At last, sir, have you no shame?

Face-off at G-7
La Malbaie, Quebec
Trump and Kim Jung Un
Singapore

| This past weekend, Donald Trump put on one of the most repugnant and disgraceful displays of his presidency, proving once again that just when you think it can't get any worse, it does.

I Debacle

The two-stop roadtrip began in La Malbaie, Quebec, for the annual meeting of the Group of Seven (G-7), consisting of the seven largest advanced economies in the world: Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Together they represent more than 62% of the entire world's wealth (Wikipedia).

Before he even got on Air Force One to go to Quebec, Trump sowed confusion by announcing that he thought Russia should be invited to join the G-7, making it the G-8. Never mind that Russia was once invited to belong but was kicked out after Russia annexed Crimea and meddled in Ukraine. And never mind that Putin directed an attack on American democracy by meddling in our presidential election to help Trump win. WTF?

To make bad matters worse, he dilly-dallied so long on the White House driveway, talking to reporters — that is, basking in front of TV cameras — that he arrived 20 minutes late for the Quebec meetings. To their credit, the other world leaders essentially ignored him when he finally walked into the room, clearly expecting to be hailed as Caesar.

As the left picture above makes clear, it was a contentious meeting with quarreling and quibbling over the anodyne joint communique that is customarily issued at the conclusion of these gatherings.

Then, having arrived late, Trump left early, skipping sessions on the things he considers hoaxes, such as climate change, energy, women's equality and empowerment.

At the end of the conference, Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada, in his role as host, gave a press conference.  As part of his remarks he acknowledge disagreement on some issues, notably tariffs. He observed that Canada would move ahead with retailiatory tariffs in response to US tariffs on steel and aluminum, saying "I have made it very clear to the president that it is not something we relish doing, but it is something we absolutely will do, because Canadians, we're polite, we're resonable, but we also will not be pushed around."

And that's when the excrement hit the fan. From Air Force One en route to Singapore, Trump blasted out tweets calling Trudeau "dishonest and weak." On Sunday, Trump sycophants hit the Sunday talk shows, where Larry Kudlow (Trump's economic advisor) said Trudeau had "stabbed us in the back" by pulling "a sophomoric political stunt for domestic consumption" which amounted to a "betrayal."

Not to be outdone, Peter Navarro said there was "a special place in hell for any foreign leader that engages in bad faith diplomacy with President Donald J. Trump." Along the way Trump chimed in with a tweet that perhaps Trudeau didn't know there were televisions on Air Force One.

All of this was so over-the-top and out of proportion that people have been trying to figure out what it was really all about. One explanation, espoused by Kudlow, was that it was to make Trump look tough before meeting Kim Jong Un: "Kim must not see American weakness." Another theory I've seen is that all this disputation around trade is laying the groundwork for Trump to pull out of the World Trade Organization (WTO). Makes sense; we know that Trump is (a) ignorant about trade in the global economy and (b) sorely vexed by it; he frets and stews constantly about trade deficits and how "unfair" everybody is to the US. Paul Krugman of the New York Times has coined a perfect expression for this: "belligerent ignorance" (NYTimes).

II Debacle

(Which we shall pronounce as "two debacle" in the style of "two Corintheans.")

Stop two on the roadtrip was Singapore for a one-on-one with Kim Jong Un, dictator of North Korea. Trump would meet with him alone with no one else present (except for translators). That means that we have no idea what either guy in that room said. The translators were focused on translating, not remembering the conversation. We know we'll never hear from Kim, and we know we can't believe a word that Trump says about anything.

The joint statement signed at the end of the summit left everything to be desired. It was mostly a vague rehash of text from previous statements the US and Korea have made, less rigorous even than the previous agreements forged by Bill Clinton and George W Bush. But what did anyone expect? This was all about putting on a television spectacle, not about doing anything serious.

And a spectacle it was: long motorcades, beautiful vistas, a US-television friendly schedule, casual walks along paths and corridors, a staged handshake.

It was after the summit that things got really weird. Trump went out of his way to say very flattering things about Kim Jong Un: he's "very smart," a "very talented person," he "loves his people," has a "great personality," is a "worthy negotiator, a very worthy, very smart negotiator."

It was during Trump's press conference that we got a glimpse of a video that the National Security Council prepared just for this summit, showing a paradisial future Korea. Naturally, the video starred Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un. It was Trump in condo-selling mode, talking about the great beaches Korea has and how it could have the best hotels and condos.

Since Trump has returned home, another video has surfaced from the North Koreans showing Trump being introduced to a heavily-decorated Korean general (aren't they all heavily decorated?) whose salute was returned by Trump.

Kim is widely acknowledged as the world's most brutal dictator (at this time). He starves his own people. He has his own relatives assassinated. If someone disagrees with him he sends the person to a vast gulag of prison camps from which, apparently, no one ever returns. But Trump seems never to meet a strongman he doesn't like:  Putin (Russia), Erdogan (Turkey), Duterte (Philippines), Xi Jinping (China), el-Sissi (Egypt), and now Kim (Korea).

We're America, Bitch

That's American foreign policy as practiced by Trump. A "senior White House official with direct access to the president and his thinking" told an Atlantic reporter, "There’s definitely a Trump Doctrine. The Trump Doctrine is ‘We’re America, Bitch.’ That’s the Trump Doctrine" (The Atlantic). In other words, the US doesn't owe anybody anything, especially our allies.

I've never known anyone who is truly amoral, lacking morals, with no concern whether behavior is right or wrong. Who would have guessed that we'd have one as our president?

Last updated on Jun 17, 2018

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