May I have a word about… John Bolton and a ham sandwich | Jonathan Bouquet

It takes a lot to nonplus my wife, but John Bolton managed it last week. The former US ambassador to the UN and US national security adviser was on Channel 4 News the day after Donald Trump appeared in a New York courthouse. In the course of the interview, he said: “There’s an old American saying – you can get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich.” “WHAT!” Bear in mind that this is a woman who has lived and worked in New York, yet she confessed to bewilderment. “Well, I’ve never heard it.” Me neither, but a quick internet search revealed all.

“This phrase was originated by former New York State chief judge Sol Wachtler in a 1985 interview with the New York Daily News. He was making reference to his bid to eliminate the grand jury system from the New York judicial process. Judge Wachtler had said that grand juries are merely pawns of the district attorney’s office and are no longer a “shield for injustice” for citizens. He remarked that the prosecutors have so much influence over grand juries that they can get them to do their bidding.” Well, you do live and learn and I am delighted to have encountered such a colourful phrase, albeit useless for everyday discourse in the UK.

Last week, I received an email with the following heading: “The Customer Service Roles are Now Being Utilised as Empathetic Impact Officers”. It went on: “Julie McIntosh, chief culture officer at UK- based global outsourcing provider Kura, said: ‘In a variety of commercial settings, empathetic customer service means better customer experience and improved loyalty. It also means fewer mistakes where conflict can lead to lost custom. Many now agree empathy is not a soft subject in customer experience design, but a genuine component part that should be nurtured deliberately.”

Truly, the ways of modern retailing seem to get more and more arcane, but empathetic impact officers…. Makes them sound like social workers.

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Jonathan Bouquet is an Observer columnist

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