Following Trump’s unexpected victory justifiable alarm arose everywhere. He certainly hasn’t disappointed on that front.
At the time and in the months following, I took issue with a regular correspondence friend, a noted Berkley Professor. He argued that he and his colleagues could do no more than view Trump’s outrages as daily entertainment. The passing of two years has seen him now recognise the bugger is dangerous, but, rightly I suppose, he takes a realistic view and asks what can he and his colleague do about it?
Last week Trump delivered another disgraceful action to add to his lengthy list of shame. Specifically he gave a Presidential Pardon to Conrad Black.
Black is an enigmatic and badly flawed character. A Canadian, with both a huge intellect and ego to match, he ended up through hard work, controlling with a large shareholding, a major international newspaper publishing company. He and his wife duly shifted to London where they set about building a big names social circle. Craving respect Black was duly rewarded with a Lordship.
He has strong conservative views, wrote a number of mostly praised biographies of famous figures and with a badly misplaced sense of entitlement, lived a life of luxury, as events transpired to a large extent at his shareholders expense.
But by the turn of the century newspapers were reeling before the electronic assault, losing both circulation and advertising income. Simultaneously Black’s personal expenditure on grandiose living reached preposterous proportions, drawn by diverse ploys from the company, now under considerable financial pressure.
One such scheme he did jointly with a colleague involved the huge number of still financially viable, small town Canadian and American give-away newspaper packed with real estate and classified advertising, which the company owned. These went on the market. If a buyer was to pay say $20m Black and his equally sleazy colleague said make it $10m and with a separate agreement, give us personally $10m as a no-compete fee. That obviously was absurd, after all if they already owned a viable newspaper, why would they sell it then start another?
To cut to the quick, being a public company much of this stuff was soon exposed. Most devastating was English journalist Tom Bower’s fascinating 2006 book Dancing On the Edge. Get hold of a copy. You will thank me. It’s hugely entertaining but also revealed the frauds Black was committing to sustain his over-the-top life-style.
The American authorities got in first with the criminal prosecutions. Trump’s partner in crime promptly put his hands up and went to prison, a humiliation Black couldn’t abide.
He got away with the worst of it on technicalities but duly ended up doing 2 years before getting released, also on a technicality. Throughout all of this he carried on about how he was going to sue Bower who he deemed was the cause of all his troubles. A dozen years have passed and still no libel writ, nor will there be one.
A couple of years back Black banged out another book, this time on Trump’s wonderfulness and it was this that Trump unabashedly admits as the reason for the Presidential Pardon. In fairness Black would have been sincere in his praise, he having little time for legal niceties and instead taking a big picture approach to everything.
Nevertheless it’s another Trumpian disgrace but as the Economist wrote recently, coping with his outrages is now in the boiling frog category. No Trump action, no matter how oafish, ignoble or dishonest has the ability to shock a world now punch-drunk by the continuing tally of outrages.
The Pardon may make Black feel better as he’s always demonstrated a huge self-delusion ability, but nobody else takes it seriously.
When Trump won the election two years ago I ventured then that by the time it’s all over there would be more books written about him than Washington or Lincoln.
In Aspen on our annual ski trip there last March I made my regular visit to a rather charming bookshop. I entered the room housing business books, normally of no interest to me, solely to see the number of Trump books. There were dozens we never hear of, new ones the proprietor says, coming out weekly. Their themes are common, namely Trump’s a rotter but the proprietor says people keep buying them. Thus Conrad Black’s book is probably a collector’s item, it alone praising the oaf.