Friday, May 26, 2017

While You’re A-Peein’

In late May, Mr. Diplomacy, Donald “the Charmer” Trump took his show on the road in his first foreign trip as president. After basking in the glow of his “adoring” Middle Eastern sycophants (both of which are heavily-dependent on American arms) – Saudi Arabia and Israel (the U.S. is its only major ally) – then spinning as positive a rather obviously disastrous meeting with the Pope at the Vatican, Donald Trump turned his rippling-muscle-charm offensive towards his European allies in Brussels (NATO) and then in Sicily (G-7 meeting). Zero press conferences. Wonder why? A litany of awkward handshakes and even more awkward body language.
It was stunning to watch our President, attending the NATO summit in Brussels, literally shove the Prime Minister of Montenegro aside without even acknowledging his existence (pictured above) and to watch the smirks on the faces of major world leaders at that same meeting as he chastised them for insufficiently funding that organization’s budget.
As allegations of deeper levels of involvement of Trump’s inner circle with Russian operatives raged through the American press and as yet another federal appellate court sustained an injunction against his travel ban, the Donald applied his domineering, take-charge bullying tactics against nations that are purportedly on our side of so many global issues. He clearly treats Russia and Vladimir Putin – rather obviously serious long-term foes – better, a reality not lost on global leaders. Sicily was even less successful.
In the wake of tensions emanating after the horrific carnage in Manchester, bully-Trump kept up the attacks on his European allies (?). His next target was Germany, most notably their biggest industry: automotive. Notwithstanding a rather large presence of German manufacturing that actually takes place at German car plants here in the United States, Trump took on Germany’s Angela Merkel – clearly the most powerful leader in post-Brexit Europe – rather directly on the issue of car exports. Too bad that U.S. car-makers have been unable to match the values that too many Americans see in German cars. We need trade barriers because American car companies cannot deliver the same level of quality? Huh? That Europeans really don’t think American cars can match the German counterparts? Americans scared of competition? Really?
“‘The Germans are bad, very bad,’ Trump told EU officials in a closed-door meeting, [German journal] Der Spiegel reported, citing unidentified attendees. ‘Look at the millions of cars that they sell in the U.S. Terrible. We’re going to stop that.’…
“German carmakers found themselves at the receiving end of renewed attacks by President Donald Trump, who reportedly chided them for selling too many vehicles in the U.S., contributing to a lopsided German trade surplus that’s hurting the U.S. economy…
“Trump has repeatedly criticized Germany’s high trade surplus with the U.S. In a Bild newspaper interview in January, he threatened luxury-car maker BMW AG with a 35 percent import duty for foreign-built cars sold in the country. ‘If you go down Fifth Avenue everyone has a Mercedes Benz in front of his house,’ he told Bild, while lamenting the lack of Chevrolets in Germany. General Motors Co. has withdrawn the brand from Europe for some years.Bottom of Form
“German carmakers like Daimler AGVolkswagen AG and BMW have responded to the attacks with a mix of defiance and mollification. BMW Chief Executive Officer Harald Krueger, one of a small group of business leaders to accompany German Chancellor Angela Merkel on her first trip to visit Trump at the White House, has defended the importance of free trade and noted that BMW’s biggest plant worldwide is in Spartanburg, South Carolina -- making the manufacturer the biggest exporter on a net basis from the U.S.”, May 26th.
Unfortunately, a trade war with Germany, given the construction of the European Union (uniform and unified trade and tariff policies), is literally a trade war with the entire E.U. And guess what happens to the U.S. economy in a trade war with Europe? That mainstream media that Trump hates so much is just as anti-Trump “over there.” Der Spiegel, that prestigious German periodical (, May 19th) responded that “the EU side was horrified at the extent of the Americans' lack of awareness of trade policy. Apparently, it was unclear to the guests that the EU countries concluded trade agreements only jointly.” 
The magazine goes on to call for an end to Trump – the title of the article is A Danger to the World; It's Time to Get Rid of Donald Trump. The piece notes that (i) since his resignation, (ii) impeachment, or (iii) declaration of mental incompetence are unlikely given Republican dominance and (iv) that the possibility of a Democratic victory would not even happen for 18 months, it is time that (v) “the international community [needs to make up and find] a way to circumvent the White House and free itself of its dependence on the U.S. Unlike the preceding four options, the fifth doesn't directly solve the Trump problem, but it is nevertheless necessary - and possible…
“Trump has to be removed from the White House. Quickly. He is a danger to the world… Trump is a miserable politician… The U.S. elected a laughing stock to the presidency and has now made itself dependent on a joke of a man.” Whoa! Really strong stuff. The other members of the G7 pressed Trump on the Paris climate change accord, but the best they got was a Trump waffle. Nothing.
Trump’s recent intelligence leaks have also created an atmosphere of distrust among those of our allies who gather and share vital intelligence (particularly in the battle against global terrorists) with us. As Donald Trump slams international leaders, threatens to dismantle long-standing trade agreements, his cabinet officers often follow-up with a then “he really didn’t mean what he said exactly” explanation. The international global community is not particularly attuned to Trump’s proclivity to tweet and shoot from the hip, usually taking our nation’s chief executive officer at his word… underplaying his high-level advisors’ attempts to mollify their concerns.
Much of the damage that Donald Trump has done to our standing in the world and our credibility will be exceptionally difficult to undo. Think about it. If a rational and solid partner for decades can reverse those policies in an instant, if a populist leader is electable in what used to be the greatest democracy on earth, if a more moderate, realistic American president succeeds Mr. Trump, do you really think Europe will simply dismiss Mr. Trump’s presidency as a once-in-an-era fluke? Or worry that no matter what a realistic and well-versed American president might agree to, another extreme replacement can reverse all those efforts in just 100 days?
France seems to appreciate that reality, after watching what a far-right populist candidate did in the United States after winning the presidency. On May 7th, France’s far right populist Trump-clone, Marine Le Pen, was soundly defeated by novice centrist, 39-year-old Emmanuel Macron, by a stunning 65.5%-34.5% margin of victory.  Unfortunately for Democrats – who have yet to enunciate a coherent economic policy counter to Trumpism – the GOP itself appears to be in no immediate danger of being usurped by their counterparts across the aisle.
I’m Peter Dekom, and Donald Trump’s bull-in-china-shop style may well have a permanent negative effort on America’s ability to foster its global interests and defend its borders.

1 comment:

Peter Dekom said...

Looks like Angela Merkel is following Der Spiegel's advice. Following Trump's truly disastrous European journey, where he challenged NATO, the Paris Accord and German/EU trade practices, Merkel directed this response to those challenges:
"We Europeans must really take our destiny into our own hands."

She said that "the times in which we can fully count on others are somewhat over, as I have experienced in the past few days."