August 22, 2019

The Rare Abilities of Boris Johnson

“Boris Johnson, Britain’s next prime minister, is a pragmatist, and having been born in the United States, understands America as well as perhaps no other politician since Winston Churchill. He recognizes the paramount importance of the post-Brexit relationship between the United States and the UK. He has worked hard to forge a positive relationship with President Donald Trump at a time when other world leaders have found that difficult or impossible to do.

Indeed, when people liken Boris Johnson to Trump, the comparisons are often either overblown or superficial (the hair). But the two, undeniably, do have this in common: They are politicians who are communicators first and foremost, unafraid to speak their minds.

Of course, Johnson is a journalist who often reaches for the metaphor, the peroration, the 800-word opinion article, rather than the raging, blunt tweet. But both men are direct. They cut through.

The Tory Johnson has cut through against Republicans from time to time, whether as foreign secretary, making clear his policy disagreements with Trump on Iran, or his rapier pushback against Trump’s claims of “no-go” areas in London. Mitt Romney, after suggesting London would not be ready to host the 2012 Summer Olympics, found himself on the receiving end of Johnson’s rhetoric as well.

But it’s not just in pushing back on otherwise like-minded American politicians where Johnson the communicator thrives.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have seen some of this up close, having spent time with Johnson both in London and Washington. In a meeting we had in the mayor’s office in 2015, Johnson displayed a keen knowledge of the US political system and its cast of characters, asking incisive questions, and not dismissing Trump’s chances in the Republican primary.”

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