If you’ve forgotten who Dr. Fiona Hill is, just think of that other Hill who spoke truth to power, Anita Hill. Fiona is the coal miner’s daughter with the northern English accent who spoke her own truth to power in public at Donald Trump’s first impeachment hearing on November 21, 2019. As a naturalised citizen, Dr. Hill reminded us that America is a nation of immigrants, some old and some recent, but Americans all the same.
And she’s written a book, “There Is Nothing for You Here: Finding Opportunity in the Twenty-First Century,” where she discloses that Donald Trump was obsessed with making a state visit to the UK early on in his presidency and repeatedly brought it up to British officials. But every time he did, those same British officials would change the subject or pretend they didn’t understand him, including then Prime Minister Theresa May.
It appears that the Conservative government of the United Kingdom couldn’t stomach Donald Trump either and really wanted no part of him. They carefully misunderstood Trump’s numerous overtures and hints at a visit and hoped that his ordinarily poor attention span would cause him to forget the whole thing.
Alas, no luck there. In the end they staged what can only be called Trump Visit Lite, and hoped that it would look more like a junket, a passing through between his humiliating performance with NATO and his disastrous performance with Putin at Helsinki, and less like a formal welcoming. Trump was given the closest thing that Britain could muster to a bum’s rush, a quick tour, a quick introduction to the Queen (during which he hamfistedly stepped in front of her, like the vulgarian that he is), and a hasty move to the exit. Here’s your hat, what’s your hurry?
And it worked — sort of. Trump got snubbed. In trying to stave off a visit behind the scenes, Hill wrote, British officials quietly told American officials that a Trump visit to the UK would be a “political headache” due to his widespread unpopularity in the country. I was living in Britain at that time and I can attest to it. Trump was and remains unpopular here.
Trump was also then in a long-running Twitter feud with London mayor Sadiq Khan. It was Khan who first slammed Trump after Trump called for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States” in December of 2015. Trump’s thin skinned inability to forget the slightest slight kicked in, and he engaged Khan in a Twitter battle, a contest that the smarter, intellectually more agile Khan easily won. It didn’t hurt that Khan also always occupied the moral high ground.
Between Trump’s petulant, infantile whining at the NATO summit and his disgraceful, public announcement in Helsinki that he trusted Vladimir Putin more than he trusted America’s 17 intelligence and law enforcement agencies, Trump’s first minor key visit to Britain came off as British officials hoped. They counted on Trump to provide the distracting gaffs and they were not disappointed.
Like nature blooming after Chernobyl in the form of trees and flowers and lively little animals, Dr. Hill’s new book is yet another reaffirmation that useful life can thrive in the aftermath of the toxic and hateful. What’s more, books like hers serve as another tile in the mosaic of understanding of just how awful Trump was when he and his evil pirate ship ran the country.
As the picture grows and sharpens into focus with each new revelatory book coming out of Trump’s White House, so too does our understanding of its history. With Dr. Hill’s new book, history has given us yet another opportunity to learn from it. Let’s hope we do not neglect that opportunity. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.