Monday, November 13, 2017
The Old Lunatic
The last stop on Trump's really big trip through Asia saw him in Manila for the ASEAN summit hosted by the Philippines. For a guy who said "ixnay" to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP as it was called, it is easy to see why he was at great pains to participate in the group handshake among Southeast Asian leaders.
It was a rough trip for the Donald, thirteen days all together, putting him in contact with a number of world leaders he probably had no idea existed before. He was even forced to visit Vietnam, which he went out of his way to avoid as a young man. Yet, here he was getting a hero's welcome. God knows why Vietnamese should be so enthralled with Trump. Maybe they are big Apprentice fans?
Elsewhere, Trump is not so popular. Only 17 per cent of South Koreans expressed confidence in his world leadership, as opposed to 88 per cent who were confident with Obama. This is largely due to his handling of North Korea. He was astonishingly quiet in Seoul. I guess he didn't want to give away his GPS location to the "Rocket Man," while in his missile range.
Trump got a very warm welcome in China. He was so impressed by President Xi that he blamed his Oval Office predecessors for the trade deficit, being the bad negotiators that they were. Who wouldn't take advantage of bad deals like that? Later, Tillerson tried to clarify the president's comments, saying he was just making light of the situation.
In Vietnam, Trump could no longer hold himself in on Kim Jong Un. He didn't take kindly to being called an "old lunatic" while in South Korea, but that is exactly how he appeared on this trip. He used Vietnam as an opportunity to briefly meet with Putin, and accepted the Russian leader's claim that his country played no role in the 2016 US election hackings, referring to the ongoing investigation as a "Democratic hit job."
This, of course, led to a flurry of condemnation among Republicans and Democrats alike, leading Trump to rephrase his comments in Manila. He now said that he thought Putin genuinely believed his government played no role in the hacking, but that he still supported his intelligence community. "Fake News" wasn't buying it though, leading many pundits to speculate as to what Putin holds in his hand to make Trump so acquiescent anytime these two meet.
It seems all these foreign leaders have learned that flattery is the best policy when confronting Donald Trump, except Kim Jong Un of course. For his part, Rodrigo Duterte sang him a song uring a lavish dinner, apparently at the President's request. Trump has shown a lot of admiration for Manila's strongman and other Asian autocrats, no doubt wishing he had that kind of authority in America. Instead, he has to deal with a pesky Congress that continues to question his leadership.