Decoding Trump very important for Canada
Ever polarizing, U.S. President Donald Trump typically evokes one of two reactions: contempt from his detractors or, among his supporters, praise for being the anti-politician “draining the swamp.”
This week, as Canadians jumped to the defence of our country’s trade interests as they were being savaged by Trump — compelling many of us to align our interests with an otherwise inept Prime Minister Justin Trudeau — it was perverse.
The same Donald Trump, months ago, spoke only of “tweaking ” trade with Canada and even entering a bilateral agreement if it became necessary to wind up NAFTA because of concerns about Mexico.
Now, he has Canada clearly in his sights, hits us with steel and aluminum tariffs and then goes ballistic when Canada responds.
Planning to retaliate with a World Trade Organization compliant set of countermeasure tariffs and stating that we will not be pushed around — something any responsible Canadian leader would do — Prime Minister Trudeau was labelled as “dishonest and weak” by Trump and then subjected to even worse name calling from a Trump minion who later apologized.
A couple of days later, Trump threatened that Trudeau’s comments in defending our country would “cost a lot of money for the people of Canada.”
While Trump’s behaviour, which is suspect at the best of times, justifiably angers Canadians, the entire saga brought to mind a passage from Sun Tzu’s Art of War.
The Chinese military strategist and philosopher wrote that “he who exercises no forethought but makes light of his opponents is sure to be captured by them.”
Although President Trump’s ego and hubris seem to border on narcissism and at the same time a notoriously thin skin leaves him frequently slighted, he is, at other times, crazy like a fox. Witness his tearing up of the dubious Iran deal, domestic tax policy changes and refusal to continue blocking the relocation of America’s embassy to Jerusalem, which every modern president has done.
Simply dismissing Trump’s entire political character as a profane parody or farce may overlook some distinctions between signal and noise.
Reflexive Trump haters — well represented in Canada and overwhelmingly populating the news media — only frustrate themselves when they fulminate angrily from the sidelines and don’t take the time to understand who they are dealing with.
As the American election’s final chapter was being written in the fall of 2016, writer Salena Zito coined the now famous statement about candidate Trump that “the press takes him literally, but not seriously; his supporters take him seriously, but not literally.” This was all anyone needed to know about the U.S. election and where it was heading.
Now — within a handful of days — as we witness the president’s impatience at the G7 Summit, churlish treatment of Canada on trade and then performance with North Korea’s dictator Kim Jong Un, another writer has come up with a useful Trump primer.
Jeffrey Goldberg, editor in chief of The Atlantic, trying to determine a “Trump Doctrine,” suggests that three characteristics underlie all things Donald Trump.
First, “No friends, no enemies” explains how the president does not believe in any alliances with any other countries.
Second, “Permanent destabilization creates American advantage” is where Trump — like he’s done in our weird trade fight — strives to keep allies and enemies alike always off-balance, which benefits the U.S. and Trump’s short-term goals.
The third description is, “We’re America, B--ch,” a crude expression signifying that the U.S. is unapologetic and everyone else can take it or leave it.
To be sure, these hallmarks of Trump’s rule are harsh, unhelpful and may ultimately harm America more than anybody else.
But these are good lessons to learn for watching the most unorthodox and unpredictable president in modern history.
Gormley is a broadcaster, lawyer, author and former Progressive Conservative MP whose radio talk show is heard weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on 650 CKOM Saskatoon and 980 CJME Regina.