In this episode, we sit down with media mogul Conrad Black, the former publisher of The London Daily Telegraph, The Spectator, The Chicago Sun-Times, and The Jerusalem Post. Black is also the author of authoritative biographies of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Richard Nixon, and, most recently, “Donald J. Trump: A President Like No Other.”
Regardless of what the outcome of the election is, the “great Trump war” will continue, Black says.
This is American Thought Leaders 🇺🇸, and I’m Jan Jekielek.
Jan Jekielek: Conrad Black, such a pleasure to have you back on American Thought Leaders.
Conrad Black: Thank you for inviting me again, Jan.
Mr. Jekielek: Lord Black, there’s this growing cacophony of voices in the U.S. political establishment and the media and so forth, calling for President Trump to concede the election. There are a number of lawsuits out there in multiple states. Apparently, there’s going to be one released in Georgia by outside counsel Sidney Powell who’s working on something not directly with the team. How do you see the President’s options at this point?
Lord Black: They are narrowing I think, Jan, and I am afraid his legal team is off to a slow and slightly incoherent start. We’re now, what, coming up to three weeks after the election. Everyone saw this problem coming, including the President. I don’t think he had an adequate force in the field to combat it on election day. And I don’t think he had a legal team really ready to hit the ground running as soon as suspect results started to come in.
I mean, it is a highly questionable state of affairs. You have alleged, plausibly alleged, widespread irregularities in only four or five states, apart from Georgia, all of them governed by Democrats, and real problems about the verifiability of mass-mailed unsolicited ballots coming back in bulk in these drops in the middle of the night. And the questions of oversight: in some cases in Pennsylvania, neither side got to view the ballots as the scrutineers went through them. And in some cases, only the Republicans were excluded.
But it seems to me that the litigation, up to this point, has been scattergun—just gathered quickly together—and seeks remedies far in excess of the offenses alleged. I hope they can do better now, and I’m sorry about the, to them, embarrassing status of Sidney Powell for whom I have a very high regard. And it’d be interesting to see her lawsuit. But they’re going to have to raise their game very quickly and a long way in order to have any chance of calling this election in the legal question.
Now with that said, I think they’re still well within sight of losing the election, but being able, plausibly, to say that it was not a fair election. As I understand it, polls show half the people out of the entire public—majority of Republicans but a substantial number of Democrats—don’t think that it has been a fair election. And if Trump can go out with that, and with a victory in the Senate seats in Georgia, I think he is very well positioned to begin round three of this great Trump war. Right, 2016 was round one, he appears to have lost round two, but not entirely, because they are apparently holding the Senate.
The narrative in the House is, in my opinion on historical precedent, almost impossible that they will take back the House in two years. And it is Trump’s party. So it’s all to play for, but I think we have to concede the high likelihood is he has been defeated. And that is a terrible thing in my opinion. It is an unjust thing. It is, in my opinion, an unfair election. And I see no sign whatever, that the incoming administration are remotely competent to do what is required.
Mr. Jekielek: So many things you just said that I want to follow up on. Well, first of all, why don’t you tell me what you mean by the “great Trump war”?
Lord Black: He, as you know, was the first person elected president who had never sought or held a public office, elected or unelected, or ever held a military command. Always, people elected or ascending to the presidency, whether by election or from vice president when the presidency is vacant, had some level of public service—military or civilian—and he has not. He came altogether from outside, he changed party seven times in 13 years; not concerned with party loyalty, but with the best route to The White House.
And to the astonishment of almost everybody, he gained control of the Republican Party and won the election. And he ran against all the factions of both parties. He said the system, not the actual constitutional system, but as operated by the personnel who constitute the political class in the United States—the so-called establishment—had broken down and was not serving the country well. And he did get enough people supporting that view to put him in as president.
He achieved a great deal with his first term as President, as I’ve said before, I think more than anyone, except Lincoln, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Nixon. And on the merits of his performance, he should have had an easy re-election like Roosevelt and Nixon did. But because of his own foibles and the extremely rambunctious manner that he has—and he clearly offends a great many people—he did not get the normal dividend on voting day that a performance as distinguished and accomplishments as his has been would normally have earned him.
And so with round two was this improbable coalition: stylistically offended suburban Republicans; the detritus of the old working in lower middle class Democratic Party; all of academia; the entire media; big tech; Wall Street; Hollywood; professional sport; and, frankly, urban agitating groups masquerading as crusaders for civil rights, but as we saw through much of the summer, rather more interested in vandalism and violence.
All of that combined, apparently by the narrowest of margins and with the benefit of ballot harvesting and other skullduggery, to defeat him. So it’s on to round three now. His prospects for round three are good. But it must be said that, at the presidential level, he appears to have lost round two.
Mr. Jekielek: Well, as you’re saying, an increasing number of people are taking that view. There’s still a number of people, for example, like Sidney Powell, who we discussed who appear to be holding out, and I suppose we’ll see today or in the next few days what that lawsuit holds. She was saying that it’s supposed to be of, I believe the term is, “biblical proportions”.
Lord Black: I assume she’s referring to the Old Testament. I wish her well, and I wish him well.
And I want to commend The Epoch Times for the initiative that it’s shown in bringing forward responsible stories highlighting questionable aspects of this late election. I think you’ve been leaders in that, and I’m proud to have had any association with it at all, even though I do not represent as a particularly prominent or cutting edge one.
But you asked me a question. I have to give you a frank answer. I hope the move to contest the election gathers speed and is successful, because I think it’s a dubious election. And it is a bad thing for people to be elected to that great office by dishonest means.
Mr. Jekielek: Well, you mentioned a few things that you’ve seen that concern you through the election. Why don’t you give me a picture of what you see are kind of the main categories of issues in your mind?
Lord Black: I am not qualified to judge the technical, mechanical issues. There are these allegations about the voting machines, that we’ve seen some of these so called glitches for thousands of votes went to the wrong candidate—always to the Democrat as opposed to the Republican—but I just don’t know enough about how these voting machines work to make an informed comment on that, other than that I would not be surprised if the worrisome stories about them are accurate.
On the other hand, the whole business of us all going to bed late on election night, with substantial Trump leads in a number of states that had completely vanished in the morning, when after counting had stopped, these drops of lopsided numbers of Biden ballots came in. I mean, it had all the appearance of rounding up a great number of the ballots that were sent out to the entire voters list, unsolicited, and always you have a large number of people who have moved or are dead, or just don’t get those ballots or choose to vote in another way, and don’t use them.
And this is, as you know and as your viewers and readers know, ballot harvesting. And the procedures for verifying the accuracy of these ballots has fluctuated and, in some places, is practically negligible. So it’s a superhighway to voter fraud, and it appears that, to some degree, that highway was exploited.
Now, I don’t know why the Republicans have had such difficulty getting together evidence of that, especially since the President himself predicted that it would happen. But here we are, and it’s very late in the day now, and they’ve had a bad start that produced some, frankly, frivolous lawsuits. Hoping that Sidney Powell, who I have great respect for, does better with hers today. I think the country is ready for that kind of a biblical experience.
But obviously, you do get the strange things. I mean, there are 50 states. In 44 or so of them everything went smoothly. In Florida—it’s the third state in the country in population—it was a hotly contested state by the close election. No problems! Big mail-in vote, no problems. Not close states, but large states: New York, California, Illinois, Ohio (Republican state); no problems! Those states that I’ve just mentioned, I think, probably counted 50 million votes on election night, no problem!
Everything is concentrated in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin [and] Nevada, where there are Democratic governors, and where all sorts of funny business went on of the kind we’ve been talking about. And Georgia is a special case, it’s got a Republican governor, but strange things happen in Georgia, and it’s a very close vote.
And it’s on the original question you put of these people calling for the President to concede. Let us remember what the motives of these people are. It’s the Democrats who want to be able to sigh with relief that the crisis is over: “The monster is gone, this dreadful meteorite has passed.” And the never-Trump Republicans who could never stand him anyway, but were afraid of him—and he controls their party now—are coming out in the old sort of George Bush masquerade of “good sportsmanship”.
Well, he’s under no obligation to be a good sport. He was the victim of unprecedented, unconstitutional attempts to undo his election four years ago. He’s clearly been the victim of some level of unusual skullduggery at the polls this year. In between, he was harassed by the totally spurious and outrageous Russia collusion canard and a nonsensical, unfounded impeachment trial. And it’s a bit rich for the authors of all those colossal illegalities and improprieties to call upon President Trump to be a good sport when they just tried to steal his election.
Mr. Jekielek: So Conrad, you are, I think we could say, an expert or a veteran of media. And media is something that’s played a huge role in all of these realities these last four years, the election itself, arguably through setting very strong narratives, and so forth.
There’s one specific instance that I want to talk about. There’s a recent report that came out from the Media Research Center, and they actually did a survey of Biden voters subsequent to the election. They found that 36 percent of Biden voters were unaware of the evidence linking Joe Biden to corrupt financial dealings with China through his son Hunter. So now of course, we’re talking about the New York Post and other media’s reporting of the Hunter Biden laptop, the Bobulinski emails and so forth. This seems like an astonishing, astonishing reality that seems figured into the election.
Lord Black: It is an astonishing reality, and is indicative of the disgraceful performance of the US media. I believe the Lowenstein Center at Harvard has surveyed this carefully, so did Pew Research. And they both concluded that approximately 95% of national political media coverage of this president over the last four years has been hostile, and that would certainly confirm my impression.
The New York Times itself after the 2016 election, which they acknowledged they’d got wrong and misreported, said that objectivity was no longer their goal in reporting. They considered it to be an overarching requirement of the national interest to get rid of this president, and they would produce their product accordingly, and the contents of it would reflect that. Well, this isn’t reporting. This is just comment. And that’s what we’re getting; we’re getting a constant, almost complete, relentless, smear job from the media of an incumbent president. It is an utter disgrace, just a disgrace.
I think, except for Fox, all the television networks should have their licences canceled. And I think that the big tech censoring even The White House, has simply got to be put in its place. In fairness, there is some bipartisan support for that in the Congress, and even the Democrats are alarmed that the power is being misused and cavalierly misused by the leading social media executives.
And the appearance of Mr. Dorsey looking, as one of the TV commentators put it, like Charles Manson’s partner of evenings explaining—with a ring in his nose and a beard apparently down to his navel, speaking of biblical matters as Sidney Powell has been doing and apparitions there from—telling us why they have a perfect right to do what they’re doing, although they did acknowledge that that particular incident was a mistake.
I mean, you’ve got to wonder where this country is going. I mean, it is the premier democracy in the world. It’s certainly not the best functioning democracy but we owe to the United States, we in the world, owe to the United States the triumph of democracy in the free market. But this is not a spectacle of how democracy should work.
Completely biased press, censorship exercised by people pretending not even to be in the media, but are controlling the platforms. And the general effort, both in the media and in the academic world, not to allow the interplay and competition of ideas and personalities, but to dictate results to an electorate, now of over 150 million people. It’s a scandalous state of affairs.
Mr. Jekielek: Well, there’s this whole debate and indeed there were some recent hearings, senate hearings, with the leadership of the tech giant companies. So I see a lot of Democratic leaders seemingly calling for more of this kind of censorship—I don’t think they describe it as censorship, they describe it as “fact checking”—or other such activities on the side of the social media companies.
Lord Black: Yeah, well, the Democrats will be in effect asking for the social media companies to crack down even harder on the Republicans. So, dress it up in some kind of spurious language of fair play and higher assurance of accuracy of information that consists of the curtailment of the other side in its ability to put their case to the country.
But I will say for them, it does not come easily to me, or naturally, to embrace—figuratively speaking, obviously in policy terms—people like Elizabeth Warren. But as I understand it, she and Senator Sanders and others are objecting to the cartel aspect of this; that so much power resides in the hands of so few people who are not really accountable for anything.
I think in the case of the Republicans the complaints are more specific about how they are masquerading as a mere platform that has nothing to do with content, but in fact, they are filtering content and are doing everything that they can to influence all those who use their services in a certain direction politically, with absolutely not even the slightest lip service to bipartisanship. A reasonable complaint from my observations.
Mr. Jekielek: Well, to your point, I recently interviewed Dr. Robert Epstein about data, and I’ve always found his work to be kind of impeccable. He said that over a 4 day period, prior to the election, he was seeing on the Google front page—in this large study that he did—that “get out and vote” reminders were being sent only to people who identified as liberals, not conservatives. He says he has data that shows that it was 100% in one direction and 0% in the other.
Lord Black: I wish I could claim to be surprised by that. I mean, I certainly didn’t look at it in the scientific way that he did, and I’m not as experienced at that kind of analysis as he is, but that was my impression also.
Mr. Jekielek: You’ve described this election, actually, as a kind of a loss for the Democratic Party. I think you alluded to that earlier in our conversation. I’ve also read that in some of your columns. It certainly doesn’t appear that way publicly, from what the Democratic Party is saying. Can you explain what you mean a bit, by this?
Lord Black: Well, they are naturally jubilating and pretending that they’ve run the tables and swept the nation. And look, let us face it, they appear to be winning the top prize. And if I were a Democrat, I guess I’d be quite pleased that not only did we win but, to take a phrase from the late Johnnie Cochran, the well known barrister, or at least about him by one of his co-counsel, they “played the cards”. They played the cards and they played them off the bottom of the deck. And they appear to have won by a combination of a colossal media smear job and skullduggery at the polls. But they won, so it seems.
But the fact is, they predicted a great blue wave, they predicted an absolute repudiation of Trump and his policies. Did not happen. They should have won the Senate. They didn’t. I don’t think they’ll win the 2 seats in Georgia. And they’re down, as far as I can see now, to a lead of only 9 congressmen in the House of Representatives which, with such a fragmented caucus as they have, is a precarious position.
And if the past is any guide, they’re going to lose in the midterms. I mean, the only president in the lifetime of anyone now alive, who actually seriously gained in midterm elections was Franklin D. Roosevelt. And those were different circumstances and a much more agile and formidable political leader than Joe Biden. And across the country in the state legislatures that decide the districting, for example, for congressional districts—and from that comes also the electoral college delegations of the different states—the Republicans did very well.
So it was in no sense a rejection across the board of Trump’s policy. But the number of people who he inspired, which increased the Republican vote total by 12 million, seems to have fallen short by several million. The combination of traditional Democrats and defecting Republicans of, presumably, the old Bush, Romney, McCain variety were, understandably up to a point, offended by the stylistic infelicities of the President. But I never meant to say that it was a wipeout for the Democrats: they seem to have won the White House.
But insofar as they were seeking and predicting a repudiation of Trump and Trumpism, they have lost. Trumpism has not been repudiated. The President appears to have been evicted. But he remains in control of the Republican Party, and he has the opportunity to be the first Leader of the Opposition the country has had since Theodore Roosevelt, if not Andrew Jackson after his first attempted presidential election in 1824.
So Trump is not finished as a force. He has by far the biggest personal following of any politician in the country. Much bigger than Obama and a considerable multiple of the number of people who would still identify as supporters of the Clintons. And, that is a great block loyal to him, that he can continue to lead.
And he is undoubtedly in control of the Republican Party, despite the spectacle we’ve seen in the last few days of some never-Trumpers coming out from, as somebody said—I saw the other day, I think it was Bill Bennett, former Education Secretary—coming out of the woods, like Japanese warriors in the 50s who weren’t aware that the war was over.
And professing to be, in effect, relieved that Trump had lost and urging him in the name of sportsmanship—as if it was a cricket game and not the contest of the greatest office in the world, and not one particularly distinguishably conducted I must say, the contest that is—to throw in the towel.
Well, this is a war and it continues, and they’ve won some of it and lost some of it, the Democrats. But if they are imagining that the war is over and they are victorious, then they are no less delusional than they were when they thought Hillary Clinton was going to win.
Mr. Jekielek: Conrad, a number of people have said to me that the level of control and raw power exhibited, effectively through social media, with these tech giants which are in an unprecedented position in history—this is how it was described to me—and also, of course, with these corporate media, a lot of people are wondering: how can a fair election be held again?
Lord Black: Well, I think you have two choices. One is if the free market operates in a way that breaks down the cartel, i.e. that they aren’t all just interchangeable, soft left, limousine, Silicon Valley liberals. I mean, the limousine is apt to be a bicycle or something rather than a limousine [or] what they’re called in French, the “contestateur de luxe,” the rich left. And then if you get, for example, large numbers of people defecting to Parler, from Facebook or Twitter, then you get more competition.
And the alternative is a legislative interference for which there is some enthusiasm from both parties in the Congress to break down this cartel. I mean this whole Section 230 thing, and I want to be careful not to get out of my depth, but they cannot go on pretending to be a mere platform not subject to the requirements imposed upon media outlets, that all they’re doing is transmitting a message when, as you said earlier, they’re censoring people including the White House, advising people how to vote, filtering things in a way that’s extremely tendentious and partisan. I mean, it’s just completely dishonest and they can’t get away with it.
But I think the counter will be a combination of dissatisfied customers taking their business elsewhere, as happens in a free market, and some imposition of more realistic and reassuring to society regulations, that they can’t go on abusing their position as they have been.
Mr. Jekielek: So as you described earlier, this whole idea of Trumpism has been, I think you argue, grossly misrepresented in certainly the corporate media. What does Trumpism actually mean? What are its core elements?
Lord Black: I think it is populism. It’s a form of conservatism that goes directly to help the low income earners and the disadvantaged people by ending illegal immigration so that the steady constant downward pressure on pay scales for relatively unskilled work stops. And they have the ability as they had in the first three years of the Trump administration until the onset of the COVID pandemic to have their income rise appreciably for the first time this century in the United States, and to assist in things like Senator [Tim] Scott in South Carolina’s [Opportunity] Zones that directed money, incentivized investment, into disadvantaged areas. It was very helpful.
It was, of a piece, penal reform that this business of incarcerating absurd percentages of minority communities, it’s just completely unjust, and the criminal legal system is profoundly unjust anyway. [With] 98, 99 percent conviction rates, 97 percent of those led to trial—it’s a mockery. It’s not a society of laws at all, it’s a prosecutocracy.
So Trump started to move on that. He gave a tremendous boost in assistance to mainly African American universities and other higher institutes of learning. So all of that is part of it but at the same time, he retained his capitalist credentials by cutting the taxes of 83 percent of taxpayers and all businesses, and so there is a way of pitching things to the whole economic range, from the low income to the high income people. And that, I would say, is one pillar of Trumpism.
The second is a foreign policy, including for these purposes, trade in foreign policy and energy policy, importation of energies, for example. All of that range of issues is conducted in a way that is altogether responsible, respectful of alliances, but is unambiguous in putting the national interest of the United States as the principal criterion in determining those policies.
And that has not been the case, and then the country became accustomed, for good reason, in the Cold War to allowing its allies to pick its pockets. It carried the luxury goods industries of France and Germany, and the engineered products industries, France and Italy, I should say, and the engineered products industries of Germany and Japan, on their backs, the back of the United States for decades, generally speaking, in order to keep the left in those countries in a minority, in maintain[ing] or help maintain a pro-American majority in all of those important countries. And it was a successful policy at the time but it need not have been continued after the successful end of the Cold War.
And particularly, as we’ve all seen, successive administrations operated on the theory that as China became more prosperous, it will become more democratic and more comfortable in the, broadly speaking, Westernized family of nations. And instead, it just took more and more advantage, and became more and more aggressive, both in its economic stretch across the Eurasian landmass, across the Indian Ocean to Africa, but also in attempting to challenge the United States in particular, but its neighbors [as well], especially for the scepter of the seas around it, and starting to pretend that international waters were Chinese territorial waters.
Trump put a stop to that. And this is the only time, last four years, the only time in the last 20 years where we’ve been able to set foot out of doors, with days when we could set foot out of doors, without being bombarded with defeatist nonsense about how China is about to replace the U.S. as the world’s greatest power. We haven’t heard any of that while Trump’s been there. I wouldn’t count on not hearing it again, when Biden’s there.
I assume that the Democrats, whatever they said during the election, will recognize that there are some dangers in truckling to the Chinese. And particularly in the matter, you mentioned a few moments ago that the Biden family collected $9.4 million from China, Russia, and Ukraine for no services that have ever been identified as having been rendered in exchange for, while he was the vice president, creates a certain vulnerability and I assume he would be sensitive to that in his policy-making towards China going forward.
Mr. Jekielek: Conrad, two questions. One is, the Trump administration has taken a very strict line against socialism and communism. How does that fit into Trumpism?
Lord Black: I don’t think it has exactly done that. If you mean in the world, I think the attitude of this administration, the Trump administration, has been [that] they are really not interested in how other countries govern themselves as long as horrible atrocities are not committed. If we had another Pol Pot genocide or Rwanda genocide, I think that the administration would then concert with other countries to try and stop it.
It is a canon of the Trump foreign policy that the United States is [not] tasked to try and govern anybody else, and all these other countries can sort it out for themselves. That’s part of their view, and for example, Syria. But if you mean, within the country, socialism, certainly militantly opposed to veering to the left inside the U.S.
Now, here I think it’s something of a weak point in the Trump record. He came in believing, with every reason to believe, that the Republican Party in the Congress, having voted many times to repeal Obamacare, would do so now that they knew that if they did, so he would approve the repeal. Whereas before, they were doing it when Obama was president and he vetoed this, and they had no ability to override his veto. Lo and behold, it was all a fraud, and Senator McConnell and the then speaker, Paul Ryan, left the President high and dry.
So he said he would produce his own health care plan, and he never did. He said he would. He kept saying right to almost Election Day, and he hasn’t done it now. He had components of the coercive mandate, the most controversial and obnoxious part of Obamacare, where you fine people for not having health care. These are asinine social democratic authoritarianism. You may as well fine people for not brushing their hair properly or something, but they saw that off legally. And he’s lowered drug prices, which is another important component of a health care plan, but he never produced an alternative.
Now, I admit they got terribly preoccupied with the pandemic, as in such urgent circumstances as those, it’s hard to get too creative in policymaking, so there’s some excuse there. But it is still a weakness because he went all the way to Election Day without an alternative.
I think we can safely say that it is an anti-socialist party within the U.S., but with a view not to leave the needs of the public unfilled, but by trying to fill them in the private sector as much as possible. But in the world, I don’t think the Trump administration cared whether governments and foreign countries were right or left, or what they were. They dealt with as they were.
Mr. Jekielek: Then the second thing I’m thinking about is the Abraham Accords or the attempts to create peace in the Middle East, or foster it, at least.
Lord Black: What’s precisely the question, Jan?
Mr. Jekielek: The question is, how does that fit into Trumpism?
Lord Black: He always violently objected, within my opinion, very good reason, to the agreement with Iran on nuclear military matters, which the Iranians accepted a very modest level of inspection that couldn’t give you a comfort level really, but what they were doing, and said they would defer any deployment of nuclear warheads for 10 years of which half that time has now expired.
And as you know, the spirit of that agreement included that Iran would reduce its support of terrorist organizations, particularly Hamas, Hezbollah, and the Houthis in Yemen, and they did not do that. They used much of the $150 billion released to them under that agreement to subsidize those organizations.
So Trump’s view was that a better course was to reimpose sanctions on Iran, strangle terrorist organizations which Iran would then no longer have the money to support, and put pressure by that method, not for regime change in Iran but for course correction in supporting terrorist policies, and for a more permanent and verifiable renunciation of nuclear military weapons by Iran—as long as it was an irresponsible regime, frequently threatening to try and destroy Israel, which of course, would merely create a nuclear war in the Middle East. Israel possesses nuclear weapons, and they would not sit there and not use them if they were attacked by such weapons.
So I think that is a better route to follow. Iran cannot go on like this, and if this pressure is maintained, they would eventually somehow make some compromise. And added to that is the fact that the encroachments in the Middle East of the ancient enemies of the Arabs, the Turks and the Persians, Iran has caused the Arab states in general to abandon their support of Palestinians, which was never sincere.
It was always a bit of window dressing to distract the Arab masses from the misgovernment they were suffering from, by constantly pointing to the plight of their “brother” Palestinians who are not a group that the Arab world is much interested in anyway. They regard them as a group of commercial sharpers, like the Jews and the Lebanese Christians, and Palestinians are not hugely popular in the Arab world.
But in these changed circumstances where Turkey having been rejected by Europe, stupidly, in my opinion, is now more interested in its former position in the Arab world. And Iran in an aggressive phase is, as well, the natural allies of the Arabs or the Jews.
The Palestinians overplayed their hand. They could have had a state—not a state including all of Israel, as they claim to want—but a genuine state anytime in the last 30 years. But they kept overplaying their hand and now they have no more cards to play, because the Arabs are not interested in making sacrifices for them to shrink or eliminate Israel when they are themselves under the pressures they are from the Turks and the Iranians.
Mr. Jekielek: I guess the question I have is, let’s say that things play out as you are expecting, that there is a Biden administration, are any of these policies that have existed, would they last through a Biden administration?
Lord Black: Despite what they say, I don’t think they’re going back to open borders. They’re not going to take the wall down, and they’re not suddenly going to facilitate a resumption of 500,000 to a million people coming illegally, pouring across the southern border. I just don’t think they would do that, not that they would object to it happening, but they would understand that politically, it would not be wise.
Secondly, I think that they will be careful about returning to a policy of outright appeasement of China for a variety of reasons, including the atmosphere that has been changed by the coronavirus and including, as I say, Mr. Biden’s family’s controversial relations with China.
I am afraid that they will wobble with Iran, and imagine that they can capitalize on the pressure Trump has asserted against that country, and make an agreement, worrisomely similar to the one they made five years ago, and take credit for huge progress which will not have occurred. Beyond that, I don’t think they’re getting anything through the Congress. So it’s just what they could do by executive order and in foreign policy.
Now, the way Biden, it’s a little presumptuous of me to set myself up as an advisor to him, a man I’ve never met and I’m not politically in sympathy with, but he could, I think, be an effective president if he put the left in his own party on the side and make compromises with the Republicans in the Congress.
Then I think you could get a health care bill, you could get an infrastructure bill, you could get police reform bills, crime reduction bills. You get a lot of things that there would be a consensus for, or good things, but he can’t do it by leading with his left. If he’s going to have Sanders and Warren and Ocasio-Cortez and the Squad effectively leading the congressional effort for Democrats, there’ll be no agreement on anything. They’ll lose [inaudible] in two years, and it will not be a successful administration that will have a promising position to take into the next election.
Mr. Jekielek: So to finish up here, you mentioned that you’re expecting another round from the President, even though you’re not necessarily expecting him to ultimately have the presidency this time. Can you expand on that please?
Lord Black: I would be delighted if we could get the election overturned, but it doesn’t appear likely. The Chief Justice of the United States has made it very clear that the supreme court does not want to have to determine who the President is. Now, I don’t think that was the issue. I think if the Trump campaign could get a proper question up there, it would be a recounting of votes in certain places, not in all states, but in some places, to determine who the real winner was.
It wouldn’t be the Supreme Court making a decision as it did in 2000, effectively declared the winner to be George W. Bush. But in any case, the judiciary, quite rightly, is reluctant to get farther than it has to into that. And so to get these issues addressed by the Supreme Court, because only it can decide them ultimately. Any such question resulting in a matter of who the president will be has to be a vote to the highest court eventually and very quickly, if the Trump campaign can make a very strong case on the law and the facts, and they haven’t done it yet.
I think there is such a case, but getting their hands on the facts and arguing the law has been a challenge so far. It’s been three weeks, so we’ll see what happens. But on the assumption that the Biden administration does take office, what I foresee is that it will attempt to govern as the Obama administration did, but the Obama administration had a congressional majority in its first two years, and this one will not in the Senate, I think. So I think the gridlock will continue.
So round three will be a long gridlock with Trump maintaining the anger and determination of this huge following by saying that it was an unfair election. They tried to sandbag him in 2016 and just missed, they tried in 2020 and narrowly won, and this issue remains to be resolved, and we’ll have an elderly President Biden in a declining state of stamina, and an administration that can take some initiatives in foreign policy where it has more authority, but not treaties again—can never get the Paris Climate Agreement approved by the Senate, it just signed it insofar as it could—and it could never get the agreement with Iran signed either.
It just made an agreement with other countries. So they’ll do that kind of thing but they won’t get anything through the Congress—absolutely nothing. And we will resume the battle at the next election and at that point, the third round will determine it, and it’s not for me to say whether this president would run again, but he will either run again or maintain his following and urge his followers to support a Republican nominee he supports himself.
Mr. Jekielek: Any final thoughts?
Lord Black: Obviously, I hope it goes much better in the next four years than I fear it will, so I hope for the best, but you asked me to make predictions and I hope my predictions are more negative than the facts as they unfold.
Mr. Jekielek: Conrad Black, such a pleasure to have you on again.
Lord Black: Thank you, Jan. I’ve enjoyed it.
This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.