DON’S SURLY SLIGHTS — OR BOM­BAST BURST­ING IN AIR?

O’er the Wal­marts we watched to get a sense of what Amer­i­cans think of Trump’s at­tacks on Trudeau

StarMetro Vancouver - - WORLD - Daniel Dale

ROCKY MOUNT, N.c.—wayne Batch­e­lor, a 72-year-old in north­ern North Carolina, tries to “love ev­ery­body,” and he would like you to know that he has noth­ing but love for Cana­di­ans, who are, it goes with­out say­ing, “fine peo­ple.” He does, how­ever, strongly ob­ject to Canada’s milk tar­iffs, whose ex­is­tence he has re­cently be­come aware of be­cause of the com­plaints of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump. And, there­fore, he has no prob­lem with Trump’s bash­ing of Canada and its prime min­is­ter.

Gail Brown, 63, be­came fu­ri­ous when asked about Trump’s words about Canada. She called Trump “the en­emy.”

“What have the Cana­di­ans done to you?” said Brown, re­tired from a credit union.

Tom El­lis, who re­luc­tantly voted for Clin­ton be­cause he pre­ferred a “so­cial­ist” to a “so­ciopath,” asked: “How dumb can you get?”

Trump’s reg­u­lar grum­bling about Cana­dian trade prac­tices has taken a vit­ri­olic turn this week. The bar­rage of per­sonal in­sults from Trump and his aides has alarmed politi­cians on both sides of the border and raised ques­tions about the im­me­di­ate fu­ture of the bi­lat­eral re­la­tion­ship.

Last Satur­day, the pres­i­dent called Trudeau “dis­hon­est and weak.” On Sun­day, two of his top ad­vis­ers went on tele­vi­sion and called Trudeau a bunch of other dis­parag­ing things. One said there was a “spe­cial place in hell” for the prime min­is­ter.

Canada is the top des­ti­na­tion for North Carolina ex­ports, buy­ing more last year than Mex­ico and China com­bined.

We asked 35 peo­ple shop­ping at a Wal­mart in Rocky Mount, N.C., a city of about 55,000 an hour east of Raleigh, what they thought of all this. It ap­pears peo­ple there are di­vided on the mer­its of lam­bast­ing Canada.

The un­sci­en­tific sam­ple — most of the peo­ple who agreed to speak on the record were over the age of 55 — showed just how quickly the pres­i­dent’s ar­gu­ments can take hold with his de­voted base. And it sug­gested that Trump might be able to sin­gle-hand­edly dam­age Canada’s rep­u­ta­tion with a sig­nif­i­cant chunk of the Amer­i­can pub­lic, turn­ing it into an­other par­ti­san is­sue rather than the sub­ject of univer­sal agree­ment.

There was strong op­po­si­tion to Trump’s re­marks from peo­ple who gen­er­ally dis­like him. But there was sup­port, with only mild crit­i­cism sprin­kled in, from peo­ple who gen­er­ally like him.

“What­ever he’s for, I’m for,” said Effie Pearson, 76, when asked about Trump at­tack­ing Canada. “I think he’s got the knowl­edge enough to know what is right and what is wrong. If he thinks that’s right, I’ll go with him.”

In a Fe­bru­ary poll by Gallup, 94 per cent of Amer­i­cans had a favourable view of Canada. In a 2016 poll by NBC, Canada had 75 per cent ap­proval, 3 per cent dis­ap­proval. But in a poll this week­end by Pub­lic Pol­icy Polling, just

66 per cent ap­proved of Canada; 13 per cent dis­ap­proved,

22 per cent were un­sure. “I think Trump is right,” said Ken­neth Pittman, 78, a re­tired small-busi­ness­man. “I saw on tele­vi­sion where our trade deficit with Canada is like hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars” — U.S. sta­tis­tics show a U.S. sur­plus of bil­lions; Cana­dian sta­tis­tics, cal­cu­lated dif­fer­ently, show a U.S. deficit of bil­lions — “and his tar­iff is go­ing to sort of equal that out soon.”

Read more re­ac­tions from Amer­i­cans at thes­tar.com/world

DANIEL DALE/TORONTO STAR

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