New York Times reporter Sarah Lyall, fiercely anti-Brexit, has made it a pastime to belittle iconoclastic, shock-haired Conservative Party politician and Brexit proponent Boris Johnson, which she does in Sunday’s paper: “Witty and Shameless, He Aims to Run Britain – A Populist, Johnson Fits Trump’s Mold.” One can assume that the comparison to Trump is not intended as a compliment.
Johnson attended the American Enterprise Institute dinner and criticized Johnson for what he didn't talk about.
The question for Boris Johnson -- former mayor of London, former British foreign secretary and current potential British prime minister -- was simple:
What’s the worst mistake you’ve ever made?
“My strategy is to litter my career with so many decoy mistakes, nobody knows which one to attack,” Mr. Johnson declared. “In the last few minutes I’ve probably said something that the British media will say is absolutely outrageous, though I don’t know what it is.”
What Mr. Johnson did not mention was the cloud of intrigue, both personal (he is about to get a divorce) and political (he is probably plotting against Prime Minister Theresa May), wafting around him as he made his way across the Atlantic.
Lyall got in another personal hit on a right-of-center politico.
Along with Nigel Farage -- the deeply anti-Europe U.K. Independence Party politician who used to be seen as a bit of a joke in Britain but has been touted by President Trump as someone whom “many people” believed should be ambassador to the United States -- Mr. Johnson is emerging as the sort of leader Mr. Trump likes.
At home, Mr. Johnson is seen as a deeply ambitious opportunist who masks his seriousness of purpose with a well-polished air of befuddled dishevelment and humorous nonchalance.
Like many Trumpian Republicans, Mr. Johnson has lately been tacking right, employing (in his case) an increasingly populist tone on issues like immigration, multiculturalism and Brexit, as the difficult process of Britain’s extrication from the European Union is called.
Moderate Conservatives regard him as stealthy and dangerous.
Basking in the Washington audience’s admiration of his erudition, discussion of history and robust lack of self-consciousness, Mr. Johnson did not seem particularly bothered by this, or much of anything, on Thursday. But asked about his political aspirations in a brief conversation with The New York Times, he looked fake-pained at the presence of a reporter’s notebook.
“Put that away,” he said, running his fingers through his hair, still shockingly blond and still emitting the appearance of having been dropped onto his head with no coherent plan for what to do when it got there.
For all the people who are angry at him back home, there are also those who think he is wonderful. His remarks about the burqas, for example, prompted a round of let-Boris-tell-the-truth letters in the pro-Boris Daily Telegraph.
Lyall knows better than to prematurely bury Johnson’s political career, as she attempted in a strikingly hostile news piece in July 2016, in which she defied journalistic convention by simply calling Johnson a liar. She also wrote: “As he abandoned his campaign to be the Conservative Party leader -- and with it, probably, his chances of ever being prime minister -- he seemed almost relieved to be spared the burden of running the country he had done so much to destabilize.”
Lyall’s distaste for conservatives often shines through her stories. Newsbusters previously noted that in March 2010, under the headline "As Party Fights Elite Image, Tory Puts Posh Foot in Mouth,” she wrote: "In the eyes of many Britons, the Tories' traditional social elitism is tied to another form of elitism -- what they perceive as the callous policies of the haves toward the have-nots in the Thatcher era....the Tories found themselves once more in the position of grim spoilsports eager to cut government programs."