US president Donald Trump

There’s lots of chatter in the travel blogs about low fares from the US to Europe this summer and how Americans should rush to take advantage. Many will and I wish them a lovely time. But maybe they should steer clear of politics lest their hosts give them a roasting they won’t forget.

Some more seasoned American travellers will recall there have been other moments in time when a trip across the pond carried the risk of being lectured upon arrival about the errors of their country’s ways, notably during the Bush-Cheney era and the war in Iraq.

With you-know-who in the White House now, we almost forget how divisive a time that was, some of us even catching ourselves reflecting that old George W. was a decent sort really. You know, by comparison. But then last week’s confirmation hearings on Capitol Hill for Gina Haspel to become the next director of the CIA jolted us out of that little daydream.

We were reminded all at once about the last time the United States showed itself willing to forsake all the norms of diplomacy and ties of friendship with so many allies to pursue its own obsessions. There was the illegal invasion of Iraq, of course. But it was the setting up of black site prisons and the torture of terror suspects that really saw it part with its better angels.

Haspel oversaw one of those torture resorts. It was located in Thailand. We also know she was involved in the deliberate destruction of videotapes that would have shown the extent of the brutality visited upon two prisoners, Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri. It is why John McCain, ailing and confined to his home in Arizona, made it clear that he would could not support her confirmation. McCain, of course, personally experienced torture in Vietnam.

That she said she would never let the CIA resume torture under her watch hardly impressed the senator. He needed more. “Her refusal to acknowledge torture’s immorality is disqualifying,” McCain wrote in a statement after watching her testimony in her hearing. “I believe the Senate should exercise its duty of advice and consent and reject this nomination.”

There’s lots of chatter in the travel blogs about low fares from the US to Europe this summer and how Americans should rush to take advantage. Many will and I wish them a lovely time. But maybe they should steer clear of politics lest their hosts give them a roasting they won’t forget.

Some more seasoned American travellers will recall there have been other moments in time when a trip across the pond carried the risk of being lectured upon arrival about the errors of their country’s ways, notably during the Bush-Cheney era and the war in Iraq.

With you-know-who in the White House now, we almost forget how divisive a time that was, some of us even catching ourselves reflecting that old George W. was a decent sort really. You know, by comparison. But then last week’s confirmation hearings on Capitol Hill for Gina Haspel to become the next director of the CIA jolted us out of that little daydream.

We were reminded all at once about the last time the United States showed itself willing to forsake all the norms of diplomacy and ties of friendship with so many allies to pursue its own obsessions. There was the illegal invasion of Iraq, of course. But it was the setting up of black site prisons and the torture of terror suspects that really saw it part with its better angels.

Haspel oversaw one of those torture resorts. It was located in Thailand. We also know she was involved in the deliberate destruction of videotapes that would have shown the extent of the brutality visited upon two prisoners, Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri. It is why John McCain, ailing and confined to his home in Arizona, made it clear that he would could not support her confirmation. McCain, of course, personally experienced torture in Vietnam.

That she said she would never let the CIA resume torture under her watch hardly impressed the senator. He needed more. “Her refusal to acknowledge torture’s immorality is disqualifying,” McCain wrote in a statement after watching her testimony in her hearing. “I believe the Senate should exercise its duty of advice and consent and reject this nomination.”

These are the professional classes grousing. What about everyone else? Will ordinary Britons be disgusted enough with Trump to fill the streets when he visits in July, like they did over the Iraq war or Ronald Reagan’s deployment of Pershing II and cruise missiles in Europe in 1983?

Trump is doing his best to ensure dislike of him filters to all levels. Take the current Irn-Bru brouhaha in Scotland. A beverage of dubious nutritional value, Irn-Bru is nonetheless close to many Scots’ hearts. It can, however, leave a deep orange stain when spilled. Hence Trump’s golf resort and hotel in Turnberry deciding to ban it from its premises. To protect the tartan integrity of their carpets. Some north of the border consider it an egregious incitement, however.

So, alright, that’s not really a thing. But how about Trump’s newest crusade, this time to force patients in “socialised” health systems in Europe to pay more for their prescription drugs so Americans can start paying less. He reasons that the Europeans have long been “free-riding” by underpaying for drugs, thanks to price-setting by their governments. Americans pay more, even though it’s their pharmaceutical companies that developed them. He’ll use trade deals to try to stop it happening, like the one Britain must soon start negotiating. It’s not just Europe’s diplomacy he’s messing with. Now it’s its healthcare too.

It’s that America First thing. “When foreign governments extort unreasonably low prices from US drug makers, Americans have to pay more to subsidise the enormous cost of research and development,” Trump declared Friday on the White House lawn. He didn’t mention the NHS direclty, but it’s clear that healthcare systems in Britain, the rest of Europe and in Canada too were on his mind. America’s trading partners “need to pay more because they’re using socialist price controls, market access controls, to get unfair pricing,” added Alex Azar, the US health secretary, who was standing alongside him.

Is Trump the most hated US president in Europe ever? You tell me (but try not to be too beastly to any American visitors you encounter this summer). Or maybe he has a ways to go yet. Because Reagan and George W. Bush didn’t exactly endear themselves either, if you recall.

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