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
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