Truth to power: Michael Gove and Donald Trump

Recently, Michael Gove secured the first UK interview with Donald Trump since his victory in the Presidential Election. A transcript of the interview can be found here (you need to register to access the full article though). The interview begins with very soft questions; about Trump’s German and Scottish heritage, why Brexit happens, and uncomplicated questions on policy.

Michael Gove

The interview doesn’t really go into much more depth than that, with Gove refusing to challenge Trump on any of the issues that surrounded his campaign or inconsistencies in his past, both in his business dealings and shifting political allegiances. Of course, there are some things the two of them will agree on, like Brexit. So it isn’t really a surprise that Gove doesn’t challenge Trump’s claim that Brexit happened because “People don’t want to have other people coming in and destroying their country.” But you can still agree with someone while challenging their views. Gove doesn’t ask Trump anything about the elements of the European Union he believes are “destroying” the country, on the role of immigration in the referendum, or the prevalence of post-truth politics that plagued elements of the referendum campaigns.

In fact, Gove’s main agenda throughout the interview seems to be an attempt to get a pat on the back from the now inaugurated President. He asks questions about Brexit, of which he was a vocal supporter, insists on reminding him that “Britain is paying” its fair share in NATO, and reminding Trump that “for decades now, Europe has depended on America for its defence.” This has also been discussed in The Guardian, in a piece that describes the ‘Special Relationship’ between the UK and the US as “unilateral,” arguing that “time and again, London abases itself in its desperation to be noticed by Washington, and especially by the White House – no matter how appalling the incumbent of that office.”

Gove however, seems to see nothing appalling at all in Mr. Trump. When Trump discusses his plans for “strong borders,” no questions are raised about the inflammatory language he used to describe Muslims, and immigrants, ranging from the bizarre (“bad hombres”), to the flagrantly offensive (“”They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists”). Instead, Michael Gove chose to ask Trump if he trusts European currency “as a successful businessman.” Trump’s business failures have been discussed in depth elsewhere. Yet they are not mentioned at all in the interview. Gove doesn’t pivot from asking if he trusts European currency as a businessman to then asking if people can, in fact, trust Trump as a businessman, with his many well-documented failures behind him. These business failures and hateful soundbites of the President’s may speak for themselves, but that is no excuse for Gove’s staggering silence on the matter.

Donald Trump

Jonathan Freedland’s Guardian piece describes Gove’s interview with Trump as “a useful glimpse into what the future of direct media accountability of the US president will look like.” A simple way to describe that accountability would be “non-existent,” but Freedland instead mentions the way Trump “would prefer to be questioned only by those who are ideological sympathisers.”

It’s difficult not to see the truth in that. A man as inconsistent in business and politics as Trump is would likely be interrogated rather than interviewed by someone with an ideological opposition, someone who doesn’t benefit from the casual relationship to the truth Gove’s interview has.

This is why, even if those who are opposed to Trump, ideologically or otherwise, don’t get to sit down and interview the man, they must still do everything they can to question and challenge his record and plans for the future, especially given the power that he now holds. From mainstream papers like The Guardian criticising the interview with Trump, to the demonstrations and marches that spread like wildfire around the United States after the inauguration, now more than ever, we must speak truth to power.

Gove provides an example of “how the press should always behave” in Trump’s world. This needs to be challenged. Trump’s speeches and State of the Union address need to be examined in detail, combed through for inconsistencies, bigotry, and lies. Just because a man like Donald Trump has ascended to the office of President, doesn’t mean that he should go unchallenged, or uncriticised. If none who share Trump’s ideology will ever dare to question him, those who disagree must do all that they can to show that truth will still be spoken to power, not swept aside when it’s convenient.