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Mon 23 September 2019
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John Cleese wonders why Trump supporters are not terrified by his ramblings. And then the awful truth dawns…

About 15 years ago, I was booked to appear at a Speakers Conference in Bakersfield. There were three unusual things about this:

One: The audience consisted of 7,000 Republicans.

Two: The Speakers included Four star General Tommy Franks, the man in charge of both the Afghanistan and Iraq invasions and Julie Andrews, one of my many wives (in this case, in the Shrek movies).

Three: Bakersfield has no fewer than SEVEN Basque restaurants!

When I arrived at the venue, the 7,000 Republicans were being entertained by an elderly gentleman called Rich Little, at that time the most famous impressionist in America. I was on immediately after him, so I stood in the wings genuinely impressed by the extraordinary accuracy of his impersonations. The only problem was that after some time, I realised that every single person he was impersonating was dead.

All of them.

When he finished his set, I went on and asked the 7,000 Republicans for an extra round of applause for ‘Rich’ – America’s most beloved corpse impersonator!

Except that I didn’t.

Well…. There’s not much overlap between Monty Python fans and Republicans, and most of the Republicans would have been armed, so I chickened out.

I played it safe.

I want a leader who is much more intelligent, well-informed and emotionally mature than I am so that he or she fills me with self-disgust and makes me feel like a barge rat.

John Cleese

The previous evening there had been the first TV Presidential debate between George W Bush and Al Gore, so I ventured the observation that the taller one spoke better English, but that they, the audience, wanted the little one to be their next Prime Minister.  They nodded and smiled, and I added that this was because they felt they could ‘have a beer’ with him. Again they nodded. I pointed out that they’d have a better chance of having a beer with the little guy if they didn’t elect him, since if he was President, he’d have less time for sitting around having a beer with strangers.

Al Gore and George W. Bush at the first presidential debate in 2000 – CNN

But this was ‘The unconvincing of the 7,000’. They were determined to entrust the USA to a man who couldn’t speak properly, but who could only ramble.

I was reminded of this last week while listening to another outstanding rambler, the current American President. ‘Ramblin’ Donald. He said of his own voters: “I always say they came from the valleys. They came from the mountains, they came out of the damn rivers. I don’t know what you were doing in the river, but they came from the cities, they came and they came and they didn’t even know.”

I thought ‘why is nobody panicking?’

And then I had my insight. They’re not frightened by his rambling, because that’s how they all think!

It’s not a question of an ‘inferiority complex’, it’s plain old-fashioned inferiority.

To realise that somebody’s rambling, requires holding the same thought in your head for several seconds. But, if you habitually start sentences without any idea of where you might, eventually, finish up, then hearing someone else rambling around in the same stupefied manner does not induce terror, but mostly a comforting sense of familiarity, a feeling that ‘This is where I belong!’

President Donald Trump faces growing concerns over his treatment of the science sector

It’s not a question of an ‘inferiority complex’, it’s plain old-fashioned inferiority. Trump supporters embrace red-blooded American capitalism, where competition tends sadly to produce winners and losers. And losers, naturally, do not want any ‘elitist’ reminding them of their status. It’s too painful, so they want leaders who do not remind them of their position at the bottom of the pile. They want someone exactly at their own level.

I don’t. I want a leader who is much more intelligent, well-informed and emotionally mature than I am so that he or she fills me with self-disgust and makes me feel like a barge rat.

Then I’ll be able to sleep soundly.

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