Trump chooses sides

Walker County Messenger - - Front Page - Ge­orgie Anne Geyer

Of all the time Don­ald Trump has been pres­i­dent, this last week has re­vealed him more to us than all the mid­nights we have al­ready strug­gled through with him.

First was the con­fer­ence of the G-7 in Que­bec. All those poor twerps! Em­manuel, Theresa, An­gela. But he told them, in no un­cer­tain terms, who was who. Didn’t have to say a word, re­ally -- just ar­rived late and left early, then at­tacked Justin Trudeau bru­tally on the way out. (What a hoot.)

Be­cause, you see, they were weak and he was such a dom­i­nat­ing force of na­ture, with his sun-kissed hair like a Greek god’s, that he could call for a re­turn of Rus­sia to that group of dither­ers. There was, as his trade ad­viser later put it, surely a “special place in hell for Justin Trudeau.” Trump him­self called the Cana­dian “very dis­hon­est and weak.” (What fun.)

“A thug,” they called Vladimir Putin -- and so what? The Don­ald has known a lot of thugs in his life, and they got along just fine. The Mafia in New York, to get ce­ment to build his build­ings. The inim­itable Roy Cohn, in­fa­mous from the McCarthy hear­ings. Paul Manafort, now un­der in­dict­ment by the Mueller in­ves­ti­ga­tion. Hey, they at least treated him re­spect­fully.

As some­one who knew Trump best in his early years, Lloyd Grove, then a New York jour­nal­ist, wrote last fall in the Columbia Jour­nal­ism Re­view: “Don­ald’s fa­ther, Fred, while wealthy, was never con­sid­ered a peer by such pow­er­ful Man­hat­tan real es­tate fam­i­lies as the Zeck­endorfs, Dursts and Rudins.” And the Trumps, like fa­ther like son, never got over it -- but could that pos­si­bly have led to Don­ald’s present-day politics of re­sent­ment?

Per­haps that was why Fred Trump, Don­ald’s only real hero, al­ways told his chil­dren there were two kinds of peo­ple: “losers” and “killers.” (You get the pic­ture.)

And now it’s on to Sin­ga­pore, leav­ing all those en­light­ened losers in Que­bec. On to a real man, Kim Jong Un, a strong man, a guy who doesn’t rea­son or me­di­ate -- threat­en­ing one mo­ment to an­ni­hi­late San Fran­cisco, then blow­ing his fa­vorite gen­eral into tiny pieces with an ar­tillery piece. The two of them, meet­ing in­con­gru­ously in one of the most man­nered places on Earth.

The above re­flec­tions are, of course, the mus­ings of this hum­ble in­ter­locu­tor, spec­u­lat­ing some­where be­tween re­al­ity and the strange in­ner world of Don­ald J. Trump. But if these thoughts seem at first a lit­tle ab­surd, think again. Ask in­stead: Are we per­haps at an im­por­tant new mo­ment?

Coin­ci­den­tally, this week, I at­tended a lec­ture where pro­fes­sor Wil­liam Taub­man, the re­spected au­thor of “Gor­bachev: His Life and Times,” cred­ited the friend­ship, or at least lik­ing, be­tween Mikhail Gor­bachev and Ron­ald Rea­gan as a rea­son for their suc­cess to­gether in end­ing the Cold War.

“They liked each other, they treated each other po­litely,” Taub­man said. Then he quoted a top aide to Rea­gan as say­ing they were “like two fel­lows who ran into each other at a club and de­cided they had a lot in com­mon.”

It may seem overly sim­ple, per­haps even child­ish, to dwell on per­sonal feel­ings in for­eign af­fairs. But in fact, they can be de­fin­i­tive and de­ci­sive, just as bad per­sonal feel­ings can and surely will re­sult from Trump’s ig­no­ble in­sults of Canada.

Move on next to glob­al­iza­tion, that largely lib­eral idea that the world is one and should be open, safe and free. Pres­i­dent Trump has pre­tended that he hates glob­al­iza­tion, but he hates only the glob­al­iza­tion of those twerpy losers he left in the dust in Que­bec.

No, the harder truth we are see­ing acted out is that Trump is a leader in glob­al­iza­tion, but not that de­lib­er­a­tive, rules-based com­mu­nity of na­tions led by the U.S. and the West since World War II. It’s a new, de­ci­sive glob­al­iza­tion of au­thor­i­tar­i­ans, with no rules, no man­ners and no lim­its.

Trump re­laxes with Putin; he smiles, laughs and jokes with the au­thor­i­tar­i­ans of Turkey, the Philip­pines, Hun­gary and Saudi Ara­bia be­cause they are his club -- and if he has his way, it will be OUR club.

Of course, there is much more to the Amer­i­can pres­i­dent’s ev­i­dent af­fec­tion for these guys. In the end, I bet we’ll find Trump, a man who calls bank­ruptcy his brother, dan­ger­ously in fi­nan­cial hock to the Rus­sian oli­garchs and Mafia. But that’s a story for an­other day.

Mean­while, the clock is run­ning out. Amer­i­cans owe it to their his­tory and to their honor to de­cide whether they re­ally want their pres­i­dent to re­align the iconic Amer­i­can ex­per­i­ment in self-gover­nance and hu­man equal­ity with the morally and po­lit­i­cally worst so­ci­eties on Earth. Is a new anti-Western axis tak­ing form be­fore our very eyes?

Ge­orgie Anne Geyer has been a for­eign cor­re­spon­dent and com­men­ta­tor on in­ter­na­tional af­fairs for more than 40 years. She can be reached at gigi_geyer(at)

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