Nigel Farage is something of a folk hero among conservatives these days. Yes, yes, he’s not perfect and he may be a bit much at times. But his entertaining speeches castigating the European Union Parliament while serving in the European Union Parliament, his obvious love of country, and his plucky (and ultimately victorious) leadership of a wing of the Brexit campaign earned Farage a lot of good will on this side of the pond.
So it was with groans that I watched him take to the hustings Wednesday night in Jackson, Miss., in support of Donald Trump.
No, not because it’s Trump. But because it was just this past spring when Farage — rightly — blasted our president for crossing the Atlantic to push Britons to vote to remain in the European Union.
“Vladimir Putin behaved in a more statesmanlike manner than President Obama did in this referendum campaign,” Farage said in the immediate aftermath of the Brexit vote. “Obama came to Britain, and I think behaved disgracefully, telling us we would be at the ‘back of the queue’ [for trade negotiations with the U.S. if Britain voted to leave the EU].”
With allowances for Nigel’s hyperbolic Putin comparison in the heat of the referendum campaign, I agreed with his basic point. At the very least, it was plain bad manners for an American politician to so publicly intervene in a domestic British political concern. Our British cousins have been in the democracy business for a long time; they were going to figure out which way to go on Brexit without our help. (And, no, debating the merits of Brexit, including via newspaper or magazine editorials — here’s National Review’s — over here in America was manifestly not the same thing as an American heading across the Atlantic to personally take sides in the campaign.)
So when Farage told the Trump rally, “Having criticized [President Obama’s] behavior, I could not possibly tell you how to vote in this election,” but that, “If I was an American citizen, I wouldn’t vote for Hillary Clinton if you paid me. In fact, I wouldn’t vote for Hillary Clinton if she paid me,” I couldn’t help but wonder: How exactly is this any different than what Barack Obama did? And can you imagine the outrage if Tony Blair had gone on the campaign trail in support of Hillary? No, Nigel never said the words: “I am here to endorse Donald Trump” — but he didn’t have to. The message was delivered. And that, Nigel, was bad manners.