Of a rogue state, a sad state and a hyper state

Rex Tillerson was here last Tuesday, days after the New York Attorney-General filed an action against the firm he headed.

The court document alleged ExxonMobil, of which Tillerson was chief executive before becoming Donald Trump’s foreign minister, used two sets of “proxy” numbers in its greenhouse gas accounting, one for investors and one for internal use.

The document said Tillerson approved the discrepancy. Investors last month voted 62% to require ExxonMobil to accurately report its climate risk.

The Massachusetts Attorney-General and the Securities and Exchange Commission have also been investigating this. ExxonMobil called it a “political witchhunt”.

The wider issue is that other countries have to be able to take seriously what Tillerson says, including what he said here to foreign affairs novices Bill English and Gerry Brownlee about commitment to our region’s security.

Otherwise, under Trump the United States is a rogue state.

A big Trump own goal last week was to back Saudi Arabia biffing Qatar, where the United States has a big air base, even as Tillerson was asking the Saudis to back off. Qatar backs the moderate Muslim Brotherhood. Wahhabist Saudi Arabia has incubated Al Qaeda and Islamic State jihadists.

Trump operates like a child whose parents haven’t instilled self-control, tweeting momentary feelings and attacking G7 and NATO summiteers and multiple others.

George III, who was King when Britain lost the United States, had periodic bouts of “acute mania”. Unpredictable Trump is losing the United States its leadership of the liberal democratic world.

As Germany’s Angela Merkel has as good as said in exasperation, Trump’s Disunited States is no longer a partner.

This is a nightmare for professional United States diplomats who have to deal in the real world beyond Trump, unlike Trump’s appointed amateurs like Tillerson. How do they work out what to say?

Moreover, they may have to endure three and a-half more years of this jumble if sensible Republicans and Republicans frightened of losing seats don’t unite to inject sense into the White House.

Across the Atlantic where mystic World War II nostalgia lingers of a “special relationship” with Uncle Sam, a Prime Minister has crashed in a grab for power.

One risk in the Disunited Kingdom is that if Theresa May is now turfed out for trashing her majority in Thursday’s snap election, her job might go to wild-card Boris Johnson, who decided last year almost on a whim to front the “Leave” campaign in the Brexit referendum. The world needs someone more sensible, like Amber Rudd.

So does the European Union as it negotiates Britain’s exit. May’s failure, despite a 42% vote share, to get a “mandate” (for a Brexit she opposed during last year’s campaign) will not lift chances of a good deal. Britons have yet to learn the real consequences, as distinct from last year’s dishonest imaginings by “Leave” campaigners.

A lot of rethinking is now needed in London and Brussels.

(Also, English might want to rethink Sir Lynton Crosby’s firm’s role in National’s election campaign, given that May called the election suddenly on Sir Lynton’s advice.)

Both the old parties need a lot of healing.

The Conservatives have been split over Europe for decades and still are. A new generation is needed.

Likewise Labour. Jeremy Corbyn’s opinion-poll-bucking lift to 40% of the vote is not a signpost to a 2020s social democratic future. Most of his MPs detest him. But most of those are stuck in 1990s-2000s Prime Minister Tony Blair’s go-nowhere “third way”. Corbyn’s policies evoke a pre-Blair era.

Despite the appearance of a return to two-party dominance, this was a vote “against”, not “for”. Trump’s was also “against”.

Young people very disproportionately voted for Corbyn, as they did last year for Bernie Sanders in the United States Democrat presidential primary.

This reflects youthful rejection, along with many older voters, of a policy paradigm that has gone wobbly in the hands of politicians drawn from the elites.

Across the Channel voters have done something similar but with a lacing of French hyperexcitability.

Emmanuel Macron came from outsider to President in April-May. Now he appears on track to a majority for his 14-month-old En Marche party in the Assembly, potentially to push through long overdue reforms.

But what comes out of thin air can evaporate just as quickly. Sunday’s turnout was low. Macron is a symbol of hope and desperation, not a firm step en route to prosperity and stability. It might work. It might not.

What does all this tell us? That in the United States, Britain and France there is no “centre” and a rising generation is uprising. And that the National party would appropriately be wary of premature triumph for September 23.