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Does photo released by Germany’s Chancellor show a bold president standing up for U.S. interests, or a petulant outsider betraying America’s strongest allies and being scolded by a powerful woman leader?  It all depends on your perspective.

By Miriam Raftery

Photo by Jesco Denzel, posted by German Chancellor Angela Merkel via Instagram

June 12, 2018 (Berlin) – Hours after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced at a news conference that leaders of all seven nations at the G-7 summit signed a communique agreeing on a broad range of economic and foreign policy goals, a statement affirmed other allied leaders, President Donald Trump sent tweets aboard Air Force One blasting apart the reputed deal. Trump accused Trudeau of “false statements” and said he has instructed Congress “not to endorse the Communique.”

Further frustrating allies, Trump also called for Russia to be readmitted to the G-7. Russia was kicked out for its backing of the Crimean invasion, a violating of international law, the New York Times reports.

Trump blasted Canada for charging tariffs on goods in retaliation for tariffs that Trump himself recently imposed on Canadian imports, and faulted Germany for “flooding” the U.S. market with German automobiles, escalating a trade war that many economic experts have warned could destabilize the global economy.

The President has said tariffs are needed to protect American manufacturers and jobs. But those savings may be offset by loss of other U.S. jobs and manufacturers unable to export and sell their goods outside the U.S. due to retaliatory tariffs, adding complexity to the process.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel posted a photo on Instagram blandly labeled “spontaneous meeting between two working sessions.”  CNN reports that a senior diplomat says the photo revealed a tense moment in trade negotiations.

The photo, taken by Jesco Denzel with lighting and composition reminiscent of a Norman Rockwell painting, promptly went viral—prompting mostly ridicule and some praise around the world.

Trump’s national security advisor John Bolton forwarded the photo on Twitter with this comment:  Just another #G7 where other countries expect America will always be their bank. The President made it clear today, No more.”

Meanwhile world leaders and diplomats voiced shock and disgust at Trump’s quixotic turn-around.

Norbert Rőttgen, foreign affairs committee chair in Germany’s Bundestag, or Parliament, stated condescendingly, “The president acted and reacted in the childish way he could be expected to,” the Washington Post reports.

Merkel called Trump’s withdrawal via Tweet “sobering” and “depressing.”

“Francois Heisbourg, former French presidential national security advisor, asked, “How is it possible to work this way if once you have agreed to something, two hours later the guy decides he doesn’t agree with what he agreed with?”

The blow-up marked a stark decline in U.S. relations with allies in the G-7 nations (Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Italy, Canada Japan and the U.S.) that collectively control 62 percent of the world's wealth.

German newspaper Die Welt posted the photo calling it the “moment that broke the West.”  China’s People’s Daily mocked Trump by posting the image along with a summit photo of China’s leader walking in unity with other world leaders.

On social media, the photo became a target of Photoshop efforts and attempts to caption the image.  Some portrayed Trump as a toddler in a time-out. One altered image put Trump in a high chair with a spilled bowl of spaghetti on his head. Another poster suggested that Merkel must be asking Trump what Russian premier Vladimir Putin held over him.

One world leader, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, did come to Trump’s defense—not on his purported breaking of the communique pact, but on his suggestion to readmit Russia to the G-7.  On Twitter, Conte said readmitting Russia would “be in the interests of everybody.” 

Conte’s praise promptly drew condemnation in the Italian media, with one leftist paper accusing Trump of building an “anti-Allied axis” with Trump, the Washington Post reports.

Italy, it may be recalled, fought against the U.S. and its Allies and alongside Russia and Hitler during World War II.

Trump’s defense of Putin further baffled allies already troubled by allegations of Putin meddling in U.S. elections and Trump taking Russia’s side on various international matters, as well as special prosecutor Robert Mueller’s investigation into alleged Trump campaign team collusion with Russia, an allegation Trump has vigorously denied despite indictments of multiple members of his campaign team and cabinet.

While to date the President himself has not been formally accused of any crime,  the indictments against his team members are serious, including conspiracy against the U.S., but the President has not denounced their actions.  Most recently, Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani admitted that Trump lied to media when he denied writing a memo sent to the press in which Trump denied any knowledge of the meeting among his top campaign advisors and Russians promising dirt on Trump’s opponent Hillary Clinton.

Whether Trump’s actions toward our European and Canadian Allies were appalling or admirable depends on one’s perspective, or as the Atlantic writer An Xiao Mina observed, the debate over the photo is reminiscent of the famous blue/gold dress where different viewers saw different colors, or the Yanny/Laural audio in which different people heard different words, depending on frequencies their ears could pick up.

In the case of geopolitical fraying among the U.S. and our closest allies, however, the stakes of what’s really behind the photo are far higher than in the amusing but frivolous controversies over a dress color or audible perceptions of a word.






Trump Explained

“But there are 5 simple rules for understanding President Trump. They define how he’s lived his life until now. And what still drives him at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. If you understand them, you will get what he’s doing. If you don’t, there’s always a job waiting at the New York Times. 1. Act, Don’t React Trump hates reacting, he loves taking the initiative and forcing others, rivals, competitors, media syndicates or foreign dictators, to react to him. That’s the essence of strategy and he nails it the way few have. When UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson muttered that there was a “method to his madness”, that was it. The method is becoming the driving force in an escalating conflict. Instead of reacting to attacks, Trump forces his attackers to react to him. He takes the initiative and leaves his opponents sputtering. That’s how he became the President of the United States. It’s what he’s doing internationally. By acting, Trump takes control of each encounter. What happens next may not be ideal, but Trump cares more about maintaining the initiative than about forcing a specific outcome. He doesn’t see politics as a chess match, but as a boxing match. He doesn’t get locked into predetermined goals. Instead he lets the kinetic confrontation create opportunities by exploiting his opponent’s reactions. Picking a fight with the North Korean dictator, led to a peace summit. A trade war with China has already led to some serious concessions. A trade shoving match with Europe and Canada offers potential wins. Unlike previous administrations, Trump isn’t satisfied with the status quo. And that means that he tries a lot of things. That takes us to Rule 2. 2. Try Everything Critics have poked fun at Trump’s failed business ventures. But you don’t succeed without trying and failing. Trump is comfortable with failure. He knows that if you’re willing to knock on 100 doors, you might get 1 sale. His approach to politics is trying a lot of different approaches and policies to get to a win. When Obama expressed a willingness to meet with dictators and terrorists, it’s because he was already sympathetic to them. The seeds of the Iran deal were always in him. The negotiations just took him where he already wanted to be. Trump however isn’t meeting with Kim Jong-un because he likes him. He’s doing it because it might pay off. Or it won’t and then he’ll try something else. Obama needed Iran. Trump doesn’t need North Korea. He can take it or leave it. He’s hungry for wins, but he also sees the potential for them everywhere so he doesn’t overcommit to any individual deal. Political professionals scoff at that scrappy attitude. They insist on the importance of posture and position. Trump knows all about posture and position, but he refuses to be its prisoner. He can insult Kim one day and flatter him the next. Politics is just business with countries instead of companies. Trump’s approach is the same to both politics and business. Do whatever it takes to get the deal. And then decide if the deal is worth taking. 3. Chaos is Power Most people want to minimize chaos. Countries and companies spend fortunes, fight wars and dedicate decades to reducing chaos. Trump however thrives on chaos. Instead of trying to control chaos, he generates it, causing uncertainty and then offering a sense of security in exchange for a good deal. That’s what Trump is doing with trade. It’s what he did to China and North Korea. Trump tries everything (Rule 2) and escalates confrontations (Rule 1) so that his opponents have no way to counter him except by escalating the confrontation and creating more chaos. And then Trump forces them to negotiate by proving he can function in a chaotic and uncertain situation better than they can. That’s how he got North Korea to the table. After decades of the Norks intimidating previous administrations by creating chaos with their threats, Trump topped those threats. The media warned that a nuclear war would break out. Instead China and North Korea chose a peace summit. The summit may come to nothing, but Trump had already broken the Nork ability to intimidate us. China, Europe and Canada don’t want a trade war. They have nothing to gain and plenty to lose. By creating economic chaos, Trump also became the only man who can end the chaos and restore security. Chaos is power. When the United States became a world power, its administrations emphasized stability over everything. Trump welcomes chaos because it’s a much more effective negotiating strategy. Entities that seek order can be intimidated with chaos. But politicians who seek chaos can’t be intimidated. Trump doesn’t seek order. He wants victory. 4. Never Show Your Hand Conventional politicians have a narrow window of agenda items. They’re very clear on what they want, what they don’t want, what they’re willing to do and what they’re willing to give up to get it. Trump has always been ambiguous. Parse his sentences and you can read them three different ways. Each assertion eventually uncovers a contradiction. That’s confusion. Tactical confusion. As Trump has mentioned plenty of times, he loves being unpredictable. Trump is the only president in a century who is able to go into negotiations with a completely unpredictable outcome. And the roster of competing figures around him only creates more chaos. To truly create chaos (Rule 3), you have to be unpredictable. That creates insecurity. It forces your opponents to read things into every move you make. And then to be stymied by the futility of it. Ambiguity leaves the other side unable to assess what the United States would actually settle for. Instead it ends up offering far more than we would settle for just to restore that sense of security. Trump is the most famous man in the world. And yet his decision-making remains mysterious. 5. Don’t Be Afraid to be the Bad Guy If Americans have a fatal flaw, a weakness that undermines our domestic and international politics, it’s a need to be liked. Most other countries don’t wonder whether the rest of the world likes them. Blame Hollywood, dime novels or comic books, but as Americans we see ourselves as the heroes. And our enemies, foreign and domestic, know that they can break us by making us question our goodness. It’s how they did it in Vietnam, in Iraq and too many foreign policy debates to count. One of Trump’s great strengths is that he’s not afraid to be the bully, the heavy and the jerk. He can flatter Kim Jong-un, Trudeau and any other leader. Or call them names. He can say shocking things and take unacceptable positions if it gets him what he wants. That’s the attribute that upsets and infuriates Never Trumpers. But it also gives the United States far more negotiating leverage and freedom than it ever had before. And that’s why the people chose him. Trump embodied all the things that had been going unsaid and all the truths that needed telling. Past presidents valued their personal relationships with foreign leaders. But Trump is willing to throw a punch at the boy band leader of Canada if it gets a farmer in Wisconsin a better deal for his dairy. On the global stage, President Trump has forced North Korea, China, Europe and Canada to react to him. He’s trying everything. He’s creating chaos. He’s hiding his hand and he’s winning. The media shouts that Trump is isolated. If he were isolated, the world wouldn’t be revolving around him. The world doesn’t stop when Putin or China’s Jinping issue a statement. But a single Trump tweet can upend the priorities of international diplomacy for days, weeks and even months. Trump isn’t reacting to the world. The world is reacting to him. And as long as he can keep the world reacting to him, he’s the one setting the agenda for the world.”


“Trump Explained” is by

Daniel Greenfield

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Psych 101

Personality disorders abound.