National Commentary

The Wisdom of Fiona Hill

It was not officially a solar eclipse. When the sky began turning dark last Saturday, it was the result of what CNN correspondent Jim Acosta is now openly calling “evil” associated with the machinations of Donald Trump. But the evil was not manifested by Trump himself in his rally in Iowa that evening, carried live on Fox and C-Span. It took more the shape of an aged, slumping visage, that of Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley, who ignored all his own misgivings about Trump in the wake of Trump’s January 6 insurrection at the Capitol to veritably kiss the ring of the Prince of Darkness.
Grassley’s grovelling presence adjacent Trump on the stage, along with other Iowa Republican electeds there, marked the official turning point that may define our history for eons to come. It was the signal that for the entire GOP, bygones being bygones just a few months after Trump sicced lynch-crazed rioters on his own vice-president and others of both parties, has acknowledged The Donald as standard bearer of their once-respectable but now thoroughly degenerate party.


The sometimes-prescient Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson marked the dark day under the headline, “The Trump Nightmare Looms Again,” a nightmare he described as a “unified Republican control of the federal government in the hands of a reelected, empowered Donald Trump in 2025.”


It was HBO commentator Bill Maher who argued, almost solely, that if Trump was defeated in 2020, he would not go quietly, but would attempt a coup. Now Maher contends that a “slow coup” is occurring right now. Americans have no idea now how bad it would get if Trump came back into power.


Among the growing legions of former Trump administration officials who were propelled out of it and have subsequently written scathing indictments is Fiona Hill, a product of the British lower classes whose talents were recognized and who rose to a seat next to the president of the U.S. for a time.


In her book out last week entitled, “There’s Nothing for You Here,” Hill brings important new elements to the conservation, starting with her humble coal miner’s daughter working class upbringing in County Durham, where “coals were brought to Newcastle,” and the musical “Billy Elliot” grew up as a contemporary. That has advantaged her with an ability to relate to the appeal of Trumpist and other populist fakery to the disadvantaged masses. They combined with her astute insights into the mind and operational mode of Russia’s populist Vladimir Putin based on her scholarship in the field, and her astute observations of Trump’s pathetic groveling before Putin, having witnessed it up close.


Fiona Hill was made famous among insider D.C. circles for her sharp testimony against Trump in the first impeachment trial before Congress. Her lucid and articulate insights, spiced by her British accent, were among the most impactful and damning of all. They combined her knowledge of Putin (at the Brookings Institute, where she still is, she co-wrote a scholarly book on him during the last decade) and of Trump’s very considerable and easily exploitable personality weaknesses.


But while all the TV interviews with her focused on her criticisms of Trump, Hill has devoted the book to solutions to Trumpism. Unlike J.D. Vance in “Hillbilly Elegy” or Tara Westover in “Educated”, her focus is not on how individuals can succeed against the odds. “Neither offered much in the way of observation about how others might follow,” she notes. In her own case, Hill observes, “I succeeded not because I was exceptional, but because I had help. No one does anything completely alone. Life is a team sport.”


“For every rung of the educational ladder, I found a subsidy or a grant to pull me up,” she writes. “Most deprived and disadvantaged will continue to be preyed upon by unscrupulous politicians who offer them a promise of opportunity for their votes…But as long as they feel that there is no hope for them, there will be no hope for the rest of us.”
She concludes by laying out agendas for “creating opportunity in the 21st century” for underprivileged families, grounded in education and mentoring.


She makes an extraordinary contribution.