(CNSNews.com) – If Donald Trump is viewed as often indiscreet in his public statements, the politician named Wednesday as the top diplomat of Washington’s closest transatlantic ally could give him a run for his money.
Boris Johnson, the tousled-haired former London mayor who was tipped for 10 Downing Street after Britain voted to leave the European Union – a cause Johnson championed – has instead been appointed foreign secretary by the incoming prime minister, Theresa May.
Johnson’s appointment to the top cabinet post just a fortnight after he abruptly withdrew from contention to replace former Prime Minister David Cameron, suggests he is far from a spent force in British politics.
Whatever his future prospects, his new post calls for diplomatic qualities Johnson has not always displayed in the past – at a time when Britain negotiates its tricky disentanglement from the E.U.
No fan of presumptive GOP presidential nominee Trump, Johnson does share at least one trait with the billionaire entrepreneur apart from links to New York (Johnson was born there) and interesting hair: an aversion to political correctness.
A journalist and editor of The Spectator before entering parliament, Johnson continued while serving as an MP (2001-2008) and later as London’s mayor (2008-2016) to write columns for conservative newspapers, providing a platform for his sometimes provocative views.
In a Daily Telegraph column in 2007, Johnson described Hillary Clinton, who was then running for the Democratic presidential nomination, in less than flattering terms.
“She’s got dyed blonde hair and pouty lips, and a steely blue stare, like a sadistic nurse in a mental hospital,” he wrote, comparing Clinton as First Lady to “a mixture between Cherie Blair and Lady Macbeth, stamping her heel, bawling out subordinates and frisbeeing ashtrays at her erring husband.”
That column, however, was headlined “I want Hillary Clinton to be president,” and in it, Johnson characterized himself as wanting her to win, to his own great surprise – despite the fact “she represents, on the face of it, everything I came into politics to oppose: not just a general desire to raise taxes and nationalize things, but an all-round purse-lipped political correctness.”
He went on to explain that he actually wanted her to be president so that Bill Clinton would return to the White House, concluding that “if Bill can deal with Hillary, he can surely deal with any global crisis.”
Obama’s African heritage
In another, much more recent column, Johnson took aim last April at Obama’s ultimately unsuccessful attempt to dissuade British voters from voting to leave the E.U.
This time writing in The Sun, a downmarket, mass-circulation tabloid, Johnson made reference to Obama’s “part-Kenyan” roots.
Recalling that a bust of Britain’s wartime leader Winston Churchill was removed from the Oval Office after Obama moved in, Johnson wondered why.
“Some said it was a snub to Britain,” he wrote. “Some said it was a symbol of the part-Kenyan President’s ancestral dislike of the British Empire – of which Churchill had been such a fervent defender.”
(In a 2012 documentary on Obama, conservative scholar Dinesh D'Souza claimed Obama was influenced by his Kenyan father’s “anti-colonial” beliefs, and that he had removed the bust because Churchill represented British colonialism.)
During Obama’s April visit to Britain, Johnson suggested his anti-Brexit position was hypocritical, saying Americans “wouldn’t dream of sharing sovereignty.”
“I just find it absolutely bizarre that we are being lectured by the Americans about giving up our sovereignty, giving up control, when the Americans won’t even sign up to the international Convention on the Law of the Sea, and – let alone the International Criminal Court,” he told the BBC.
Johnson’s leadership in the campaign to leave the E.U. puts him closer to Trump’s views on the matter than to Clinton’s.
While the Democratic presumptive presidential nominee voiced support for the “Remain” camp, her GOP rival praised the vote outcome, saying it amounted to the British people wanting to “take their country back.
Even so, Johnson has been critical of Trump.
After Trump late last year called for a temporary ban on Muslims entering the U.S. due to security concerns, he upset many Britons further by saying parts of London were “so radicalized that the police are afraid for their own lives.”
Johnson, still mayor at the time, responded that the remarks about the city were “complete and utter nonsense.”
“Crime has been falling steadily in both London and New York,” added Johnson, “And the only reason I wouldn’t go to some parts of New York is the real risk of meeting Donald Trump.”
First act … to apologize?
Asked Wednesday about Johnson’s appointment as Secretary of State John Kerry’s British counterpart, State Department spokesman Mark Toner was diplomatic.
“We’re always going to be able to work with the British no matter who is occupying the role of foreign secretary because of our deep, abiding special relationship with the United Kingdom,” he said.
“We look forward to engaging with Boris Johnson as the new foreign secretary,” he said, “This is something, frankly, that goes beyond a relationship, that goes beyond personalities.”
The response to Johnson’s appointment from some political quarters in Britain was much cooler.
“I cannot believe that Boris Johnson is now going to be the person to represent Britain abroad,” said Tim Farron, leader of the Liberal Democrats, a center-left party supportive of remaining in the E.U.
“Presumably Boris Johnson’s first act as foreign secretary will be to apologize to the president of the United States, and then the leaders of our European partners,” Farron said.
“At this incredibly important time that will determine Britain’s economic and cultural relations with Europe, it is extraordinary that the new prime minister has chosen someone whose career is built on making jokes.”