Trump’s minders may be getting the upper hand at last
Maybe the grown-ups are starting to get a grip in Washington again, says the writer
Maybe the grown-ups are starting to get a grip in Washington.
Over the past week there have been some significant signs that the ignoramus (sorry, the fearless leader) in the White House had overstepped the bounds sufficiently to trigger the flashing red alert. Perhaps what did it was that spectacular foreign junket that began with the president castigating America’s allies and ended with him fawning over a Russian autocrat.
It almost certainly was not the latest chapter in the Trump sexual history – a taped conversation in which a pay-off to a past mistress was apparently arranged. The American electorate has almost no interest in smutty misadventures so long as the economy is chugging away.
As they used to say when it was Bill Clinton’s antics that were being exposed: voters don’t care about (Clinton’s playmate) Paula Jones, they care about the Dow Jones.It remains to be seen how much interest they show in the latest kerfuffle over Trump’s possible collusion with Russia during the 2016 election. Testimony from his then lawyer and chief fixer Michael Cohen, that the candidate himself did, contrary to his public denials, know about the incriminating meeting in Trump Tower between his campaign team, which included his son and son-in-law, and the Russians, is all over the US media.
There was a time when this would have mattered greatly to Republican voters, who were fervently anti-Russian, but maybe not so much now.
In the White House style to which we have grown accustomed, Trump’s present lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, dismisses his predecessor Cohen as a pathological liar, which raises questions about if and how much lying he did during his years at Trump’s side. Again, no one at the moment seems eager to pursue this point.
But whatever it was that brought it about, there can be no question that Donald Trump has taken some unexpected steps back from the brink.The one that has attracted most attention in Britain is his supposed rapprochement with the European Union. This has been wildly overplayed by the pro-Remain press quite deliberately as a trade “deal” with the EU from which, by extrapolation, the UK will be excluded after Brexit. So let’s be absolutely clear: there was no “deal” agreed between Trump and Jean-Claude Juncker in Washington. There was an agreement to a momentary lull in rhetorical hostilities, for the duration of which Trump has agreed not to impose his threatened tariff on German cars.
Have you got that? Trump has withdrawn his threat to impose tariffs in return for – not very much. (Some increase in soybean and liquefied natural gas imports will be permitted, but the EU cannot order anyone to buy them: Juncker may be powerful but he’s not a dictator.)
Little reference was made in those self-congratulatory pronouncements to the alarm expressed by US farming and manufacturing interests over the price of all that bravura trade war talk, but the billions in agricultural subsidies (which recall the Great Depression) conjured up at a moment’s notice suggest that the administration was fully aware of the danger it had put itself in.And all of this overblown excitement is justified on the basis that there will now be continued “negotiations” over US-EU trade, after which the White House may consider once again imposing tariffs on imported German cars. But there is no deadline so far as we have been told, just further negotiations stretching far into the indefinite future.
Furthermore, Trump pledged, in his usual effusive way, love and admiration for the EU member states (and, rather startlingly, for Juncker himself) which he had, only days before, vilified as economic “foes”. It is a testimony to the incoherence and chaos of this presidency that so little surprise was evinced at this volte-face. But there it is.
Europe is now America’s friend again. As will be, without doubt, the UK. Because any grounds for establishing friendly relations with Europe would apply to us as well, only more so.Within the same 48 hours it was announced that Trump’s personal invitation to his new best buddy, Vladimir Putin, to make an unprecedented visit to the White House was being rescinded (or “postponed”, as they say in Washington) until the investigation into Trump’s own relations with Russia have been completed – which was oddly described as being “in the new year”.
There is absolutely no predicted finishing date for the investigation (or “witch-hunt”, in Trump-speak) currently being carried out by Robert Mueller. The only justification for pushing the proposed Putin visit into next year is that it would, if it happened at all, take place after the November mid-term elections.Apropos of my theory about who is regaining control, this postponement was announced by Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, who has a very grown-up grasp indeed of the realities of Putin’s Russia. To compound the mischief, Putin has now issued an invitation to Trump to meet him face to face in Moscow.
So the big question remains hanging in the air: Why are Republican voters, who used to be almost hysterically suspicious of Russia, so insouciant about a president who chooses to take a former KGB officer heavily implicated in international criminal acts, as his trusted confidant – for what else does a strictly private two-hour meeting suggest?Of course, the Cold War is over. But in the recent past, it has been Democrats who have advocated a “reset” of the relationship with Russia, not Republicans. When, during the previous presidential campaign, Mitt Romney stated (with devastating prescience) that Russia was still America’s most dangerous enemy, he was ridiculed by Barack Obama as being a throwback.
What has happened to all those tough Middle American voters who believed their country should stand up to the world’s bullies?
Perhaps all they really care about now is more jobs and lower taxes. Thus ends the American global mission.
– © The Sunday Telegraph