My aunt (God rest her) used to have a commemorative plate of President John F. Kennedy positioned in the entryway to her house, nailed up high where everyone could see it (and right next to the portrait of Our Lord).
I suspect the double billing was intentional. I was just a child in the 1970s when I finally asked her who John F. Kennedy was and that's how I learned about his groundbreaking Irish Catholic presidency, his four-day visit that dazzled the Irish people, and the strength of the bond of respect and admiration that grew between the Irish people and the young president over those four unforgettable days.
It's happened again last week. But this time, President Joe Biden wasn't being deified like a demigod, it was much better, he was being embraced as one of our own. That big Irish head on him. His easy way with words, that signature ability to put people at their ease and cut through the plamas and political palaver to reach people where they are.
I have written that Biden's superpower is that he's continually underestimated. Better yet, the people who reflexively underestimate him are his main political opponents, who are continually left blinking in surprise like Wile E. Coyote over a precipice they have foolishly stepped onto themselves. Like an episode of Road Runner, it's been quite fun to watch him evade their barbs and traps and just like in Road Runner, the attacking Coyotes never learn.
The latest examples of this Coyote tendency were the British press. To paraphrase Churchill, it was not their finest hour. Sour where they were not scabrous, and racist where they were not enraged, they ran to the TV cameras and to the tabloid press to assure us they were not jealous at all of all the attention and opportunities that little Ireland was getting.
It couldn't be the rage of the entitled seeing a nation they usually feel beneath their notice somehow achieving a political stature broadly comparable to their own. It couldn't because one of these countries now enjoys the largest bilateral trade and investment relationship in the world with the United States - and here's a hint, it’s not 'Global Britain.'
See, the British do this and then they wonder why they have such a bad reputation and 65 countries had revolutions to kick them out. https://t.co/E7h8oxQL1X— Heidi N. Moore (@moorehn) April 13, 2023
The diplomatically catastrophic decision by the DUP to coordinate their “Joe Biden hates the UK” attacks was a new low in their dramatic lockstep march toward the further shores of far-right irrelevancy and powerlessness. In particular, former DUP leader Arlene Foster has become a sort of Moses in reverse, always leading her supporters toward the Unpromising Land.
But I don't remember such a rush to insult, belittle, dis-invite, and scorn an American president with such an 'I'm not triggered at all by his obvious delight in Ireland and his Irish heritage' invective. Indeed most of the commentators seemed to be personally and tellingly affronted in their scornful pile-ons. It was as if they were finally getting the memo that the world had moved on without them and they were hugely displeased with the revelation.
The British establishment has embarrassed itself countless times since #Brexit . But it’s actually amusing to watch some of them in knots of outrage because an 80-year-old man wanted what is effectively a holiday in Ireland and is living his best life. #JoeBiden pic.twitter.com/tFjxb7witj— Kevin Doyle (@KevDoyle_Indo) April 13, 2023
It was instructive for the United States media to see the kind of unvarnished racism the British press resorted to in their fury and envy and the contrast between the welcoming scenes in places like Ballina, County Mayo and the open chauvinism of the GB News network was instructive.
President John F. Kennedy was once taken aback by the strength of the welcome he received during his famous four day visit to Ireland in 1963, but last week President Joe Biden wasn't – he simply knows us better.
Never known a reception like it. pic.twitter.com/yLKSpFpROq— Gavan Reilly (@gavreilly) April 13, 2023
Because of this, Biden's Irish visit turned out to be a literally flawless and heartfelt curtain raiser for his 2024 presidential campaign and it even provided him with a punchy new campaign song, the Dropkick Murphy's “Shipping Up To Boston.”
I’m shipping up to Ballina. pic.twitter.com/Mp4LpakSJV— President Biden (@POTUS) April 15, 2023
It could not have gone better for Irish diplomacy, our economic cooperation, or our future investment. The increasingly self-marooned UK knows that. Theirs was the rage of a sputtering man finally seeing his own face in the mirror last week. The problem for them is that we all saw it too.