While our parliament houses will not be stormed any time soon, Sky News is still around, as is Rupert Murdoch, Trump’s great backer, and The Australian. So, too, are George, Pauline and Craig.
Have you heard the nostalgia band currently playing in RSL clubs in rural towns? Little Johnny & the Trumpettes? On the mouth organ is band leader Johnny (“Sparkles”) Howard; there’s Joey (“Chuckles”) Hockey playing the buffoon, sorry, bassoon. Then there is Micky (“Cow Gate”) McCormack on the cow bell. What a virtuoso! And last up is Scotty (“Holidays”) Morrison on the spoons.
The band’s travelling from one climate-killed town to the next. Playing for two bob. Trying to get their sounds louder than the pokies. It wasn’t always like this. These men were something … once. Johnny Howard was, for heaven’s sake, the Prime Minister of Australia. He even got the US Medal of Freedom, bestowed on him by George Bush. The proudest day of Johnny’s life. Poor guy thought he was getting all medalled up for his contribution to the War on Terror. No, it was a new Boy Scout patch for being a lapdog to American interests.
Band leader Johnny really loved all things American. Hell, he even said some lovely words about Donald Trump. Speaking at a US Studies Centre event titled “Howard on Trump”, six months after Trump slithered into the White House, Johnny said he did not believe Trump was a racist. All while Trump was dropping clues that white is the only right as fast as he was shedding orange dandruff. The rest of the world knew Trump was a racist. Johnny, never one for perspicacious wisdom, figured otherwise.
Johnny also warned us not to rush to judgment on Trump. “I think people who are writing him off now are foolish. And a lot of people who are doing that still can’t accept that they lost.” Asked about Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris agreement, Howard said (again) that he, like Trump, remained a climate sceptic (Hi Tony!). described himself as increasingly sceptical of climate change.
Then there is bassoonist “Chuckles” Hockey. Before that incarnation he was the best Treasurer for big business since Peter (“Cheshire”) Costello. After that mediocre stint Hockey accepted a job for the boys and became Australia’s ambassador to the court of mad king Donny. Another mediocre stint but a great time to play golf. Hockey was often seen on Trump’s courses, playing with the man himself.
Hockey’s thoughts on Trump? According to Peter Hartcher, from the Sydney Morning Herald:
“Everyone keeps underestimating him. It’s a major mistake.” Trump was not merely a political leader but “the leader of a movement” that commands the unswerving devotion of about one-third of the American population, regardless of criticisms and revelations. Trump has come to “own” patriotism as a potent political tool, he said. Indeed, he’s even more likely to win re-election today than he was six months ago.”
So wonderful was their relationship that Hockey stayed on in Washington to reap what he had sown. He now runs a political lobby push group called Bondi Partners.
On its website he still describes himself as “Ambassador Hockey”. He planned to position himself on K Street with a shed full of pro-Trump contacts he met along the way. Problem was, Trump became toxic soon after Bondi Partners opened. That’s how “Chuckles” found himself playing the bassoon in Boggabri.
Next up is Michael (“Cow Gate”) McCormack. When asked for his response to the insurrection in Washington on 6 January, he could not contain his “fury”. The riot was all terribly “unfortunate”. “Unfortunate”? Is this guy on medication? The world he sees through the cow gate grill is not the same world the rest of us see. In that interview McCormack used words like fire blankets. But we knew that the real McCormack, the Trump supporter, the guy who called the Black Lives matter protests a “race riot”, was wriggling to be set free. “There was destruction,” he said. “There was uninsured property that business owners then have to dig deep into their own pockets to rebuild.” That’s after the Black Lives Matter protest by the way. This is our deputy prime minister talking.
Speaking of which, the last band member to meet is Scotty (“Holidays”) Morrison. There are two photo images I keep in my head. One of them makes me ashamed to be an Australian. The other gives me hope.
The first was taken on Morrison’s last visit to the US in September 2020. It’s an up-close image of the Morrison and Trump on the south lawn of the White House. Their shoulders are touching; heads close together; Morrison is smiling, like he just offered Trump an enormous compliment; Trump has that self-satisfied look he gets when a sycophant has delivered a gift to his ego. Trump called him a “man of titanium”. Poor Johnny had to do with “man of steel”.
When the man of titanium returned to Australia, he took a call from Trump who asked him to gather information to assist an inquiry to jeopardise the Mueller Inquiry and Morrison agreed to assist. He was in love and love can be blind to ethical and legal standards. Trump then got Morrison on board to push for an international investigation into the origins of the corona virus. Trump wanted so badly for the evidence to show it started in China. Morrison, still in love, said yes again.
Morrison, the Pentecostalist, standing with Trump the [add your own words] is a shameful photo.
Cut to the next photo when Trump calls in on Pope Francis. Trump and Melania are all smiles. Francis is glum, disapproving and cannot wait to get the hell out. No airs and graces here. Just the photo of a man who has smelt raw sewage.
Trump is gone (sort of). Trumpism is heading our way. In a brilliant essay for Crikey, Kishor Napier-Raman got it right when he said that after the Berlin Wall fell, predatory capitalism “had become so dominant that it was dogma even for centre-left parties in the West”. When it started to fray: “Trumpian populism turned up with a brutally effective solution.”
It’s as if Trump said:
“Your lives might be shit, but here, I’ll give you an outlet for your rage. We might be working to line the pockets of our super-rich friends and family while you toil away working four de-unionised jobs in the gig economy, but here’s why you should direct that hatred towards Democrats, China, Muslims, immigrants and Antifa instead.”
The version we are seeing in Australia is Trump-lite. Our parliament houses will not be stormed any time soon. But Johnny and the Trumpettes are still around. Sky News is still around. Murdoch, Trump’s great backer, is still around. The Australian is still around. So are George and Pauline and Craig.