I would like to preface this article with an apology. Sadly, there is no photo of President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Theresa May holding hands without copyright restrictions so I am unable to display it here for your viewing pleasure. However, I am able to provide you with the link to the terribly cute incident.
It was a well-known fact that President Ronald Reagan and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher were extremely close, and some even consider them to be a perfect example of ‘political marriage.’ Trump alluded to this past friendship, referring to May as ‘my Maggie’ while speaking to his advisers. This is certainly another example of Trump over egging the pudding and also his continual toying with the idea that he and Reagan are of the same strand. This is nothing other than more rhetoric coming from Trump, as will be become clear with the comparison of the two ‘couples’ that have sought to maintain that ‘special relationship,’ which the United States and United Kingdom so often reference.
Reagan and Thatcher, although close, often disagreed, which frequently resulted in clashes. One of the most famous accounts of their relationship was Richard Aldous’ Reagan and Thatcher: The Difficult Relationship. The title obviously suggests the relationship was not always smooth sailing, and Aldous describes how they constantly clashed, from Grenada to the Strategic Defense Initiative (better known as Reagan’s Star Wars program). Granted some of this clashing happened behind closed doors, as when Reagan decided to invade Grenada. Thatcher and Reagan had a call privately where she said she was upset and referenced how she ‘know[s] about sensitivity, because of the Falklands. That’s why I would not speak for very long even on the secret telephone to you.’ Thatcher took a serious note referencing the previous dispute over Britain’s defence of the Falkland Islands and how it impacted their personal relations. However, even this conversation ended with Thatcher asking about Reagan’s wife Nancy. Needless to say the two were close on a personal level and did hold many similar political beliefs, but this should not overshadow the conflicts that occurred even if sometimes in private. It is important to remember this when considering Trump’s recent statement and it helps to show why the characterisation of May as Trumps ‘Maggie’ is nothing more than rhetoric.
It is difficult to understand why Trump would want to cultivate a political relationship that has personal closeness, which would make the inevitable conflicts between the two more difficult. To use another President as a vehicle for this idea, imagine someone comparing their romantic relationship to that of JFK and Jackie’s marriage. The Kennedys were lovely in front of the cameras, however they faced adultery, drug use, and heartbreak in reality. Reagan and Thatcher may have been close and may have looked great in front of the cameras, but in reality this probably made things harder for the two to get work done and to deal with the many issues that arose. If one examined the history of Reagan and Thatcher, these difficulties would be obvious, but they are not what Trump had in mind and they don’t represent the image Trump hoped to paint.
It seems Trump is trying to conjure up memories of the glory days of the Republican Party, which were the 1980s under Reagan. Trump has even likened himself to the former President in the past. This also appears to be nothing more than rhetoric. Republicans have been anxiously awaiting a new Reagan to revitalise the party and put the country back on track. Well much to Trump’s dismay, and those hoping for ‘Reagan Reincarnate,’ it does not even seem like Reagan liked the man very much. According to a recent Washington Post article, ‘White House aides spent much of the 1980s trying to gently reject’ now President Trump. This excerpt is then followed by a rather long list of side steps around Trump’s requests by the Reagan White House. Lou Cannon, who followed Reagan’s 1980 election, has even decided to write a piece on just how unlike Reagan Trump is despite his claims.
In addition to this lack of likeness with Reagan, May joined other world leaders and denounced Trump’s ‘Muslim’ travel ban. This does not seem an ideal way to begin a political, and maybe even personal, friendship. However, May seems happy to go along with the Reagan-Thatcher comparison as long as it allows for open communication between herself and Trump. In the press conference, She also hinted to Russian aggression, the importance of a strong NATO and America’s continued role in global affairs. This seems logical. A new unpredictable President enters office and hints at allowing one insider personal access. Who wouldn’t take that opportunity?