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Being a decades-long disciple of localizing even the most far-flung of national and international stories, a strategy buoyed by the knowledge that Newfoundlanders have an insatiable appetite for journalistic navel-gazing, I happened to notice, right out of the blue this week, a connection between that mentally and intellectually challenged president of the U.S.A. and this smiling (but occasionally frowning) land of ours.
Now, before revealing this link, I should note that bringing Newfoundland and a U.S. president into the same conversation is not all that easy and doesn’t happen every day, or every year, for that matter.
For sure, Franklin D. Roosevelt was aboard a destroyer in Placentia Bay with Winston Churchill in the late summer of 1941 (just a few miles away from my own relatives in Fox Harbour), the two leaders smoking cigars and drawing up the Atlantic Charter, spending not even an idle minute jigging cod and eating tongues; their loss, of course.
And I’ve made the point on occasion of reminding anyone who wished to listen or read that a greasy member of Joey Smallwood’s band of American exploiters of Newfoundland, John Shaheen — he the infamous financier of the Come By Chance oil refinery — was a good friend of Richard Nixon, he, as coincidence would have it, the subject of a CNN documentary being aired this month, and titled, appropriately, “Tricky Dick.”
There was also, of course, George Bush the elder, a survivor of Second World War aerial battles, almost meeting his maker in a bog that gobbled him up during a salmon-fishing excursion in Labrador with businessman Craig Dobbin.
And Bill (Bubba) Clinton — whose sexual indiscretions and subsequent lies that led to impeachment proceedings seem mighty tame compared to the daily disgrace that permeates the White House these days — dropped into St. John’s a few years back for a quickie speech and some glad-handing.
And, back in the ’70s, I feel obligated to note, while plying my trade as a young reporter with the then Evening Telegram, I interviewed Ted Sorensen, a speechwriter for John F. Kennedy, and one of his chief advisers and closest friends, who was here on a business trip, the exact nature of which has long escaped that section of my noggin responsible for memory.
I remember being star-struck, and couldn’t believe I was conducting an interview on the subject of Camelot and the Kennedy mystique. (Sorensen, as best I can recall, did not seem the least perturbed that I asked only a token question or two about his business in Newfoundland, and that I was much more curious about his former boss, 10 years or so after his assassination).
But, hey, Roosevelt, Nixon, Kennedy, Bush, Clinton are all now relegated to the history books or CNN documentaries; I’m referring on this weekend to a connection in recent days between Newfoundland and the present-day occupier of the White House, the racist, sexist, xenophobic man-child referred to in some circles by a cartoon moniker — “The Donald.”
Trump, tweeting last weekend like the mad hatter he is on every conceivable subject, summoned up the name of Patrick Moore, suggesting he is a man to be applauded for his belief that climate change is “fake news” and “fake science.”
Who is Patrick Moore, you might ask, and what is it about him and Newfoundland?
Well, let’s just say I have an 8 x 10 photograph buried in a box in the bowels of our crawlspace of Moore and myself in St. Anthony, circa 1977 or 1978, a snapshot of the then member of Greenpeace being escorted from his motel room by fisheries officers while I stand nearby, looking somewhat bemused, notepad and pencil in hand, apparently seeking a quote or two from the “baby seal” lover.
I was there as a reporter; Moore was there as an unscrupulous purveyor of lies about the seal fishery and Newfoundland fishermen.
Now he’s showing his true colours, a climate change denier, a right-wing consultant, a man the nincompoop president of the United States sees as an ally.
I recently dug up a quote from Moore in which he attempted to tear apart the environmental movement by suggesting its supporters have “abandoned science and logic in favour of emotion and sensationalism.” Ironically, it was emotion and sensationalism he and others used to virtually destroy a legitimate industry back in the ’70s. The hypocrisy is mind-boggling.
Moore epitomizes the calibre of zealots who came here to take uneducated, inaccurate, disgraceful pot-shots at a place and a people that deserved so much better. (One of his other cohorts, Brigitte Bardot, has been convicted and fined for hate crimes in France).
Amazing, is it not, that so much of the world paid attention and reacted to their histrionics and — to put it in cruder terms, the kind they deserve — their pure, unadulterated crap.
Then again, much of the United States continues to support a cement head like Trump, a leader now claiming Patrick Moore as his philosophical colleague, the fella who travelled to Newfoundland in the ’70s…
Damn, I can’t ignore those local angles.
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Bob Wakeham has spent more than 40 years as a journalist in Newfoundland and Labrador. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org