The news that President Trump will visit Ireland in November had all the liberals here choking on their full Irish breakfasts when it was announced a couple of weeks ago. Without a moment’s thought they were online demanding mass protests during the visit to show that we as a nation detest Trump and all he stands for. There were even suggestions that we should refuse to let Air Force One land. The mainstream politicians were more measured in their reaction, given that they have to live in the real world in which our relationship with the U.S. matters a great deal to us. Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, while ruefully admitting that the visit had come "out of the blue,” insisted that Trump would be welcome here even though he is a controversial figure.
“The relationship between Ireland and the U.S. is so strong and so important, much more important than any Irish government or any U.S. administration," Varadkar said. "I think we have to treat his office with the respect it deserves." Which is a polite way of saying we may not like The Donald, but we will grin and bear it while he is here.
Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney was more direct, promising that the Irish government will have “blunt, straight and honest discussions” with Trump during the visit. He said Ireland disagreed with some of Trump's policies, but we also have a very friendly and historic relationship with the U.S. Differences would be discussed, but they should not prevent a visit by a sitting U.S. president.
Read more: Did Ireland’s planned protest cause Donald Trump to cancel his visit?
Even if the timing of the Irish visit is unexpected, prior Taoiseach Enda Kenny invited Trump to come during his St. Patrick’s Day trip to the White House in 2017, and that invitation was repeated by Varadkar this year. So we can't say we didn't invite him!
And the way these things work, it's the White House that decides when to take up the invitation. Trump will be stopping here on his way back from the World War I centenary commemoration in France, so it's a convenient add-on to that schedule.
That won't stop all sorts of moaning and hand-wringing here about the visit, of course, as we wrestle with our national conscience. Already the leader of the Green Party Eamonn Ryan (the Greens hate Trump because of his climate change stance) has said he wants a mass candlelit vigil in the center of Dublin. And when the lefties and loonies get started that will probably be the most benign protest that will happen here during the visit!
Plans are already in place to bring the Trump Baby Blimp here as part of the protests, the big orange one that has him naked in a nappy, holding a smartphone. You can be sure that will be kept far away from him during the two-day visit, as will the protestors.
How big will the protests be? It's hard to say at this stage, but it's certainly true that many people here -- including the media -- have swallowed whole the relentless, non-stop anti-Trump bile that has been spewed out in the U.S. by the mainstream media there since he became president.
The latest bout of this was last week's op-ed piece in The New York Times, the kind of thing that could have been written by any malcontent in any organization who can't stand the pace and doesn't like the boss. Its depiction of Trump is all about his amorality, unpredictability and general grossness.
Focusing on Trump the personality, of course, is much easier than examining his policies and how effective he has been in his first two years in office.
This is in line with the rest of the mainstream media in the U.S. The narrative is all about Trump's alleged "unsuitability for office" rather than on his record so far. And as we said this has been swallowed hook, line and sinker by most of the Irish media who are still under the Obama spell.
So it's worth taking a moment to briefly summarize how Trump is doing. The truth is that however much his language and behavior might offend the delicate sensibilities of the liberals, he is doing rather well. You might hate his comb-over and his non-stop tweeting, but the record of success is undeniable.
Let's take a few things at random. We don't know yet how North Korea will play out, but Kim Jong-un has halted his missile launches and nuclear tests and come to the negotiating table, which is considerable progress.
Iran, the main backer of terrorism in the Middle East, is reeling from the re-imposition of sanctions, and as a result the aging mad mullahs who run the place may yet be overthrown by the increasingly unhappy young population. The Obama deal on Iran gifted the regime billions of dollars in return for a pause in their nuclear program, but this did little to stop the sponsorship of terror. The new tough approach could yet work.
The record on Russia is more uncertain and has done little to curb Putin's willingness to do whatever he wants and then lie through his teeth about it. As far as hacking the U.S. election in 2016 is concerned, it was probably no worse than Russian attempts to influence elections elsewhere, in the Brexit vote, in Germany and France to weaken the EU, etc. It's the digital world we now live in and we all have to learn how to cope with it.
What matters more is that Trump has piled on the sanctions, and behind all the bluster the Russian economy is in serious trouble. Trump's buddy routine with Putin has managed to avoid direct confrontation while still keeping Russia under severe pressure. Exactly who is being played is not yet clear.
Elsewhere Trump has avoided making mistakes and wasting American lives in unwinnable wars. Remember that it was Obama who backed the interventions in Libya and Syria, catastrophic moves that caused death and destruction on a massive scale and produced both ISIS and the migrant crisis across the Mediterranean.
We can enjoy Obama being cool as much as we like, but that's the fact. During Trump's time, ISIS has almost been wiped out.
In relation to NATO, Trump's boorish bluntness has meant that Europeans have at last accepted that they need to spend more on their own defense. Again, it's a win for him.
But it's in relation to trade, where the rest of the world has long regarded the U.S. as a soft touch, that the same blunt approach is paying real dividends. Trump has torn up international agreements like NAFTA and the Trans-Pacific Partnership until he gets at least some of what he considers to be a fair deal.
So far it's working, as the other world leaders get over the shock and start to negotiate. Even the EU cut a deal with him.
He is playing chicken with China on trade to a degree that has them seriously rattled. Whatever happens, the outcome is likely to be a win for the U.S. since Chinese behavior on trade and currency manipulation has been outrageous for so long.
At home, of course, the American economy is booming, with stock markets at an all time high, unemployment below four percent and GDP growth above three percent, driven partly by Trump's slashing of corporation tax from 35 percent to 21 percent and the cutting of bureaucratic regulations for small business. And that's before the full impact is felt of his moves to get the giant U.S. corporations with billions stashed overseas to bring the money home and invest in America.
And all of this is failure? Or as The New York Times and the rest of the media put it, a clear demonstration of his "unsuitability for office" or proof that he is "not fit for office." How many times did you hear that phrase used last week after the infamous op-ed piece?
What they really mean is that a boorish oaf like Trump would be an unsuitable guest at one of their Manhattan dinner parties. He's just too naff, too loud, too unsophisticated -- and that orange skin and that hair!
The very idea makes them shudder. He's not one of them, which is the real reason they have never accepted him as president.
But what about his racist views on migration, you ask. Even if he does build that wall it will be no more than Europe is trying to do along much of its southern borders. It's not racism; it's about preventing illegal immigration.
And what about separating the kids from their mothers? Yes it was handled appallingly, but his critics should remember that it was Obama who deported 2.4 million immigrants while he was in office and among them were many separated family members, including children. If Obama was right to do this why is it wrong for Trump to also try to control migration?
His record so far, although so blunt at times that it is shocking, has been more effective than that of any of his recent predecessors. So there is no reason to refuse to welcome him to Ireland on that basis. He should be given a normal welcome here primarily for that reason.
But of course we also have our own self-interest to think of. The level of American investment in Ireland is huge, giving us over 150,000 jobs and a massive amount of revenue from the corporation tax the U.S. multinationals here pay. It's such a huge annual amount (even though we keep the rate so low) that it underpins a significant part of our budget spending, and if we lost it we would be in serious trouble.
Trump has already made a few cracks about our low taxes and, as mentioned above, he is working on getting these companies to redirect their investment home in the future rather than putting it into countries like Ireland. So far, his moves have not affected us too much, but the last thing we should do is antagonize him, given how impulsive he is.
We don't have to like him. But he deserves the usual Cead Mile Failte here and we should give it to him.