MOST of us have seen them amidst the tourism hubs of Ireland — indeed Killarney has built an industry around them, bless.
We’ve even coined a phrase for them: The ‘Plastic Paddy’.
I’m talking, of course, about the brash Yanks who holiday in the “auld sod”, the land of their forefathers... or possibly great-great grand forefather’s cousin, twice removed.
He (the ‘Plastic Paddy’ is almost always the male of the species) will be wearing at least two green items of clothing — cue inner shudder if one is not visible to the naked eye — and shades (often reflective), even though it’s lashing rain and the sun hasn’t peeped out for 11 days straight.
Of course, we humour the ‘Plastic Paddy’, because we’re nice people, and we know what the diaspora tourism industry is worth. But inside? Morto’, like.
Unless, it seems, the ‘Plastic Paddy’ in question is the President of the United States of America, and is reliving the reasons why his ancestors left Ireland centuries ago, while spitting out the words ‘The Brits’ through gritted teeth.
In which case, a fair few Irish are anything but ‘morto, like’. Plenty of them, judging by the gleeful reaction on social media to Joe Biden’s recent remark, were only delighted that the world’s most powerful man shares their distaste — is hatred too strong a word? — of all things British.
Suffice to say that, coming just a few days after our party leaders took part in a remarkably mature and calm TV debate on the prospect of a united Ireland, it was a curious mis-step from Biden. And the gleeful reaction to it in many quarters doesn’t bode well if we in the South want to hold out the hand of friendship to people who wish to identify as, yes, ‘Brits’, and invite them to form a nation with us.
Biden’s comment jarred, and for a fleeting moment, I wondered if he was repeating something he had heard during his private audience on St Patrick’s Day with our Taoiseach. But no. Micheál Martin is a proud patriot, I’m sure, but I can’t imagine such a natural diplomat using such intemperate language.
Biden looked like a loose cannon. All of which would be well and good if it had been a solitary shot in the wrong direction. But in the two months or so since he took office, Biden has sent out salvo after salvo of blunders.
If you were cynical, like me, you might wonder why the worlds’s media don’t find Biden’s mistakes anywhere near as worthy of reportage as they did when they seized upon every spit and cough of Donald Trump’s tenure.
Biden has been in power for 73 days, and here are just a few of the raps on his charge sheet. Each time, I want you to ask yourself how the media would have reported the below had it been ‘The Donald’ in the White House instead of the man he dubbed ‘Sleepy Joe’...
Ah yes, Sleepy Joe. Trump and his supporters were keen to portray their Democrat challenger as past it at 78 years old. A career politician with little left in the tank, handed the enormous task of lifting a country struck down by a global pandemic and recession.
But maybe they had a point, since, when Biden made that jibe about the Brits on March 25, he was speaking at his first formal news conference since his term began on January 20.
Incredible, isn’t it? His people grieving and hurting, not to mention divided by a horrible election, and Biden didn’t feel he had anything to say to them for more than two months? Imagine if Trump had done that!
You might think, then, that the new President would have a coherent message to get across at his first formal news conference. But — and you probably haven’t seen mention of this — it was a car crash.
Biden was noticeably shaky, stumbled over and misstated facts, despite using a ‘cheat sheet’ — something his predecessor never used. At one point, he said America was ranked 85th in the world on infrastructure, before correcting himself and clarifying it as 13th.
To give another example, read this quote: “I’ve never been particularly poor at calculating how to get things done in the United States Senate. So the best way to get something done, if you hold near and dear to you that you like to be able to… Anyway, we’re ready to get a lot done.”
Biden looked anything but a man in charge of the world’s most powerful country. Maybe he was just having a bad day. In which case he must have also been having a bad day a few days earlier, when he fell while walking up the steps of his Air Force One jet — not once, not twice, but three times.
Laughingly, his PR people dismissed it as a gust of wind! Anyone hear the cry of fake news about that? Didn’t think so, since Trump is still banned from Twitter.
It seems the media in this and other countries are just content that Trump has departed, and don’t feel that Biden should be held up to the same standards.
I wonder how Ireland and the EU would portray Trump if he was hoarding tens of millions of doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, even though the U.S has still not even approved it for use.
Dublin and Brussels seem happier pointing the finger of blame for their own vaccine supply failings at the UK — Boris being an easy target — rather than their new buddy in the White House.
It’s true Biden has been spearheading a magnificent vaccine programme in the U.S, but he is piggybacking on much of Trump’s work on that front, while not acknowledging it.
As part of Operation Warp Speed, the Trump administration signed contracts with multiple drugmakers as potential vaccines were still in clinical trials. Under Trump almost a million vaccines a day were being administered, similar to under Biden’s watch.
What else has happened in the U.S since the election?
Well, there has been another dreadful massacre, a gunman killing eight people in Atlanta. Did you hear any of our media urging Biden to introduce gun control? No, me neither.
On immigration, Biden’s team proudly boasted the other day that they are turning away thousands at their border with Mexico.
How about foreign policy? Surely the world is a safer place under Biden? Well, no.
He authorised an air strike on Iran-backed militias in Syria, which his people said killed one person, but a war monitor reported at least 22 fatalities. Elsewhere, Biden labelled Russian President Vladimir Putin a “killer”, and experts say U.S relations with both Russia and China are at their lowest ebb in decades.
Then, just this week, he unveiled a plan to shake up the global tax system which threatens to undermine Ireland’s job-boosting corporate tax regime. There’s one in the eye for his auld sod!
Lookit, I’m far from a fan of Trump, and hope we never see him in power again. But that doesn’t mean the media can turn a blind eye to his successor’s growing and worrying list of issues, on a variety of fronts from personal health to foreign policy.
If Sleepy Joe becomes Nightmare Joe... the rest of us will end up sleepwalking into disaster.