relations unlike anything I had experienced. Two great warring clans — the realists and the idealists, those who took the world as they found it and those who saw the world as they would like it to be — were at each other’s

Running on empty, and on and on

Hunter Stockton Thompson blazed across the republic of American arts and letters for too short a time. When in February 2005 Thompson, 67, killed himself with a .45 at home in Woody Creek, Colorado, freethinkers and lovers of his savage, beautiful words grieved the world over — and we still do. Thompson was a Southern boy from Louisville, Kentucky, whence comes F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Daisy Fay, later Buchanan. After a sally into higher education and military service, both marked by varying degrees of brilliance and insubordination, Thompson moved to New York City and worked as a reporter. His specialty was, initially, sport, and his forte was observation. He was 21

High life | 7 June 2018

New York   This week 50 years ago saw the assassination of Robert Kennedy, a man I met a couple of times in the presence of Aristotle Onassis, whom some Brit clown-writer once dubbed Bobby’s murderer. (Bad books need to sell, and what better hook than a conspiracy theory implicating a totally innocent man?) I once witnessed Bobby, at a Susan Stein party, asking Onassis for funds — the 1968 election was coming up — and Ari showing Bobby his two empty trouser pockets. Bobby’s assassination did alter American politics. Violence, black anger and despair spilled out on to the streets of American cities. His death caused far more grief

American quartet

Politics and art can make for an awkward mix. Much more than with religious subjects it seems to matter whether the viewer shares the artist’s beliefs. But whatever you think of Richard M. Nixon, it would be hard not to enjoy Philip Guston’s satirical drawings of him and his cronies at Hauser & Wirth, Savile Row. These were the most exuberant, scatological, obsessive and imaginative such works since 1937 when Picasso produced an extraordinary strip-cartoon vilification and lampoon entitled ‘The Dream and Lie of Franco’. Indeed, the two series have a good deal in common. Picasso portrayed the Generalissimo as a sort of obscene, moustachioed set of bagpipes. Similarly, Guston

The madness of King Donald

 Washington DC Trump is a fighter – he seems to thrive on pressure – and he is lawyering up The panhandlers outside the White House hold signs saying: ‘Trump is President — saving to leave the country.’ Those signs will have to be updated if Trump’s enemies are right and the 45th President is driven from office by a scandal called ‘Putingate’. Inside 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Trump is said to be in a fury about the allegations that he is Russia’s pawn. Washington is gripped by rumours of a president sitting up in bed at night, a cheeseburger balanced on his stomach, raging at the television news. He does not,

High life | 9 February 2017

When I was young my recurring nightmare was that I would die and be reincarnated as a polo pony. I squeezed in lots of polo during the years I played, at least three matches per week, mostly in Paris, and I felt that polo ponies had the kind of deal the mass media are now handing Trump. I wasn’t mad about the people I played with either. Back then, in the Sixties and Seventies, fat businessmen who cantered hired good Argentines to carry the can, but picked up the cup after strolling around the field and yelling quite a lot. Well, now I’m over it, but have an even worse

The plots against Trump

The ‘most deadly adversaries of republican government,’ wrote Alexander Hamilton, arise ‘chiefly from the desire in foreign powers to gain an improper ascendant in our councils. How could they better gratify this, than by raising a creature of their own to the chief magistracy of the Union?’ Hamilton’s warning against ‘intrigue, and corruption’, published in 1788, speaks eerily to the Washington of today, where Donald Trump’s enemies imagine he is a Russian ‘agent of influence,’ bought or blackmailed by the Kremlin. The new chief magistrate himself is in full Nixon mode, at war with the media, the intelligence community, the ‘establishment’ and the ‘rigged system’, even as he takes his

Out – and not proud

‘Many people are mourning,’ said Sam West on a BBC panel show discussing the response of the arts world to Brexit. According to West’s figures, ‘96 per cent of those polled were for Remain. Collaboration and connection are our bread and butter.’ The atmosphere of bitterness and anger was palpable at the Edinburgh Festival. I spent four days immersed in comedy shows and I heard only one pro-Brexit gag. The excellent Geoff Norcott said he was puzzled to meet Remainers who told him the result had been swung by ‘thick’ Leave voters. ‘Thick?’ he said. ‘The Remain campaign waited until after 23 June to stage their street protest.’ Lloyd Evans

Darth Vader is dirty and it’s not just me that thinks so

Malcolm Tucker delivered the best description of Star Wars, in The Thick of It: ‘The one about the fucking hairdresser, the space hairdresser, and the cowboy. The guy, he’s got a tinfoil pal and a pedal bin. His father’s a robot and he’s fucking fucked his sister. Lego, they’re all made of fucking Lego.’ He didn’t mention that Star Wars is really about Henry Kissinger. It was written by George Lucas, grossed $33 billion over six films, with merchandise, founded a new and stupid religion called Jedi, which, in the 2001 census 0.8 per cent of the population of England and Wales said they identified with, and invented the Star

Super man of legend

On 13 March 2014 a congregation of 2,000 people, including many of the great and the good, gathered in Westminster Abbey for a memorial service for David Frost, who had died suddenly six months previously while travelling on the Queen Mary to America. During the service a select band, led by the Dean of Westminster, John Hall, retired to Poets’ Corner, sacred to the memory of Keats, Shelley and others of the immortals, where the Prince of Wales laid flowers on a tablet in the floor bearing the illustrious name of Frost. Given that in only a few years’ time Frost’s name, along with many of today’s celebrities, was likely

Dick at his trickiest

In the more than 40 years since Richard Nixon resigned as president — disgraced as much by his inveterate lying as by his actual crimes related to Watergate — history has been relatively kind to him. Compared with Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, Nixon in retrospect can seem statesmanlike, thoughtful and liberal-minded. He established diplomatic relations with communist China, took the US off the gold standard, negotiated the wind-down of the Vietnam war, and created the Environmental Protection Agency — accomplishments that generally prompt even Nixon-haters to pause before they condemn Tricky Dick to perdition. But now comes Joan Brady with a bracing reminder of what indeed

Edinburgh round-up

Propaganda is said to work best when based upon a grain of truth. Ukip! The Musical assumes that most electors are suspicious of the movement and its leaders. And in Edinburgh that may well be the case. The show portrays Nigel Farage as a bewildered twerp with no charisma and little talent for oratory. His first speech at an Essex shopping centre begins, ‘I am not a pretty nationalist, sorry, a petty nationalist.’ He then falls under the influence of a manipulative racist named Godfrey Bloom. I should point out that ‘Bloom’ in this piece refers to the character in the show, not to the retired politician. Bloom is first

Two ways to disgrace a president

On 21 October Ben Bradlee, the famous ex-editor of the Washington Post, died, aged 93. The day before that, on 20 October, Monica Lewinsky, 41, the even more famous ex-girlfriend of Bill Clinton, made her first public speech after ten years spent keeping out of the public eye. They had nothing in common except for the fact that each had been responsible for bringing disgrace to a president of the United States. Richard Nixon would have faced impeachment by Congress over the Watergate scandal, which the Post exposed, if he had not first resigned in 1974 (the first president ever to do so) and then been pardoned by his successor,

Spectator letters: Mindfulness, addiction, and dinner with Richard Nixon

Mind games Sir: I hope that people are not unduly put off by Melanie McDonagh’s misrepresentation of mindfulness as a cop-out for navel-gazers who lack the moral fibre to engage in ‘proper’ religion (‘The cult of mindfulness’, 1 November). She describes it as a ‘practice of self-obsession’, but it is the opposite: it creates a space in which the self can be seen for what it is as it hops around, generating superfluous judgments. You begin to obsess less about what your ‘self’ compulsively comes up with, and to approach life from a more anchored perspective. May I invite those who think that sounds bogus and flaky to engage in

Bourbon from Bush, envy from Nixon… and running into Herbert Hoover: encounters with eight presidents

I feel a bit of a fraud writing about the ‘presidents I knew’, since journalists do not really get to know the great figures they interview or shake hands with. Indeed the relationship between journalist and great personage is about as false as any relationship can be, since each is trying to make use of the other. So in all likelihood my dreamed relationship with President Herbert Hoover — which began and ended in 1933 when I was aged 11 and only lasted for about a minute — came nearer to being a genuine human relationship than all the other journalistic ones later — which included Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower,

Henry Kissinger interview: ‘I don’t see the wisdom there once was’

Henry Kissinger doesn’t believe in retirement. At 91, having had a heart-valve operation three months ago, he is nonetheless publishing a book entitled World Order. As I happened to be interviewing him about it on 11 September, I asked him about his memories of 13 years ago. ‘I was in Frankfurt addressing a business group,’ he recalled in that voice of his that sounds like gravel has found its way into your car’s exhaust pipe. ‘A member of the audience had just asked a question when someone came on to the stage to say that he had an important announcement to make. I said that that may be, but I