When it was announced that Mitt Romney was to visit the UK, Israel and Poland, I suspected that Nile Gardiner was involved in drawing up the itinerary for the Presidential hopeful. It has his dirty fingerprints all over it. How can I tell? Well, if you Google “Nile Gardiner Poland”, for example, you will see that the top three links are Gardiner’s Torygraph blogs. Now try Googling “Nile Gardiner Israel” and you will get similar results. But the visit to Britain has not gone as well as planned and a remark made by Romney about the Olympics sparked off a bout of transatlantic mudslinging.
Yesterday, one of Romney’s advisors used the phrase “Anglo-Saxon” when speaking to Jon Swaine of the Daily Torygraph. swain doesn’t name the advisor but I have my suspicions. The remark caused a predictable reaction and this prompted several of the Torygraph bloggers to rally behind Romney and assert their Anglo-Saxon credentials. Some, like the Lyin’ King, have insisted that the compound “Anglo-Saxon” is equivalent to the word “liberty”. He writes,
And where do these characteristics have their roots? In Anglo-Saxon civilisation. When a Romney aide told this newspaper that the US and Britain shared an ‘Anglo-Saxon heritage’, he or she was stating the obvious. Those Lefties pretending to be upset – the Obama campaign called the remark ‘stunningly offensive’ – know perfectly well that the reference was cultural rather than racial. When the French talk of ‘les anglo-saxons’ or the Spanish of ‘los anglosajones’, they don’t mean Cerdic and Oswine and Æthelstan. They mean people who speak English and believe in small government.
I love how Hannan excuses Romney by saying, ” the reference was cultural rather than racial”. But then, he would say that. He would defend Satan, given half the chance. He also deliberately ignores the way in which the phrase is often used to claim that Obama isn’t “white” and to make the spurious point that he does not understand the mythological ‘ties that bind’ the two English-speaking countries.
The fact of the matter is that this country was invaded by the Normans in 1066. the Anglo-Saxons and the other peoples who inhabited this island were over-run and forced to accept the invaders as their conquerors and overlords. Over time, the Normans intermarried with the locals (after brutalizing them). That makes this country as much Norman as it does Anglo-Saxon. Of course, the fact that large swathes of this country were occupied by the Danes (Danelaw) as well as the Romans before them doesn’t seem to matter much to the racists and crypto-racists that clutter the Internet. They declare themselves to be Anglo-Saxon, even though a simple DNA test would reveal something startlingly different.
Here’s the offending remark that was made by the ‘unnamed advisor’,
“We are part of an Anglo-Saxon heritage, and he feels that the special relationship is special,” the adviser said of Mr. Romney, adding: “The White House didn’t fully appreciate the shared history we have.”
Ah, the shared history and the transatlantic bruderschaft. This is odd because from the American War of Independence in 1776 to the period immediately after WWII, Britain was on the US’s shit-list. In fact the US and Britain came close to going to war with one another in 1895 over a small strip of land between Venezuela and British Guyana. The US even planned to have a war with Britain as recently as 1930.
So who produced this extraordinary piece of ahistorical tosh? Like me, Gideon Rachmann of the FT has his suspicions,
Suspicion swiftly fell on Nile Gardiner, a Brit who works at the Heritage Foundation and has been named as one of Romney’s foreign-policy advisory team. Gardiner blogs for the Telegraph and has admitted speaking to the Telegraph journalist who wrote the story – but, despite strong circumstantial evidence, denied being the source of the quote.
As we know, Gardiner isn’t shy when it comes to making comments that can be construed as racist. He has plenty of previous. On this occasion he denies it but then, he would.
Rachmann also highlights a blog written by the Moonie in which he lists Barack Obama’s “Top 10 insults against Britain”.
This article from TMP is rather interesting, especially for the last paragraph.
My other reason for being interested in this is something my friend Mike Lind always had a good way of capturing — which is the way that on the American right, Brits, particularly conservative Brits, amount to something like Americans by proxy. Sure, they don’t carry US citizenship. But by possessing the ur-Anglo-Saxon-ness and the heritage thing and the stiff upper lip and some Great Books rearing they’re practically more American than we are. Sort of like the yeast that makes the bread. So a Brit like Nile Gardiner is sort of more one of us — at least in some Platonic ideal form — than the Mexican-American son of immigrants in San Diego or Los Angeles. And certainly he might get the centrality of our Anglo-Saxon heritage more than someone like Barack Obama who’s the son of a Kenyan and born in Hawaii and even spent time as a kid living in Indonesia.
But all that aside, is Nile Gardiner an American citizen?
My bold. No he isn’t but that doesn’t mean that he’s particularly au fait with what’s happening in the UK either, as I point out in this blog.
But it’s misleading to describe the folkways and political traditions that Americans inherited from Britain as “Anglo-Saxon”. For the most part, they date back no further than the 16th century, when British life was redefined by the Reformation and the beginnings of capitalism.
The Anglo-Saxons, on the other hand, were Germanic tribes who lived in Britain after about the 5th century. Although not eliminated, their language (Old English) and political institutions were transformed by the Norman conquest in 1066. Calling the early modern traditions that connected the United States and Britain in the colonial period “Anglo-Saxon” is a little like calling the calling the Pope the pontifex maximus. There’s a sense in which it’s true, but too much history separates the two eras for the comparison to be useful.
What we have here is a very sly way of playing the race card. The suggestion is that Obama is not “Anglo-Saxon” is another way of saying he isn’t white and therefore doesn’t understand the ‘Special Relationship’. This, of course, isn’t true and as we all know, Obama is mixed race. But Gardiner and his chums on the Torygraph favour the One-Drop Rule. If you have a one black parent, grandparent or great-grandparent, then you are black; an Other.
Furthermore, Moonie Gardiner has been involved in an anti-Obama smear campaign since the President took office. Not a week passes by when he hasn’t written a blog that complains of Obama’s insensitivity towards this and that. The fact that Gardiner denies making the comment means nothing. It’s his modus operandi. Those are his words.