It was hard work at the time, but Malcolm is truly grateful to Mr Gorman at the High School. Preparing for Leaving Cert involved learning by heart extended tracts of English and, its close cousin, Irish verse. In there was the well-known passage from Pope’s Epistle to Dr Arbuthnot, deriding Addison. That includes:
Damn with faint praise, assent with civil leer,
And without sneering, teach the rest to sneer;
Willing to wound, and yet afraid to strike,
Just hint a fault, and hesitate dislike;
Alike reserv’d to blame, or to commend,
A tim’rous foe, and a suspicious friend…
Come to think of it, that’s a fair description of much good — even admirable — journalism, down to the present day.
In the matter of Mitt Romney and #RomneyShambles, the bit about afraid to strike lay unloved by the wayside. Thus adding to the general delight and enjoyment. It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a Brit in want of a good presidential candidate hasn’t taken to a Republican since Eisenhower (even Reagan was an acquired taste, and then only among Thatcherites).
Romney is being treated as a weirdo; and Cameron inviting him into Downing Street did not look like one of the shrewdest moves of all time. Until he managed that popular and populist Salt Lake City moment:
“We are holding an Olympic Games in one of the busiest, most active, bustling cities anywhere in the world. Of course it’s easier if you hold an Olympic Games in the middle of nowhere,” said Cameron.
Good to see Salt Lake City taking that so well.
If any illusions linger about that Special Relationship [© Churchill, 1946], Hugh Grant never spoke for the Great British Public so well as his speech in Love Actually. Malcolm can personally attest cinema audiences rose and applauded, vigorously. Some of Malcolm’s disreputable acquaintance would sit through repeated showings just to make their feelings felt at that moment.
And for the other perfect put-down, damning with faintest praise, assenting with the most civil of leers, we turn to the Daily Telegraph. Lucy “I couldn’t give a monkeys about the Olympics” Jones reminded us of a useful northern expression:
Mitt Romney is a wazzock
Bet that, like red Sancerre (which, rather like wazzocks, Malcolm once had to instruct a wine “expert”, actually did exist), doesn’t make it to Salt Lake City.
And then there was Alex Spillius (so conveniently rhyming with “bilious”) knocking out an excellent piece under the heading:
Commentary: if Mitt Romney doesn’t like us, we shouldn’t care
Mitt Romney is perhaps the only politician who could start a trip that was supposed to be a charm offensive by being utterly devoid of charm and mildly offensive.
Yep: that the truest faint praise and civil sneer. Spillius also “gets” what so many non-Brits never can:
If he possessed a smidgeon of insight into the British psyche he would have known that despite all the pre-match whingeing and the carping, that on the night we will celebrate the games with all the gusto and fervour they deserve. We moan, and then we smile; that is just our way.
And to even a casual student of British public life, it was obvious both that immigration officers would call off their strike at the eleventh hour and that thousands of part-time labourers wouldn’t be bothered to show up to work for G4S, the security firm.