In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, one of the characters sees the ghost of Hamlet’s father and exclaims; “ Something is rotten in the state of Denmark."
Well, just to the north of Denmark, in Norway, it would appear there is something quite special ... at least for Donald Trump, that is.
Stunning all but his most ardent supporters, Trump declared this week that he sees no problem with getting dirt on a political opponent from a foreign nation. Among several noteworthy quotes during his interview with ABC News was this one: “There’s nothing wrong with listening. If somebody called from a country, Norway, ‘we have information on your opponent’ — oh, I think I’d want to hear it.”
You will recall that this is not the first time the President of the United States has had Norway on his mind. Back in January 2018, during an Oval office meeting with a bipartisan group of Senators concerning immigration, the President marked a then new-low in the coarsening of American political dialogue. He reportedly complained about migrants from Haiti, El Salvador and other “sh*thole countries,”adding “we should have more people from Norway.”
So just what is it about the small Nordic nation of five million that leads Donald Trump to believe that he’d be disposed to hear – and by inference – believe what the Norwegians told him about his political opponents? Not to mention, he’d like to have them living in his neighborhood as migrants to the United States.
Before turning to the President’s rather perverse predilection for Norwegians, let us make one thing clear in an age of alternate facts: there is no evidence to indicate that Norway, its government or people, did such a thing. Had they, it would be illegal for Donald Trump to seek or use negative information on his American political enemies…yes, Mr. Trump, even from Norway.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller addressed this issue in this manner. “There are reasonable arguments that the offered information would constitute a “thing of value” within the meaning of these provisions.”Receiving a “thing of value” from a foreign government during a political campaign is illegal. While Mueller ultimately “ determined that the government would not be likely to obtain and sustain a conviction…” President Trump’s own FBI Director, the handpicked successor to James Comey, Christopher Wray, implied the president would be on shaky legal ground accepting such information without immediately reporting it to the FBI. When informed, Trump petulantly shot back “The FBI Director is wrong.” No, he is not, Mr. President. Just ask the host of Republicans who repudiated your statements.
Back to the Norway fixation, however.
While he may like the fact that Norway has a hereditary monarchy, Trump would almost certainly disapprove of the historically socialist orientation of the parliamentary democracy over which the current King Harald V ceremonially presides.
Currently headed by a four-party coalition of nominally non-socialist parties, the names alone of some of the parties in Norway would render the American president sputtering and dyspeptic: the Socialist Left Party, the Green Party, the Red Party, the Liberal Party, the Communist Party of Norway, the Feminist Initiative … and so on. There’s even one small party called the Pirate Party whose platform calls for complete and full transparency in state management. Clearly not in Trump country.
Yet despite a decidedly Blue Hue to its politics, somehow Norway manages to consistently rate as the happiest country in the world. It is, by most accounts, a worker’s paradise. The Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration administers one-third of the national budget - 468 billion krone ($58 billion) - through unemployment benefits, work assessment allowances, sickness benefits, pensions, child benefits and cash-for-care benefits. Abortion on demand through the twelfth week of pregnancy and paid for by the state is legal and not a contentious political issue.
Again, nothing that the American President would support or profess to admire.
Norwegian diplomacy is a paragon of discreet, patient, behind-the-scenes work by subject matter experts like Jan Egeland and Dag Nylander (@RealDonaldTrump: Who???). They and other Norwegian diplomats have been key to resolving crises in the Middle East, Colombia, East Timor and across Africa. The Norwegian Refugee Council is among the most well-respected humanitarian service providers found saving lives in many of Trump’s so-called sh*thole countries.
Norwegians give more foreign aid on a per capita basis than any other nation on earth and just look what it goes to, according to the government’s development cooperation agency: Norwegian development cooperation is focused on development countries in the five continents. Particular attention is given to African countries and states emerging from conflict. Priority areas of Norwegian development cooperation are as follows: climate change, environment and sustainable development, peacebuilding, human rights and humanitarian assistance, oil and clean energy, women and gender equality, Good governance and the fight against corruption …
You can almost see the American President covering his ears and shouting “STOP!”… and then dismissively tweeting “LOSERS. NOT WITH MY TAX DOLLARS!!!!”
On the other hand, the Norwegian King is exempt from paying taxes and is not obliged to reveal his personal net worth publicly, a public policy certain to garner a thumbs up from citizen president Trump. And he might like to curry favor with the Nobel Prize Committee, although he disparages mention of him receiving a Nobel Prize in that “ aww shucks” way that makes you suspect he secretly covets the one sitting on former President Obama’s mantlepiece.
All of which leaves one, well …confused. Trump repeatedly uses Norway and Norwegians as positive points of comparison. This is more than coincidence. Yet a cursory review of what makes Norway so successful reveals a people diametrically opposed to the very ethos of everything Trump claims to stand for.
So what is it? Could it be Norwegians are white and have been traditionally a heterogenous ethnic population? As my Latin friends would said, ‘es pregunta” … it’s a real question.