At first glance, two men more unalike than Justice Séamus Woulfe and Donald J Trump would be hard to imagine. One is a Supreme Court judge and a man whom few of us would have heard, or even heard of before. He’s obviously highly educated and, one would imagine, very good at his job or he wouldn’t be a Supreme Court judge.
Donald Trump is President of the US. There can be no one who hasn’t heard or heard of him. He has little education, judging by his language and his conduct, and his fondness for tweets and sound-bites. And while his fans laud him, most of the world would see him as perhaps the worst ever in the job of US President.
But there are similarities between the two men. At the time of writing, President Trump is in hospital. Even during his short stay, he has found a way to spread the virus by being driven around the hospital, so putting everyone in that well-sealed SUV at risk of catching Covid. Before going into hospital, of course, Trump had repeatedly flouted the guidelines with regard to face masks, touching and maintaining social distance. In his last TV debate, he mocked his opponent for wearing a face mask.
Seamus Woulfe, as far as we know, hasn’t been nearly as contemptuous of Covid restrictions, but his attendance at the Golfgate affair in Clifden shows him as being totally careless of spreading the virus and in contravention of the guidelines about Covid.
Reactions to their contact with or possible contact with Covid-19 sufferers have been markedly different. Trump has declared that he now “gets it”, that the virus is a very interesting virus, and that he will tell people all about it when he gets out of hospital. He rejects, of course, that getting the virus was his own fault.
Seamus Woulfe takes a similar line, arguing that he is a victim, not of the virus, but of those who judge him unfairly: “I think it’s more damaging to the Supreme Court if they allow some sort of theoretical damage to the institution prevail over hounding a judge out of office for no valid reason.” [My italics.] He feels sorry for the organisers of Golfgate who have “been pilloried”, with people talking about the golfing event as if there was “some way it’s like a Ku Klux Klan”.
The similarities are startling. We have got used to Trump never retreating from a position or apologising for his actions. We’re less accustomed to having a Supreme Court judge talk contemptuously about criticism of his actions. He sees himself as a victim of those who’d seek to hound him out of office, and draws comparisons with the Ku Klux Klan.
At this stage we almost (but not quite) give Trump a fool’s pardon for the statements he comes out with. He clearly thinks he did nothing wrong. More startling is the reaction of Seamus Woulfe, who says he thought the crowd at the dinner were within the guidelines and didn’t know there was another section having dinner at the same time, with, it’s alleged, just a partition between the two groups.
Other Golfgaters – Phil Hogan, Barry Cowen, Jerry Buttimer – have been penalised for attendance. Supreme Court judge Seamus Woulfe figures that other people are to blame for what happened at Clifden:
Seamus, let me introduce you to President Donald J Trump – I think you’ll like him and find you’ve much in common. Mr President, this is Séamus Woulfe, another victim of the fake news media.