Trudeau meets with Trump to­day

How past PMs have dealt with un­pop­u­lar U.S. pres­i­dents over the years

Cape Breton Post - - FRONT PAGE -

Canada’s prime min­is­ter has to go see the U.S. pres­i­dent, and he’s not es­pe­cially thrilled. The pres­i­dent is deeply un­pop­u­lar in Canada — and else­where, since cam­paign­ing on pro­tec­tion­ism and tar­iffs.

The prime min­is­ter wants to lay low. His plan: get in and out of Wash­ing­ton with the least pos­si­ble fuss. He even pleads with pho­tog­ra­phers while en­ter­ing the White House: Don’t snap my picture. He’d rather not be seen with this pres­i­dent.

What a stark dif­fer­ence from his other Wash­ing­ton visit — when he basked in the well-wishes of hun­dreds in a pomp­filled fes­ti­val on the White House lawn as he vis­ited a dif­fer­ent pres­i­dent, adored by Cana­di­ans. Of course the year was 1931. This week Justin Trudeau might feel like he’s ex­pe­ri­enc­ing the life of R.B. Ben­nett — only in re­verse. The 11th prime min­is­ter went from jug­gling a po­lit­i­cal hand­grenade in the form of Her­bert Hoover, to sun­bathing in the glow of Franklin De­lano Roo­sevelt.

That sin­gle De­pres­sion-era prime min­is­te­rial term il­lus­trates ex­treme ex­am­ples of how the White House oc­cu­pant can shape a prime min­is­ter’s ca­reer: some pres­i­dents are lo­co­mo­tives pulling your pop­u­lar­ity, oth­ers the wagon that drags.

Hoover was a hu­man-sized heap of dead po­lit­i­cal weight. One book, Lawrence Martin’s, ‘’The Pres­i­dents and the Prime Min­is­ters,’’ chron­i­cles var­i­ous ways Ben­nett avoided be­ing seen dur­ing his 1931 trip.

‘’The ul­ti­mate snub oc­curred on the White House lawn,’’ Martin wrote.

‘’Twenty-five pho­tog­ra­phers pre­pared to take the stan­dard picture of the pres­i­dent and the vis­it­ing dig­ni­tary... But Prime Min­is­ter Ben­nett stopped them... (He said that) since the visit is ‘un­of­fi­cial’ pic­tures should wait for an­other oc­ca­sion. The prob­lem, as most top of­fi­cials there re­al­ized, was that Ben­nett did not want to be seen on the front page of Cana­dian news­pa­pers with Her­bert Hoover.

‘’The meet­ing with the pres­i­dent did not go well.’’ Ben­nett avoided the press else­where. The Wash­ing­ton Star said me­dia tracked Ben­nett to a wreath­lay­ing at Ar­ling­ton Ceme­tery: ‘’(But) a pho­tog­ra­pher who fol­lowed (Ben­nett) was re­quested to re­frain from tak­ing pic­tures.’’

Ben­nett is­sued no pub­lic state­ment about the trip, and wouldn’t an­swer ques­tions. One re­porter asked about U.S. hopes for a new se­away: ‘’What about the St. Lawrence?’’ Ben­nett replied: ‘’I be­lieve it is still there.’’

The Ottawa Jour­nal wrote that Ben­nett re­turned home, ‘’as silent as a Tam­many mag­is­trate be­fore a grand jury.’’ The As­so­ci­ated Press said he passed through the train sta­tion un­no­ticed — U.S. sec­re­tary of state Henry L. Stim­son said: ‘’(Ben­nett trav­elled) incog­nito con­sist­ing of the wear­ing of a derby rather than a silk hat.’’

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