BE­FORE PUTTING “AMER­ICA FIRST,” TRUMP FOL­LOWS HIS GUT

CEO Magazine North America - - CONTENTS - CHIEF EX­EC­U­TIVE OF­FI­CER TEAM

Don­ald Trump ap­pears to see the world as he saw the New York prop­erty mar­ket, a place of “screw or be screwed.” A deal in which the other guy walks away happy is one where you could have got more. He sees in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions as he saw re­al­ity tele­vi­sion: un­pre­dictabil­ity and ab­sur­dity raise the rat­ings, turnover in the char­ac­ters keeps things fresh, and you should never let any­one for­get who is the star of the show.

The na­ture of Trump’s goals hardly changes: you can ex­pect him to try to press ahead with things men­tioned on the cam­paign trail, to undo any­thing achieved by Barack Obama, and not to think hard, if at all, about the con­se­quences. You can ex­pect an­gry and fatu­ous tweet­ing and weird per­sonal touches, as in the re­mark­able, cloy­ing let­ter to Kim Jong-un on May 24th. You can ex­pect ev­ery­thing to be trans­ac­tional. At ev­ery point, Trump wants to get some­thing for him­self—some­thing which will look good.

The five ma­jor pol­icy moves of the past three months—scrap­ping the Iran deal, of­fer­ing a sum­mit to Kim, set­ting the scene for a trade war with China, slap­ping steel tar­iffs on his al­lies, and hav­ing bipo­lar thoughts on the Putin sum­mit—all re­flect who Trump is and how he works. It’s un­likely that any other re­cent pres­i­dent would have un­der­taken th­ese moves, let alone all five at the same time. To his un­doubted plea­sure, they have scan­dal­ized much of the US for­eign pol­icy es­tab­lish­ment.

Trump came to power ar­gu­ing that the world was a mess and Amer­i­can for­eign pol­icy an ab­ject fail­ure. Cen­tral to his “Amer­ica First” view was that it was no longer the job of the US gov­ern­ment to clean up the mess, but to pur­sue its own in­ter­ests. It was time for Amer­ica’s en­e­mies to fear her, for her al­lies to pay their fair share, and for the coun­try to be more selfish in pur­su­ing what it wanted. Yet the grow­ing sense is that Trump puts his own gut feel­ing be­fore the coun­try.

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