Sunday, April 5, 2020

The Jewel in the Crown Virus

I don't want to make too much of this.  There's not a lot of substance in Betty's remarks, and I have no love for her in any case.  She's not my sovereign, and unlike many Americans I don't want one. 

With that in mind, however: this woman is ninety-three years oldAccording to the BBC, she wrote the address with her private secretary.  I presume she's reading the words from a teleprompter, and there are numerous edits that might conceal retakes.  But compare her to Donald Trump, twenty years younger than she is, and to Joe Biden, sixteen years her junior, neither of whom can read a four-minute prepared text without stepping on his dick.  Bernie Sanders can do it; he can even extemporize effectively, though his manner is much different than the Queen's, and I get from him something of the same inspiration her subjects are probably getting from her tonight.  That's not all there is to leadership, and by itself in a pandemic whose handling has been bungled by the US and UK leaders it shouldn't distract us.  But it's something.

I've noticed before how inarticulate our Presidents have been in my lifetime.  Elvin T. Lim's The Anti-Intellectual Presidency showed that I'm not just imagining it.  Compared to other heads of state such as Fidel Castro or even Vladimir Putin, American presidents are clumsy inarticulate lumps, partly because, as Lim demonstrated, they think they need to be.  And maybe they do: Trump's incoherent bluster pleases his base and some people outside it; he's saying what they want to hear, as they want to hear it.  That could perhaps be overlooked if our guys were competent managers and stewards of the nation, but they aren't.  I've often been accused of having excessively high standards for the President, but I don't believe that expecting them to be minimally competent speakers is so extreme.  The Queen's performance today gave me a taste of such competence, and with full awareness of its limitations, I find myself wishing for a little more.