As a spat between Britain and US President Donald Trump rumbles on, newly declassified cables reveal that stark diplomatic assessments of White House chaos, presidential controversy and the “special relationship” are nothing new.
Britain’s ambassador to the US, Kim Darroch, resigned last week after leaked cables laid bare his unflattering assessment of Trump, leading the US leader to call the envoy a “pompous fool” and freeze him out.
British government documents from 1994 and 1995 declassified yesterday reveal strikingly similar appraisals from diplomatic staff of the Bill Clinton White House.
“White House organisation remains chaotic,” then British ambassador in Washington Robin Renwick wrote after two members of Clinton’s team quit.
Another cable said: “A series of public relations disasters in the White House, left the new Administration looking unfocussed and disorganised”.
Like Trump, Clinton battled accusations of personal misconduct, even before the Monica Lewinsky scandal broke in 1998.
The then-ambassador concluded that “clumsy White House reactions to the allegations have begun to arouse suspicions of a cover up.”
As with Darroch’s assessment that Trump’s Iran policy was “incoherent, chaotic”, the former ambassador reserved strong criticism for Clinton’s foreign strategy.
“Clinton is interested in foreign issues, but he has much less of an instinctive feel for them. Instead of talking softly and carrying a big stick, he is accused of talking loudly, then failing to act,” Renwick wrote.
And similar to the incumbent president, Clinton was said to have an “excessive preoccupation” with the media.
The ambassador had more complementary words for former first lady Hillary Clinton, who went on to lose to Trump in the 2016 election.
“She is highly intelligent and very highly motivated,” wrote Renwick.