Friday, May 26, 2017

The Ugly American




Trump is making it clear he doesn't like Europe.  The NATO speech was largely aimed at his following back home, so to some degree we can excuse him for this.  However, the contempt he demonstrated throughout the summit was beyond the pale.  He had little respect for any leader, especially one from a small country like Montenegro.  Too busy chatting with his new buddy, the Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, to pay any deference to Premier Dusko Markovic.

Once again he dissed Angela Merkel, complaining about the trade deficit the US has with Germany, not stopping to think that most of the cars Germany sells in the US are made in the US, which is more than can be said for Ford or GM.

His Trumpness was obviously peeved when the new French President Macron chose not to shake his hand first, turning to Merkel instead and then three others before finally turning to Trump.  Upset, our President gave Macron one of his patented pile driver shakes, only for Macron to grab his arm to stop.

The embarrassments never stop with Trump, yet he is pretty much forgiven back home.  In fact, a new culture has emerged in the Trump era where just about any crude behavior is rewarded at the polls.  Gianforte apologized to the Guardian reporter he "body-slammed" in his acceptance speech, but he should have been thanking Ben Jacobs for making something out of a nondescript race that otherwise wouldn't have garnered any national, much less international attention.  The brusque new US Representative gets the opportunity to act magnanimous in victory.

We've seen similar behavior on airlines all across the world, as Trump supporters aren't afraid to voice their allegiance.  If these guys think they are "making American great again" by crudely expressing their opinions wherever they go, maybe they should check out The Ugly American.  There's nothing wrong with taking pride in your country, but not to the point of demeaning others.

I suppose we will overcome this ugly chapter in American history, as we did George Bush, but the damage being wrought by the Trump administration has the potential of being far worse.  It's not just Trump, but the people he has chosen to associate himself with that raises concern.  Not only did he appear to be quite chummy with Orban, a tool of the Russian government, but gave away the position of US nuclear subs to Filipino strongman Duterte in a telephone conversation last month.  Duterte was in Moscow recently to negotiate an arms deal with Putin to help him fight his drug war.  He cut the trip short after declaring martial law back home, essentially setting up what will in all likelihood be a military dictatorship in the Philippines.

At this point, it is very clear that Trump would rather enter the US into bilateral agreements with countries like Russia and various other autocratic regimes around the world than engage with NATO, our long standing military alliance expressly set up to deal with such thugs.

How we have gotten to this point is the subject of a much deeper investigation than is currently going on in Washington.  It seems that in an effort to battle what the GOP sees as a liberal world order, Republicans are forming a strange set of alliances that further conservative interests.  It makes sense in a cold pragmatic way, as these GOP senators and representatives have long supported international corporate interests.  The global attempts to reduce carbon emissions, like the Paris Agreement, and put in place stronger labor laws, like the International Labour Organization, obviously go against these corporate interests, so our conservative lawmakers have opted to associate themselves with foreign leaders who likewise don't believe in global warming or give a rat's ass about labor laws.

Fighting Trumpism, as it has come to be known, has to be done abroad as well as back home.  This is why you see Macron snubbing Trump, who had tacitly supported Le Pen in the French elections.  Or, Obama joining Merkel prior to the NATO summit to praise liberal global democratic politics.  A gesture many conservatives saw as a slap in the face to Trump and may be why he was in such a surly mood in Brussels.

The GOP today is not content with rewriting American law, they want to see a return to the old laissez-faire policies that prevailed in the global marketplace before this latest wellspring of liberalism crept into international politics.  This also helps to explain the cabal the Kremlin has created with conservative leaders around the world, using their English-speaking RT as a conduit for conservative double speak.

Basically, Russia wants to see an end to NATO and a much weaker EU, which they have been trying to drive a wedge into ever since the Eastern European countries joined these"Western" organizations from 1999-2004.  Russia supports autocratic leaders, like Orban, who would like to steer these countries back toward their economic sphere of influence, largely based on trading oil and gas for goods they don't produce in Russia.  NATO and the EU are essentially thorns in their side, as the military alliance and trade policies make it difficult for Russia to get what it wants at the price it wants to pay.

This is the same with the World Trade Organization, which Russia fought for years to get into but now has no interest in honoring.  Maybe Dubya was right in keeping Russia out of the WTO.  Ironically, it was the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, which pushed for Russia's accession only to have Obama finally be the one to formally admit Russia in 2012.  When Putin reclaimed the Presidency the same year, he wasted no time criticizing the deal that was reached by his predecessor Medvedev.

It was also about this time that we saw many GOP leaders begin to praise Putin as a stronger leader than our much-too-conciliatory Obama.  Is it any real surprise that Trump adopted the same attitude during his campaign?

Here we are in 2017, with much of the gains made over the past eight years in regard to fair labor practices, human rights and combating global warming in very real danger of being undone by a conservative cabal who wants to see these negotiations, accords and treaties torn up and cast to the four winds so that we can return to the laissez-faire politics that put us in this mess to begin with.

Trump holds any liberal-thinking world leader in contempt.  In his mind it is strong men like Putin and Erdogan and Duterte who should be praised and kept abreast of our military maneuvers for "humanitarian reasons." These are the leaders he chooses to converse with on a regular basis, not Merkel or Macron or for that matter Theresa May, who he seemed to ignore at the NATO summit.  I guess it was difficult owning up to the leaks in his own intelligence department over the Manchester bombing, but what do you expect when the President himself leaks confidential information on a regular basis, considering it his "absolute right."

I don't expect Fareed Zakaria to be as effusive in his praise for Trump in Brussels as he was for Trump in Riyadh.  Trump's desire to gloat far outweighs his expressed claim to keep confidential matters under his sleeve.  For all we know, he ordered that missile strike in Syria just to impress Chinese General Secretary Xi, like you would a fireworks show on a balmy Florida night.

This is the type of man we ware dealing with, and once again I say we shouldn't be giving him any benefit of the doubt.  He has once again turned our nation into The Ugly American, personified by himself.  There are those who are proud of this, but the rest of us should be deeply worried.

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