President Bill Clinton famously said that he was Irish. When challenged on this claim, and it was pointed out that he wasn’t remotely Irish, Clinton is said to have responded: “Well, I feel Irish.”

It is in this context that President Biden‘s trip to a pub in Ireland on Wednesday evening should be seen. Democrat leaders, and sometimes senior Republicans, love to identify with the mysticism of Ireland, the old country. Think of JFK. Even if the link is more tenuous, or non-existent, Washington pols will play it up. The Irish American identity is potent in US politics, in a way that Scottishness it not. Scottish identity helped form America and then dissolved into US society. 

Much of the attention has focussed on Biden’s slip-up on rugby and Irish history. In his remarks he confused the All Blacks (the New Zealand rugby team) with the Black and Tans, a British-backed force that was notorious among Irish Republicans for committing atrocities when it attempted to put down rebellion as Ireland established its independence.

The Black and Tans comment caused considerable annoyance and amusement among members of the social media community.

Some of his other remarks were even funnier, albeit unintentionally.

He said the Irish are the “only people in the world in my view who are actually nostalgic about the future”.

What on earth does that mean?

It is classic Washington blarney, pseudo-mystical drivel that is meaningless other than as indicator that the speaker wants to emphasise that he has an almost magical connection with Ireland and Irish exceptionalism.

He also went on, and on, about the Irish believing more in hope than anyone else. Is this remotely true? The hope among the rest of us poor souls, unlucky not to be Irish, must be that the President gets on the plane and goes back to Washington pronto so we don’t have to listen to any more Biden blarney.

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