Noth­ing new or shock­ing about Trump’s threats to Canada

Tehran Times - - INTERNATIONAL - By An­drew Mitro­vica

Myths can be re­as­sur­ing and mis­lead­ing. They are of­ten, as well, easy sub­sti­tutes for crit­i­cal think­ing among lazy writ­ers whose gaze is per­ma­nently fixed on the present, with­out so much as an oc­ca­sional glance at the not-so-dis­tant past.

These truths have been on abun­dant, telling dis­play over the past few weeks as Don­ald Trump con­tin­ues to ric­o­chet wildly like a fre­netic pin­ball, bounc­ing from one petu­lant tirade to an­other.

Trump’s lat­est spasm of id­iocy wrapped in the im­pri­matur of the pres­i­den­tial seal was his pri­mary-school-yard-like taunts over trade and tar­iffs lobbed like diplo­matic grenades at Canada - that love­able, cud­dly coun­try led by a love­able, cud­dly prime min­is­ter.

In Trump’s manic mind, Canada is, in fact, a sly, fiendish, du­plic­i­tous “trad­ing part­ner” that has fleeced Amer­ica out of good jobs and prof­itable busi­ness for far too long.

“Canada’s bru­tal, Canada’s re­ally tough,” Trump told an ador­ing crowd of cultists in Penn­syl­va­nia re­cently. “Be­cause they just out­smarted our politi­cians for decades.”

To teach Amer­ica’s tra­di­tion­ally com­pli­ant poo­dle to the north and other for­eign runts a sharp, po­ten­tially painful les­son, Trump has threat­ened to slap hefty tar­iffs on steel and alu­minium. Later, Trump of­fered Canada and Mex­ico a tem­po­rary re­prieve on the pro­posed levies in ex­change for con­ces­sions dur­ing the nev­erend­ing NAFTA re-ne­go­ti­a­tions.

Trump’s vin­dic­tive gam­bit was, of course, in keep­ing with his vin­dic­tive char­ac­ter. Clearly, this is a pres­i­dent who con­sid­ers brazen threats, hu­mil­i­a­tion and ex­tor­tion ef­fec­tive ne­go­ti­at­ing tools.

De­spite the hy­per­bolic ex­pres­sions of gob-smack­ing aghast by his­tor­i­cally il­lit­er­ate pun­dits in Canada and abroad, CanadianAmerican re­la­tions haven’t al­ways been lovey-dovey, and Trump’s not the first U.S. pres­i­dent to use pro­fan­ity, threats, hu­mil­i­a­tion and ex­tor­tion to try to fash­ion his pre­ferred way with oh-solove­able, but, at times, re­cal­ci­trant Canada.

John F Kennedy was an at­trac­tive, charm­ing bully who couldn’t abide the sight of Canada’s then Con­ser­va­tive Prime Min­is­ter, John Diefen­baker. Tit-for-tat, Diefen­baker wasn’t a big fan of Amer­ica’s “young pup” pres­i­dent.

In any event, Kennedy ex­pected the pro­vin­cial Diefen­baker to do what he was, in ef­fect, or­dered to do when the U.S. wanted to sta­tion a slew of nu­clear-tipped anti-air­craft mis­siles in Canada.

In the face of anti-nu­clear protests at home, Diefen­baker de­murred and ul­ti­mately said no. Kennedy didn’t for­give or for­get Diefen­baker’s in­so­lence. Af­ter a terse White House meet­ing with Diefen­baker in early 1961, Kennedy told his brother, Robert: “I don’t want to see that bor­ing son-of-a-b**ch again.”

Diefen­baker’s view of Kennedy was even less char­i­ta­ble. “He’s a hot­head. He’s a fool - too young, too brash, too in­ex­pe­ri­enced, and a boast­ful son of a b**ch!”

Fast for­ward to April 1965: Kennedy was dead, mur­dered by an as­sas­sin’s bul­lets. Lyn­don John­son, a de­cid­edly less at­trac­tive, less charm­ing bully was pres­i­dent, con­sumed by a dis­as­trous im­pe­ri­al­ist war in Viet­nam that the U.S. was los­ing.

Lester B Pear­son, a bow-tie wear­ing for­mer ca­reer diplo­mat and No­ble Peace Prize win­ner turned Lib­eral prime min­is­ter, made a speech at Tem­ple Univer­sity, where he sug­gested the U.S. pause the lethal, in­ces­sant bomb­ing of North Viet­nam and seek a so­lu­tion by talk­ing.

En­raged by Pear­son’s au­dac­ity and temer­ity, John­son sum­moned Pear­son to Camp David the fol­low­ing day where he ad­min­is­tered a ver­bal rod to the short, soft-spo­ken Cana­dian.

John­son, who stirred out­rage af­ter be­ing pic­tured pick­ing up his bea­gles by their ears, al­most did the same with Pear­son, opt­ing in­stead to haul the diminu­tive prime min­is­ter up by his shirt lapels.

“Don’t you come into my liv­ing room and piss on my car­pet,” the tow­er­ing John­son barked at the mor­ti­fied Pear­son.

Pear­son got John­son’s pro­fane, brutish mes­sage. He never made an­other speech at an­other Amer­i­can univer­sity to ad­vise, sug­gest or im­ply that John­son should stop the bomb­ing and killing and to give peace a chance.

Pear­son was suc­ceeded by Pierre El­liott Trudeau. John­son was suc­ceeded by Richard Nixon. Trudeau didn’t like Nixon. Nixon de­spised Trudeau.

Trudeau’s in­spired de­scrip­tion about the na­ture and state of re­la­tions be­tween the two coun­tries may have trig­gered a patho­log­i­cally thin-skinned Nixon.

“Liv­ing next to you is in some ways like sleep­ing with an ele­phant. No mat­ter how friendly or tem­per­ate the beast, one is af­fected by ev­ery twitch and grunt,” Trudeau said in Ot­tawa in 1969.

The depth of the U.S. pres­i­dent’s seething en­mity to­wards Trudeau was re­vealed in 1971 when Nixon was cap­tured on his no longer se­cret Oval Of­fice tape recorder call­ing Canada’s cere­bral, Je­suit-trained prime min­is­ter, “an a**hole.”

Trudeau’s re­tort was as dis­mis­sive as it was scathing: “I’ve been called worse things by bet­ter peo­ple.” Ouch.

The pair met at the White House in 1971. Af­ter the visit, Nixon turned to his chief of staff, H R Halde­man and, with his sig­na­ture coarse­ness, said: “That Trudeau, he’s a clever son of a b**ch.”

Nixon wasn’t done with the “pompous egghead” just yet. He hatched a plan with his hench­man, Halde­man, to plant an em­bar­rass­ing story about the Cana­dian prime min­is­ter with the high-pro­file and widely-syn­di­cated muck­rak­ing colum­nist, Jack An­der­son.

“You’ve got to put it to these peo­ple for kick­ing the U.S. around af­ter what we did for that lousy son of a bitch. Give it to some­body around here,” Nixon told Halde­man.

That was al­most 50 years ago. But the pres­i­den­tial threats and petty de­sire to get even with “lousy” Cana­dian politi­cians who are “kick­ing the U.S. around” is a vir­tual word-for-word fac­sim­ile of Don­ald Trump’s an­gry, barely co­her­ent rhetoric to­day.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Iran

© PressReader. All rights reserved.