The zero-bullshit diplomat who Trump looks set to unleash on Brussels.
Before Trump, before Brexit and before fake news was even a thing, Theodore Roosevelt Malloch – simply as “Ted” – was a relatively obscure figure in political life. Unless you’re an avid student of business ethics, or worked with the UN Economics Commission during the 1980s, you’ve probably never come across his name.
But since becoming the new President’s presumptive ambassador to the European Union, Malloch has bulldozed his way to notoriety – fuelled by his no-nonsense approach to foreign relations.
In an interview with Andrew Neil on This Week, Malloch suggested he would attempt to “tame” the EU, immediately after touting his role in the demise of the Soviet Union. For EU leaders, this was akin to a declaration of war, and they issued an unequivocal castigation of Trump’s envoy-in-waiting. Yet, rather than being an act of self-sabotage, it seems likely this will only enhance Malloch’s reputation in the eyes of the new anti-establishment, which views provocation as a political asset.
I met Malloch in the canteen of BBC New Broadcasting House – a spatially stunted room that on every visit leaves you 75% likely to crash into an already irate news journalist. Malloch has the calm, self-assured frankness of someone who has only ever once been flustered, perhaps by accident. He isn’t a hat-waving, chest-thumping populist, but he possesses a permanently wry expression that gives you the impression that he thinks people, and politics, should be taken a lot less seriously.
Aside from his brutal (I imagine some would say ‘galling’) candidness, there are many reasons why the Trump administration might be attracted to Malloch. For one, he’s a leading writer on business and economics, having previously worked as a senior fellow at the Said Business School, Oxford University. If the US government is to become a private limited company, garbed in the American flag, then Malloch is certainly not a bad candidate. The Philadelphia-born academic is also evidently a Trump loyalist, having glowingly compared the new President to his namesake – Theodore Roosevelt – in an article published by Forbes.
Malloch’s admiration for his new commander-in-chief is palpable throughout our conversation. He muses that Trump doesn’t really use speech writers. Instead, Malloch says that the President prefers to improvise on stage. “He’s got an entertainment factor. His rallies are like rock concerts.”
We both agree that Trump’s provocative, at times offensive style has endeared him to an electorate without much love for conventional politics. But politicians in Washington are not the only ones who are swinging wildly at Trump – attempting to blight his crusade against politics-as-usual. Indeed, they have been joined by colleagues in the UK, notably John Bercow – Speaker of the House of Commons – who has declared that he is strongly opposed to a Trump speech in Westminster Hall.
This has posed a diplomatic conundrum for Malloch, who has been loudly encouraging a renewed special relationship between post-Brexit Britain and Trump’s America. Yet Bercow isn’t in the mood to back down, even though the prospective ambassador believes it was an ill-judged intervention.
“To be honest, he [Bercow] made a statement that he thought would be popular and it’s backfired. He’s the Speaker; he’s supposed to be above political games.”
The mission of most diplomats in the post-war world has been to maintain stability and order. This Pennsylvanian academic clearly has a different mandate. But when I suggest that he is shaking up politics, Malloch is quick to correct me. “No. Mr Trump is shaking up politics. I’m just his vessel.”
And what about the EU? Well it’s unlikely that Malloch will be splitting croissants with European leaders anytime soon. During his now infamous appearance on This Week, he posited that European Commission President Jean-Claude Junker should go back to Luxembourg. A comment which no doubt sparked wild celebrations in Nigel Farage’s lad-pad.
“Europe is in a mess. Worse – it’s in denial,” Malloch tells me. “I don’t think Marine Le Pen will win the French election, but Geert Wilders will win in the Netherlands. He won’t be able to form a government, but he will win the popular vote. That will be a major shock to the EU.”
So the EU is teetering on the brink of disaster. What does he think will be able to reverse this impending chaos?
“I don’t think we can talk about reversing this situation. The pendulum has swung. There’s no way to change it now,” he says, with more than a hint of glee.
One of the starkest disparities between Trump and politicians in Europe has been their attitude towards refugees. Whereas Germany has accepted over one million refugees during the past two years, Trump has closed America’s borders to asylum seekers – albeit temporarily. In this polarised climate, Malloch is convinced that he and Trump are on the right side of history, and that millions of people are beginning to agree.
“I think we should open all our borders,” he proclaims, sarcastically. “Let them blow up our Christmas markets and drive trucks down our sidewalks.”
Does this put him on a collision course with Angela Merkel, whose rhetoric generally couldn’t be more different to that of Malloch? Not necessarily, he says.
“Merkel is vulnerable now. The socialists are fielding someone who might be able to beat her in the next election. The AfD are polling at around 15-20%. Things aren’t looking good for her. She will come under pressure to change her stance.”
This could certainly be the case. In September’s regional elections, Alternative for Deutschland (AfD) – a populist, anti-immigration party – finished ahead of Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) in her home state. This prompted the Chancellor to tone down her usually iron-fisted defence of open borders. Apologising for a series of embarrassing losses in Berlin, Merkel said: “If I could, I would turn back time by many, many years to better prepare myself and the whole German government for the situation that reached us unprepared in the late summer 2015.” If Merkel wants to win a fourth consecutive term in September 2017, who knows how far she will have to scale back her rhetoric.
After spending even a relatively short time with Trump’s presumptive ambassador to the EU, it’s clear that Ted Malloch is itching to contribute to the President’s new world order. For, make no mistake, that is the scale of his mission. The Western world is facing an unprecedented political and cultural upheaval. With Malloch at the forefront, the EU establishment should be worried. And, I suspect, political correctness will be the first thing on his hitlist.
Sam Bright is the Director of Backbench