Saturday 13 June 2020

Former Trump advisor hopes activists will confront the climate crisis, the coronavirus, poverty and inequality

There are two Fiona Hills, both very clever young British women from poor families. The Glaswegian Fiona Hill was Theresa May's disastrous Svengali, the Geordie one is an expert on Russia and was adviser to Donald Trump. 

The Geordie lass became an American citizen and was recruited into the Trump administration by KT McFarland, a Fox News chat show hostess turned deputy national security adviser. Miss Hill had been on her show to talk about Russia.

Miss Hill became famous when she was questioned by a committee of the US Congress as part of the attempt to impeach Donald Trump. She memorably said the Trump White House felt like the Bolshevik revolution, which is pithy but tells you a lot abut her distaste for the President. 

She completely lost my respect when she told the committee that the word globalisation was an 'antisemitic trope'. 

She was evidently not a politically impartial civil servant. Plus the remark was obviously outrageous nonsense, the sort of nonsense that clever people with closed minds spout.

Now an interview with her that took place last month is published in the Guardian. In it, she talks about how she got to Oxford, Harvard and the White House and how she was tripped up literally at the Oxford interview, by a spiteful fellow interviewee.

I was told by someone who knew her that she is very clever. Very clever people have excellent memories and often have rigid, schematic views of the world, into which they slot their erudite learning. Lord Macaulay is a good example and Fiona Hill might be another one. 

Tories, even erudite ones (they do exist), by definition tend not to be schematic.

For her Boris Johnson is a populist, which is not true (or Corbyn and the Liberal Democrat girl were as much so). 

She thinks populism is a political movement used by unscrupulous politicians to take in badly educated people who are the victims of deindustrialisation. 

That is a perfectly arguable theory, but from a girl from a poor family it sounds very patronising. I'm from a working class family too and it makes me feel very patronised.

She blames the populists for the death toll from Covid-19 too.

“It’s a story really about how the US, UK and Russia have all ended up in the same spot weirdly, not just in terms of Covid-19 but also populist politics and many of the same out-of-control inequalities.

“It’s all about style and swagger and atmospherics, with superficial solutions to things, with lots of sloganeering, and obviously dealing with a pandemic is pretty methodical and boring. It requires an awful lot of planning and logistical organization and you can’t just sort of do it on the fly with an ad hoc coalition.”
At least she is not silly enough to believe the theory that President Trump is being blackmailed and controlled by Vladimir Putin, but she says the Trump campaign had dozens of contacts with Russian officials or Kremlin intermediaries (what is she implying?) and that Donald Trump appealed to Moscow to interfere in the election by hacking Hillary Clinton’s emails. 

This was a joke, for goodness' sake, and rather a good one.

She does sound like a student politician, but so do many academics these days.

The interview ends on this note.

Hill sees some hope for the future in citywide grassroots activism, to confront the climate crisis, the coronavirus, poverty and inequality. But those are more aspirations for the future. Right now, in Washington, London and Moscow, it is the populists who have the upper hand.

Fiona Hill is entitled to her political opinions and she is much better informed than people who are not paid to understand politics, but after this interview she is not entitled to be seen as an impartial witness. She is a political actor as much as anyone else, as much as Boris Johnson or Donald Trump.

Fiona Hill is a Russian expert and I am sure she is right when she says that Russians, "take advantage of every opportunity, every vulnerability, every open door they can walk through.” 

Putin, the KGB operative, has played Trump as he played George Bush the Younger and Hillary. 

I am reminded, though, of a conversation in 1943 between one half-American British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, and a future half-American British Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan, about Oliver Cromwell. 

Churchill told Macmillan that Cromwell 
‘made one terrible mistake. Obsessed in his youth by the fear of Spain, he failed to observe the rise of France. Will that be said of me?’
It isn't often said of him, but it should be. Churchill, obsessed from his youth by fear of Germany, certainly failed to observe the danger from Russia. 

The half-American Fiona Hill fails to see the dangers to both her countries are no longer from Russia. The populists whom she despises do see that and quite a number of other obvious things that are hidden from her.


  1. Enlightenment thinkers like Voltaire were to modern eyes racist. Locke defended slavery as Aristotle and Plato had and it was the Church, not philosophers, which taught that all men were brothers. Still, like the Holy Bible the Church did not condemn slavery. It was the Committee of Public Safety that abolished slavery throughout the French empire in 1794. It was restored in 1802 by Napoleon without any criticism from the Church and, unlike in England, there was no real anti-slavery movement. The Second Republic in 1848 abolished slavery for good (or at least it hasn't been reintroduced yet).

  2. It isn't often said of him, but it should be. Churchill, obsessed from his youth by fear of Germany, certainly failed to observe the danger from Russia.

    It might actually be more true to say that Churchill, obsessed from his youth by fear of Germany, certainly failed to observe the danger from the United States. He failed to perceive that the US intended to destroy the British Empire as a dangerous geopolitical rival.

    1. Unfortunately you are absolutely right. America like Communist Russia was very opposed to the British empire and unlike Russia did much to wreck it. Churchill completely failed to see this.