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Commentary: G20: Trump clueless, friendless, and feckless (and those friggin' Trump kids!)
Published on July 14, 2017 Email To Friend    Print Version

By Anthony L Hall
 

[President Trump is a] man who barks out bile in 140 characters, who wastes his precious days as President at war with the West's institutions -- like the judiciary, independent government agencies and the free press.

He was an uneasy, awkward figure at this gathering and you got the strong sense some other leaders were trying to find the best way to work around him…

We learned Mr Trump has pressed fast forward on the decline of the US as a global leader.

(ABC News Australia, July 9, 2017)

This in essence is how Chris Uhlmann, the political editor for ABC News Australia, reported on this G20 summit. It only lasted 62 seconds, but his takedown of Trump went viral -- complete with American pundits across the political spectrum hailing its incisiveness and derisiveness in equal measure.

Mind you, I suspect the appeal for most Americans was not so much in what he said as in how he said it, namely, with an almost hypnotic, “general” Australian accent. But as I watched, I could not help thinking, I told you so. (If you haven't already done so, I urge you to read my related commentary, "G20... Much Ado About Nothing”, to see why.)

More to the point, though, nothing demonstrates how clueless Trump was/is quite like juxtaposing Uhlmann’s take with his. Unsurprisingly, Trump thought the entire summit revolved around him, and that he struck historic deals to advance his America-first agenda.

Just left China’s President Xi where we had an excellent meeting on trade & North Korea…

-- Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 8, 2017

The G20 Summit was a great success for the U.S. Explained that the U.S. must fix the many bad trade deals it has made… We negotiated a ceasefire in parts of Syria which will save lives… Putin & I discussed forming an impenetrable Cyber Security unit so that election hacking, & many other negative things, will be guarded.

-- Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 9, 2017

And thus he tweeted proud nothingness for all the world to see…

Even so, Vice President Mike Pence chimed in to lead cabinet members in hailing Trump's success -- as if they were North Korean generals who must flatter their “Dear Leader” or die.

Have a safe trip home [President Trump]! Congrats on another successful trip. Great leadership on the world stage.

-- Mike Pence (@VP) July 8, 2017

Incidentally, Washington is buzzing with rumors about Pence just lying in wait to assume power once Trump's presidency implodes. And, given all the high crimes and misdemeanors Trump is committing, Pence seems destined to have his day. But it would be short lived.

After all, there's no escaping his record of variously cheering and excusing Trump's debasing and corrupting of the presidency. Therefore, he's bound to be even more unelectable in his own right following any implosion of Trump's presidency than VP Gerald Ford was following the implosion of Nixon's.

That shared, discussions at this G20 summit focused on four major topics: climate change, North Korean nukes, cyber security, and the Syrian conflagration. Here is my pithy take on each one:

On climate change

As best as I can tell, most leaders merely vented incredulity that Trump had withdrawn the United States from the Paris climate accord. In fact, the only noteworthy thing about this topic was the unprecedented way host Chancellor Angela Merkel rebuked Trump for doing so:

‘Unfortunately -- and I deplore this -- the United States of America left the climate agreement, or rather announced their intention of doing this.’ …

She said the other 19 members of the G20, which includes the European Union, agreed that the Paris climate accord was irreversible and that they remained committed to it.

(CNN, July 9, 2017)

The problem is that Merkel knew, or should have known, that Trump’s withdrawal would provide an excuse for other, less-committed leaders to do the same. Sure enough, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan wasted little time initiating this dreaded domino effect. On Saturday, he announced his intent to follow Trump’s lead.

On North Korean nukes

For all his boasting about striking deals and influencing people, Trump could not even get G20 leaders to include a condemnation of North Korea in their final communiqué. Notably, neither Chinese President Xi nor Russian President Putin respected or feared him enough to concede even this symbolic victory.

hall.jpg
Anthony L. Hall is a Bahamian who descends from the Turks and Caicos Islands. He is an international lawyer and political consultant - headquartered in Washington DC - who also publishes a current events weblog, The iPINIONS Journal, at http://ipjn.com
Of course, it could not have helped that Trump's bumbling traveling White House referred to Xi as president of the “runaway Chinese province” of Taiwan. They did this mere minutes after Trump’s bilateral meeting with Xi -- in an official statement no less. Trust me, this is even more careless and insulting than referring to Petro Poroshenko, president of my favorite ex-communist country -- Ukraine, as president of the “confiscated Ukrainian territory” of Crimea.

To be fair, Trump had the good sense to assemble a seemingly first-rate national security team. In fact, many otherwise-sensible Republicans staked their support for him based solely on this. But one can fairly accuse these advisers of dereliction of duty for failing to secure unanimous condemnation of North Korea, which should have been a small concession to extract in the circumstances -- even from China.

Except that I warned of such geostrategic pitfalls. Not least because these national security advisers were acting like partisan political hacks from day one. In this regard, I refer you to "The Week Trump Kissed Up to Saudi Arabia, Kissed Off Europe, And French Kissed the Philippines," May 20, 2017.

Meanwhile, Trump’s de facto state news station, Fox News, is leading reports today about the United States going it alone in imposing sanctions on North Korea. But this betrays not only how feckless Trump was at this summit but also how friendless the United States has become. What's more, he has been pleading in tweets for months to no avail for China to impose punitive, chastening sanctions. This clearly betrays the fact that the United States cannot go it alone.

Alas, this is just one of the many ways in which Trump's boneheaded, America-first policies are coming home to roost. In this case, the United States wouldn’t be going it alone if Trump hadn’t withdrawn it so impetuously from the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP).

This, of course, is the trade and security pact Barack Obama spent much of his presidency forging. It is composed of 12 countries, representing 40 percent of global GDP. Significantly, it includes countries like Japan, Vietnam, and Australia -- all of whom saw the US-led TPP as a counter to China’s hegemonic influence in Asia, much as England, France, and Germany saw (and still see) the US-led NATO as a counter to the Soviet Union's (and now Russia’s) hegemonic influence in Europe.

Sadly, only Trump’s pathological compulsion to abort all of Obama’s major accomplishments explains his withdrawal. But this compulsion blinded him to the undisputed benefits of TPP.

One of those benefits is that willing partners from this pact would have joined the United States in imposing sanctions on North Korea. This would have spared Trump the folly of looking to scheming adversaries like Russia and China to do so, and failing that, of making hollow pronouncements about going it alone.

On Cyber Security

I wrote in “North Korea’s Nukes Upstage America’s Fireworks … Again,” July 5, 2017, that leaders of rogue states are queuing up to play Trump for a chump. Putin demonstrated this with relish by getting Trump to boast that their “impenetrable Cyber Security unit” was a significant achievement.

Sure enough, Republican senators led the chorus of ridicule: Marco Rubio of Florida mocked that this was akin to striking a deal with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to monitor chemical weapons; Lindsey Graham of South Carolina chortled that it's as close to the dumbest idea he has ever heard; and John McCain of Arizona quipped that Putin is ideally suited to oversee this unit because he’s responsible for most of the cyber hacking at issue.

In fact, Trump was drowning in such a bipartisan flood of public ridicule that, within 13 hours of boasting about his and Putin’s Cyber Security unit, he tweeted the bald-faced lie that he never gave it any serious consideration.

On Syrian conflagration

Trump and Putin are getting praise for brokering a ceasefire. Except that those praising them seem oblivious to the fact that Putin and Obama brokered similar ceasefires on more than a few occasions. The ceasefire never holds. Indeed, I shall suffice on this point to refer you to “Alas, Syrian Ceasefire No. 44 Will Fare No Better…,” September 10, 2016.

On Trump’s kids

I’d be remiss to ignore the hullabaloo surrounding Ivanka Trump’s participation at this G20 summit. It stems from the way she sat in for her AWOL Daddy at a roundtable discussion with other heads of state.

For a little context, here is what no less an authority than Larry Summers, treasury secretary for the Obama administration, said about this Trumpian version of musical chairs:

When it is necessary [for heads of government to step away], their place is normally taken by the foreign minister or another very senior government official. There is no precedent for a head of government’s adult child taking a seat, as was the case when Ivanka Trump took her father’s place at the G20. There is no precedent for good reason. It is insulting to the others present and sends a signal of disempowerment regarding senior officials.

(Financial Times, July 9, 2017)

Frankly, this is all too consistent with the way Trump’s kids have revealed themselves -- throughout these early days of his presidency -- as little more than entitled schmucks and shysters.

As it happens, Donald Trump Jr. is demonstrating this in incriminating spades. At issue is a bombshell report in today's edition of the New York Times. It implicates him in a June 2016 meeting to discuss the Russian government’s efforts to peddle hacked dirt on Hillary to help his Daddy win the presidential election.

E-mails show junior exclaiming, "I love it!" about the prospect. Now, instead of taking the advice of counsel to keep his mouth shut, this "kid pro quo" is emulating his Daddy’s mendacious bravado by tweeting evasive and distracting gibberish about Democrats, which only reinforces his consciousness of guilt. Idiot!

Therefore, nobody should be surprised that Ivanka felt perfectly suited to sit where her Daddy sat. More to the point, here is why I was not at all surprised that it did not occur to her to resist enabling his insult to the other heads of state:

I am now in the vanguard of those despairing at the willingness of so many liberal (and liberated) women to take solace in Trump making his ‘first daughter,’ Ivanka, ‘the most powerful first lady ever.’ No less a liberal authority than the Washington Post heralded Trump’s incestuous intent in its edition on December 16, 2016.

Except that all of their talk about Ivanka having a positive, moderating influence on her Daddy is demonstrable bulls#!t. After all, this stepford daughter couldn’t even bring herself to criticize him for bragging about sexually assaulting women -- complete with his infamous boast about 'grab[bing] them by the pussy.'

(“Trumpasites Already Gagging on Big Lies (a.k.a. ‘Alternative Facts’) and Outrageous Pledges They Swallowed,” The iPINIONS Journal, January 30, 2017)

No doubt you recall political pundits of all stripes praising Trump's kids last summer as the best thing about his candidacy. But I suspect they are eating even more crow these days than the political pundits who were praising his national security advisers just months ago as the saving grace of his presidency. A presidency, incidentally, that is turning out to be the biggest political fraud and farce in the history of mankind -- to channel Trump himself.

Epilogue

I could go on, but I’m mindful that criticizing Trump is becoming as sadistic and futile as flogging a dead mule. Therefore, I shall end where I began -- with the opening line of the aforementioned ABC News Australia report, which might prove its most poignant and prescient:

The G20 became the G19 as it ended.

To fully appreciate its import, it might be helpful to know that Obama marshalled other world leaders in 2014 to kick Putin’s Russia out of the even more exclusive G8. The G8 became the G7 -- again. This was their initial response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea. But Russia has been a sanctioned pariah state ever since.

Given this, the irony cannot be lost even on Trump that he is willfully doing to America what Obama did to Russia. In one of their presidential debates, Hillary called Trump a Putin puppet. He has been acting like one ever since.

Related commentaries:
G20 much ado about nothing
Syrian ceasefire
North Korean nukes
Kissed up to Saudi
Trump family of shysters
Trumpasites

* This commentary was originally published at The iPINIONS Journal on Tuesday, July 11

 
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