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Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Presidential l'amour among the Roman columns

by digby

I wrote about Trump and Macron for Salon this morning:

There was a time not all that long ago when the right wing of the Republican Party referred to the France as the land of "cheese eating surrender monkeys" and were so offended by its leadership's unwillingness to blindly follow George W. Bush's headlong march to war that they absurdly changed the name of french fries in the cafeteria to "freedom fries."

There was a legendary exchange on CNN's Crossfire between Tucker Carlson and French foreign policy expert Justin Vaisse over whether or not France was going to be economically devastated by American disdain for everything French.
CARLSON: But just, honestly, just correct the misperception here. This is not simply an effort by the administration to beat up on France. This is coming -- there's a deep wellspring of anti-French feeling in this country, and it's going to have consequences. This is a bottle of French wine. This is a bottle of American wine.  
VAISSE (thick French accent): It is bigger.  
CARLSON: And it's bigger. That's exactly right. More forceful. There will be Americans who boycott French products. This in the end is really going to hurt France, isn't it?  
VAISSE: No, I think it is going hurt wine lovers.
In many ways those days were no less surreal than these.

But just imagine if Tucker Carlson of 2003 had seen into the future to a day when a Republican president stood on the steps of the White House kissing and hugging and holding hands with the President of France. That happened:

Ashley Parker at the Washington Post examined the dynamics of the handsy bromance:

The interactions throughout the visit, said Patti Wood, a body language expert and author of “SNAP: Making the Most of First Impressions, Body Language, and Charisma,” largely fall under a category known as “gamesmanship.”

In calling out Macron’s alleged dandruff, she said, Trump “did something called primate grooming.”

“It said, ‘We have an intimate relationship, but I’m dominant, I’m the alpha gorilla, I’m going to groom you,’ ” Wood said. “‘But I’m going to criticize you by saying you have dandruff, and I’m going to do that on the world stage and see how you handle that.”

She wasn't the only one to make that observation:

It's funny, but it's also weird. I don't think I've ever seen anything quite like it. George W. Bush was always somewhat awkwardly familiar with fellow leaders. He used to pal around with UK Prime Minister Tony Blair and made Angela Merkel uncomfortable with his frat boy horseplay. But even he didn't play this kind of primitive dominance game.

And it wasn't just physical. It's clear that President Macron came with a message about Iran and it was probably coordinated with the other European leaders. And for all of his touchy feely affection for the French leader,  in his comments at a joint photo-op and press conference, Trump stomped all over the Iran nuclear agreement calling it "insane" and "ridiculous" and he issued a threat that Iran would "have bigger problems than they ever had before" if they defied him. He went off on his usual tiresome, ill-informed rant about how the US had sent planeloads of money to Tehran to pay them off. (It was Iran's own money.)

Macron indicated that they were talking about maybe adding some provisions that could allay Trump's concerns and the president indicated later that he might be flexible but then retreated to his "we'll see what happens" stance (which usually means he has no clue what he's talking about) saying:
"Nobody knows what I'm going to do on the 12th. This is a deal with decayed foundations. It's a bad deal, it's a bad structure, it's falling down. It should have never, ever been made."
Macron's ploy to appeal to Trump's colossal ego in the vain and somewhat arrogant assumption that he could manipulate the ignorant leader by being his friend didn't work in any substantive way.  He isn't the first to have tried that gambit and he isn't the first to have failed. Trump loves to be loved but it's a one way street.

Just ask South Carolina Senator Lindsay Graham who spent months cultivating Trump's friendship, flattering him and feting him and telling him what a big, strong leader he was only to be crudely and publicly demeaned when he brokered a deal to fix the DACA problem that Trump's hardliners didn't like. He thought he had earned the president's trust and he probably had as far as it extends to anyone.

But Trump doesn't understand the job of president or the issues, so he has no basis upon which to make decisions other than some primitive playground dominance game or, as far as we know, simply flipping a coin. He doesn't know what he's going to do because he doesn't know anything.

This profile of H.R McMaster in this week's New Yorker lays out in chilling and alarming detail just what an unstable, unprepared man the president is and the outrageous lengths to which people inside the administration must go to keep him from blowing up the world out of sheer ignorance, emotional volatility or some combination of both. It's much worse than we knew.

The profile is not especially kind to McMaster who turns out to be lacking in self-awareness on a rather grand scale himself, failing  to figure out a way to maneuver or persuade this willful president to take his duty seriously and apply even a modicum of energy toward learning what he needs to know, much less govern his impulsive nature. It's a lethal and dangerous combination which nobody knows how to deal with.  McMaster ended up impugning his own integrity and being shown the door for his trouble as have so many others who've come into the president's orbit. Nobody's reputation survives Trump.

President Macron probably doesn't have a choice but to try to get through to him however he can but the buddy bromance won't work. (He's already being called "Trump's bichon frise.")  The only thing any foreign ally can do is prepare for the worst and hope that Trump somehow randomly chooses the right path.

The whole world is just floating on the Trump wave right now, praying it doesn't rise up and crash over all of us. You can love him or hate him or ignore him and it won't make a bit of difference.

Macron must realize that Trump's newest bff is a man named John Bolton and he's itching to tear up the Iran deal and go to war. (He is, after all, part of a foreign policy claque that used to say "everyone wants to go to Bagdad, real men want to go to Tehran.)