Jason OMahony - Irish political blogger, Irish politics, EU politics

Daniel Hannan & Douglas Carswell: The Ainsley Hayes of Euroscepticism.

Posted by Jason O on May 27, 2010 in British Politics, European Union

Ainsley Hayes: I don't think they can fill a cocktail dress to the same degree, though.

Ainsley Hayes: I don't think they can fill a cocktail dress to the same degree, though.

Some of the best episodes of the much missed “The West Wing” featured the delectable Emily Proctor as Ainsley Hayes, a smart and sassy Republican who was willing to challenge the liberal orthodoxies of the Bartlet White House without becoming a gay bashing poor grinding GOP ogre. Often, her arguments rang true, and forced the Bartlet liberals to confront uncomfortable realities.

As a pro-European, and someone for whom the word federalist is not a filthy swearword, I have the same feeling about British eurosceptics Douglas Carswell and Daniel Hannan, Tory MP and MEP respectively. Admittedly, neither would look as good in a cocktail dress as Ainsley Hayes, although maybe that’s because they just don’t try hard enough. And I disagree with them on the fundamentals (both advocate withdrawal from the EU) but nevertheless, both are worth pro-Europeans listening to if only to confront our own demons. Hannan has done a striking job pointing out the Orwellian attitude of the European Parliament to euroscepticism, an attitude which does not like the reality that euroscepticism is far more prevalent amongst the peoples of Europe than it is in the EP. But what’s more interesting about both men is that they are not your traditional hang-em-and-flog-em Tories. If anything, both are radical libertarians (Carswell, almost unique amongst Tories, supports PR) and their book, “The Plan” is the cornerstone of a thoughtful agenda about where power should reside in a society.

I don’t always agree with them. But I do believe that progress in a society involves listening occasionally to the other side, and to their reasons as to why they have reached the conclusions they have.

After all, fire was not necessarily a bad thing just because the other people in the other cave had it when we didn’t.     


Great Movies you should see: Nixon.

Posted by Jason O on May 27, 2010 in Movies/TV/DVDs

nixonWhen Oliver Stone’s “Nixon” came out in 1995, it got lambasted by all sorts of people. Nixon apologists said it was a hatchet job. Anti-Nixon people said it went too easy on him. I remember seeing it and thinking that it would be almost impossible for someone who was not pretty well read about the politics of the time to understand what the hell it was about.

Watching it again on DVD, and having read an awful lot about Nixon in the ensuing years, I’ve come to appreciate it as a great movie. Anthony Hopkins as Nixon veers dangerously close to what seems to be a parody of Nixon until you actually read and watch Nixon himself, this tortured but brilliant man who managed to drag himself all the way to the White House. He was brilliantly pragmatic, appeared on a national ballot more times than any Republican had or since, and was, by today’s standards, quite progressive in a button down kind of way. Yet his record of deeds and actions is so vast as to allow friends and foes to cherrypick from his soaring achievements and shocking decisions to create an image of either one of the most effective presidents the United States has ever had, or a man who was an immoral monster with the lives of thousands on his hands.

The cast is a solid character actors picturebook, with Paul Sorvino and James Woods in particular eating up scenery as Kissinger and HR Haldeman respectively, and Joan Allen shines as Pat Nixon.

Stone can sometimes be accused to putting into a movie things which are a little too difficult to take seriously: such as when the lantern jawed Powers Boothe as General Haig suggests that the army could be used to prevent Congress impreaching Nixon. There is one scene, however, which reveals a glimpse of the ambivalence of the Nixon record. A group of ultra right wing supporters demands he implement more right wing policies, and he faces them down. When one asks “Are you threatening me, Dick?” Hopkins smiles and says  “The President doesn’t threaten people, Jack. He doesn’t have to.” 

An absolute treat.     

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