America is about to enter the final week of campaigning in its Presidential Election, with Donald Trump, a man we should supposedly feel some connection to as his mother came from Lewis, very much in the race.
Amazingly, despite all his scandals and outrage, he could feasibly win, his chances given a significant boost by the FBI’s decision to review emails connected to Hillary Clinton’s campaign — a move described by her as “strange, unprecedented and deeply troubling”.
I think it’s horrifying. In Britain, the rules governing what civil servants, journalists and others can and can’t do in the immediate pre-election period known as Purdah are very strict and for good reason.
The FBI could be throwing the election, here. Some polls are showing that, in the last few days, Trump has now closed the 12 point lead Clinton had over him.
FBI director James Comey should be hauled into a court of law forthwith and made to explain himself.
I’ve watched the twists and turns of this election and have found it increasingly chilling.
Earlier in the year, when it emerged that Trump was a real contender, I think we islanders found it somewhat surreal and even slightly amusing.
There was the long-felt sense of his shame at his crass, vulgar and very un-Hebridean personality but also a small grudging admiration for how he had ‘done well for himself’.
Then, we were bemused that a man whose mother came from Tong — Mary Ann MacLeod emigrated to America in the 1920s — could be in the running for the Presidency.
We were also indignant at the usual stereotyping of our island by the media, and that hasn’t moved on much (nor is it ever likely to).
Take this, from the Express a few days ago. “The Isle of Lewis is known for having a vast peat bog and a proud close knit community” as well as the usual line about us being a “God-fearing island dominated by Calvinist free churches”.
Oh please. No wonder many people have no respect for journalists.
We haven’t said much about it ourselves for a while though, outwith social media — Facebook page ‘The Isle of Lewis does not support Trump for President’ has been a good one — and I think part of the reason is we’ve been stunned into silence.
Clinton hasn’t had a great campaign either but she’d get my vote. The thought that Trump — some people have said he’s known as Domnhall Iain on Lewis but he’d never be referred to with that kind of affection — could actually end up as President of the United States is terrifying.
Writer Stephen King, who knows all about horror, put it well. “A Trump presidency scares me more than anything else. I’m terrified that he’ll become president. I would have laughed three or four months ago but I think Trump has a real shot.”
It’s been a car crash of an election and to even contemplate that Trump — a tycoon and host of America’s version of TV show The Apprentice — might be the successor to the classy Barack Obama is mind-boggling.
Trump has, as far as we know, only visited Lewis once, in 2008, when he was campaigning to build the ‘world’s greatest golf course’ on Menie Estate in Aberdeen.
His private jet stopped off for a few hours in Stornoway (pictured above in image used courtesy of Stornoway Gazette) so he could visit cousins in Tong, the house where his mother grew up. The time spent visiting was counted in seconds rather than minutes and he later said: “I think I do feel Scottish”.
Well, I have to say, I’m not feeling that.
I wondered what others thought, so canvassed opinion. Turns out Trump won’t get such a warm reception if he appears in Stornoway again any time soon.
MSP Alasdair Allan, in particular, didn’t mince his words, slamming his “astonishingly offensive” comments. Comhairle nan Eilean Siar convener Norman A Macdonald said he “would not make a good president”, while Free Church minister Iain D Campbell said Trump had “caused a problem” for evangelical Christians in America.
Alasdair Allan said: ”Generally people in the islands have a very high regard for personal qualities like modesty, manners and tolerance. Sadly it is difficult to see any evidence of these characteristics in Mr Trump.
“We are witnessing a US election the like of which I hope, for Americans’ sake, is never repeated again.
“It is scarcely credible that a presidential candidate would make remarks speculating that his opponent might well be shot. Even more unbelievable is that a candidate would hint that judges he dislikes might be shot.
“Or publicly mock disabled people, or attack the parents of dead soldiers, or apparently condone sexual assault.
“But Mr Trump really has said all these, and many, many more astonishingly offensive things. I will be watching the results as they come in with interest.”
Comhairle convener Norman A Macdonald said: “I don’t think he’d make a good president.
“I just don’t think he’s got the gravitas to become someone who can negotiate with world leaders in a way that isn’t going to cause some serious consternation whilst he’s doing it. That’s me being extremely diplomatic.
“I would be concerned if he became president in terms of his ability to deal with other nations and world leaders. I’m certainly not clear what makes him qualified.
“It seemed to take a lot of people by surprise and I think a lot of people initially felt it was somewhat of a novelty but it’s quite clearly moved on from that point.”
Of Trump’s supposed pride in his Scottish connection, he said: “I genuinely don’t see him as somebody who’s got significant connections with the Isle of Lewis. Of course his mother came from here and his sister visits on a regular basis but as far as I’m aware he’s visited once in recent history and that was for a political purpose that was associated with business interests.”
Norman A acknowledged that we may attract criticism for daring to comment on an election that isn’t ours, as JK Rowling did on Twitter recently.
She was told: “Aren’t you British? Mind your own business #USA” and replied: “When a man this ignorant and easy to manipulate gets within sniffing distance of the nuclear codes, it’s everyone’s business #RestOfTheWorld”.
Norman A said: “The President of the United States of America is one of two or three of the most significant political roles across the world in terms of influence and impact. Certainly Americans are the only ones who are entitled to vote for their President but at the same time people can have opinions.”
Asked what he thought about Trump’s attitudes to women, he said: “It’s terrible.”
The ‘Trump tapes’ were arguably the lowest point of the campaign, with Trump boasting about making moves on women in the most lewd terms. He bragged about grabbing them in a way that is sexual assault, pure and simple. And he proudly admitted to making these moves on a married woman.
First Lady Michelle Obama took issue with this on the Clinton campaign trail, saying: “Our nation’s leaders should meet basic standards of human decency.”
She added: “This was a powerful individual speaking freely and openly about sexually predatory behaviour… and using language so obscene that many of us were worried about our children hearing it.”
Sexual assault is serious stuff. How did this not finish him off? I find that incredible. Similarly, his hints at the assassination of Hillary Clinton by gun rights supporters, saying “second amendment people” could stop her choosing undesirable supreme court judges if she is elected.
This would be shocking enough if anyone said it. But it gets worse if you remember that Trump took on Pope Francis for questioning his Christianity.
There he was on telly, waving around the Bible his mother left to him — this really annoyed his sister, judge Mary Ann Trump Barry, apparently — and calling the Pope “disgraceful” for daring to question another man’s faith.
Donald, last time I looked “thou shalt not kill” was one of The Ten Commandments and “thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife” was also pretty high up there. Given that you have appeared to incite assassination, and bragged about hitting on a married woman, your ‘Christianity’ is clearly questionable.
Rev Dr Iain D Campbell, minister of Point Free Church, said: “I actually think he’s created a bit of a problem for evangelical Christians over in America who would historically have gone Republican but don’t want to go Trump. But I don’t think they want to go Clinton either. What they are going to do, I don’t know.
“I don’t think America is really getting anything like a robust political choice here. The whole thing just comes across as farcical.
“There’s not a lot of grappling with the real political issues. I think the candidates are almost embarrassing themselves. I’ve watched a few of the presidential debates and I haven’t really heard much serious political debating and so much of it comes across as very shallow.
“I think Donald Trump has been articulating a lot of the concerns of ordinary people but I don’t think he’s answering concerns with anything like the political robustness that would qualify him to be president — and I think his own lack of political experience is partly to blame for that.
“It remains to be seen what happens next month but I’m just glad that I’m not voting in the election and I feel sorry for the Christians in America who want to vote Republican but who can’t support Trump for whatever reason.”
Trump’s lack of political experience has shown in the debates but so has his lack of eloquence. He may have street smarts, but he doesn’t seem to have much intelligence — note to Donald, “bigly” isn’t a word — and his manner of speaking has attracted derision.
Our world leaders have got to be above this. They cannot be people to whom this would stick — it would never happen with Obama — but Trump has even inspired a hysterical trend on Twitter, the #TrumpBookReport.
This was started by a Tweet which noted his vague debate responses were “like a book report from a teenager who hasn’t read the book”. Cue Tweets such as “Pip? A total loser. I’ll make Expectations Great again” and “Oedipus Rex. I would have done the same, his mom was a 10.”
Funny, undoubtedly – but not something a world leader should have opened himself up to.
One of Trump’s cousins, Mairi Sterland, said: “I used to laugh about (being related to) Donald Trump. Now I hardly dare mention him. I’m intrigued that people will even countenance the thought that he might be president .
“He’s a rabble raiser. He knows how to do it. He’s in that Apprentice thing and he works it. He is outrageous. You quail at the thought of what he’s capable of.”
Mairi shared a great-grandfather with Trump’s mother Mary Ann and remembers her as being “beautiful, lovely, the nicest person”, adding: “I remember her visiting with her sister when I was eight. They were gorgeous girls and I was in awe.”
What would Mary Ann MacLeod Trump make of her famous son now?
“I think his mother would be horrified,” she said.
Donald Trump for President? Heaven forbid. He’s not qualified. He’s not fit. He’s an egomaniac who should never have been allowed to get this close.
Since writing this, Trump has of course prevailed in the race to the White House. You can read about how I processed my reaction to that seismic event in a later post, Why I couldn’t bring myself to talk on telly about Trump.