The most important person in the room.

May 31, 2017 § 1 Comment

The air conditioning blasted out cold air and the radio kicked in as I started the car’s ignition. I only caught the last few lines of the song but it was instantly recognisable.

At the age of 37
She knew she’d found forever
As she rode along through Paris
With the warm wind in her hair.

It was The Ballad of Lucy Jordan by the great cartoonist, poet and songsmith Shel Silverstein. Not the original by Dr Hook but the Marianne Faithful version which was used in the sadly underrated 1981 Swedish film Montenegro.

I can’t claim to have been that familiar with the geo-politics of the Republic of Yugoslavia when I saw the film and anyhow, the eponymous Montenegro was a character rather than the region. Nevertheless, I was unaccountably aware that Montenegro was the smallest constituent republic in the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Like much of the Balkans, Montenegro has had a bit of a rough ride from history and having tried just about every form of government (or lack of it) and after a brief flirtation with being part of Serbia after the break- up of Yugoslavia, in 2006 the country became an independent democratic sovereign State of a little under 700,000 people.

So I guess that the Montenegrin Prime Minister Dusko Markovic was feeling pretty good about himself and his country when he recently met with the leaders of NATO in Brussels. Who would have thought it twenty years ago? But now he was standing in the spring sunshine with 27 other world leaders as the newest member of NATO. I wonder how quickly that feeling of well-being dissipated as Prime Minister Markovic felt his shoulder grabbed by a bloated (from all the hand-shakes?) hand and then spun around and pushed aside so that the group photo could be dominated in the front row by the glowering, gurning face of Donald Trump. The most important person in the room had arrived.

Whenever any of us attend a meeting there are certain things we all instinctively do. For my part, first, I always discreetly check whether my flies are undone and secondly, whether or not there are any forlorn left-over prawns amongst the detritus of canapés on the table in the corner. The third thing I do, as I imagine do others, is to spot who THE MOST IMPORTANT PERSON IN THE ROOM is. There are three basic variants of TMIPITR.

First out of the traps is the Bill Clinton version, so well captured in the book Primary Colors, charismatic, charming and empathic, not unaware of his power but so at ease with it that nobody is intimidated by him, indeed most feel empowered by him.

Then of course there is the Tony Blair configuration. So self-conscious of their power they spray a mist of sanctimonious humility around them to gain trust (to thereby further enhancing their power). Like Anthony Perkins at the end of Psycho, the act that they “wouldn’t hurt a fly” is so unconvincing that generally the journey from liking them to incredulity to outright distrust is pretty short.

Lastly, there is the vainglorious bully and braggart. However much power these characters have, it never matches the size of their egos. It is not enough that they are TMIPITR. They have a pathological need to impose their power over others, to bully and brag. This tendency is only matched by their whiny self-pity and their incomprehension that they are not universally adored and admired. Enter the world stage Donald Trump.

I suspect that the first thing that hit Prime Minister Markovic after being manhandled by Trump was a sense of déjà vu. It must have taken him right back to the old days of the federation with Serbia and being bullied and marginalised by Slobodan Milošević, a man as egotistical and full of himself as Trump. I wonder what happened to him?

There is so much that is alarming about the presidency of Donald Trump yet somehow his pettiness towers above all else. No doubt (as in the words of Shel Silverstein) he would destroy any alliance, provoke any war and sell the soul of his youngest grandchild merely to get On the Cover of the Rolling Stone.


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