- He’s a loner not really good – or not having a desire to – at making friends with others who don’t constantly praise him
- His is a presidency that has a very family-dependent aspect to it
- He is not well liked among our allies
- In six months, he has given up the United States’ position as the world leader who is respected by our peers
It’s hard to base judgements solely on the photos published from the G-20 meeting. Many of them show Trump sitting alone as the other world leaders gab behind him. Of course we don’t see other pictures which may show him engaged.
I draw my conclusions from reading comments in the papers, including news and opinion pieces, about the meeting and voiced on the record by those participating. For example, French President Emmanuel Macron said: “Our world has never been so divided. Centrifugal forces have never been so powerful. Our common goods never so threatened.”
When votes among the G-20 are 19-1, with Trump being the one, it’s not hard to decipher who he was talking about.
There was an anonymous quote that also told the story: “It seems clear that President Trump is committed to being less predictable and not necessarily seeing predictability as positive in foreign policy.” This by a European official.
Trump is taking his private sector reputation as Mr. Unpredictable and is applying it to U.S. policy, where unpredictability is not a virtue among other world leaders nor among those who keep our economy plugging away. They all want to know the U.S. government is a predictable ally when it comes to the economy and world peace.
Trump though seems to bathe in his reputation as unpredictable.
Amid all this focus on what kind of leader Trump is – with the exception of Vladimir Putin who tripped over himself to say nice things about the American President – one would think Trump would put his best foot forward. I think he did. I think this is the foot that he wants to kick the free world with for whatever his motivations.
When it came to the Putin-Trump meeting, the anticipated potential showdown over Russia meddling with our election, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the only Administration member allowed in the room for that meeting, told an associate later that he was stunned when Trump began the meeting by telling Putin: “I’m going to get this out of the way. Did you do this?”
Strong way to start a discussion when sitting across from the man who led the attack on our elections and who our intelligence community unanimously agrees was responsible for it. That sent a message to Putin, I’m sure, which is “do what you want as long as it helps me.”
As for Trump’s daughter taking the President’s seat while he was out of the room, this may seem a small point but it is not a small point. She is a White House staffer, not an elected official or a Cabinet member with relevant responsibilities delegated by the President and confirmed by the Senate. This sent a clear message to the world about who is in charge of our government and it isn’t “we the people,” it’s “we the Trumps.”
I’ve seen friends defend this move by Ivanka Trump but there is no defense. It did not send a message that women are important in our society, which some have weakly attempted. It does not send a message that, say, Tillerson may have been a more appropriate person to fill the chair because he is our lead diplomat. It sends a message that Trump is running this government like a two-bit dictator who only trusts a family member to act appropriately or who deserves the limelight.
This was a meeting of the G-20 for which sending messages is nearly as important as stating policy. This isn't the PTA.
Putin won this summit when it comes to a U.S. vs. Russia game call. And when you top that with the New York Times story that Trump’s son, Donald Jr., met with a Russian lawyer during the campaign to get “dirt” on Hillary Clinton – a story initially Trump Jr. said was false but 24 hours later confirmed – it was not a strong performance, whatever Trump’s folks try to spin. By the way, as the investigations continue into potential collusion by the Trump campaign with the Russians, this meeting will stand out to the investigators.
There are Trump staffers who of course claimed the meeting as a huge success for Trump. This despite the fact that the final communique, while diplomatically making some of Trump’s points, did not endorse the American views on steel tariffs or climate change but tried to toss Trump a bone by not drawing stark differences in the communique.
Plus, by the way, Trump skipped town without holding a press conference to review his views about the meeting despite the fact that even Putin did do a news conference. That left Trump’s surrogates to “spin” the meeting and they made a valiant effort until Trump contradicted them in tweets just hours later.
All further confusing “we the people” as to what happened over there on our behalf.
We are being led by a President who has no respect for the truth, no respect for international norms, no desire to lead the world – in fact has voluntarily given up that role – and whose motives are, well, I truly don’t know his motives. The options range from the Pollyanna view that he is trying to lead the country in a new and different and better way, to being the naïve inexperienced leader we know him to be, to treason.
I don’t say that lightly and I don’t know the truth. But we will eventually know what the truth is.