On December 31, the first page of the Berlin newspaper “Tagesspiegel” (Daily Mirror) was covered with drawings of the political personalities of 2017. Most of them were German, but the biggest face in the middle of the page represented Donald Trump. Trump believes he ought to be the center of all attention. He was angry that he was not selected as TIME Magazine’s Person of the Year, and said so.
But he won’t be happy about his big picture: he had a duck bill, transformed into the cartoon buffoon Donald Duck, the only face that was so distorted. Inside, the review of the political year said that he twittered “nonsense” and has no scruples. In October, more than half of Germans surveyed said relations with the US were bad or very bad. The public thinks Trump is a bigger foreign policy problem than the dictators in North Korea and Russia.
No wonder, since Trump insulted the whole country, one of our closest allies in Europe. At a European Union summit in Brussels in May, he said, “The Germans are bad, very bad. Look at the millions of autos that they sell in the USA. Horrible. We’re gonna stop that.”
German auto makers don’t sell “millions” in the US, but they make hundreds of thousands of cars and employ thousands of workers here. The US can’t just “stop” importing German cars, it’s the whole European Union or nothing. German Chancellor Angela Merkel had already explained this to Trump 11 times during their meeting last March, but it had no effect.
Trump has rejected long-standing foreign policy agreements that are important to Germans, such as the Paris climate agreement and the nuclear deal with Iran. After meeting with Trump in May, Merkel felt the need to make the extraordinary statement that Europe must “really take our fate into our own hands. . . . The times in which we could rely fully on others, they are somewhat over. This is what I experienced in the last few days.” The German foreign minister said last month that “relations with the US will never be the same.”
Trump has also severely damaged the bond with our other most important ally, England. After he re-tweeted anti-Muslim videos from a far right British group, and then rebuked Prime Minister Theresa May, British leaders from all parties were outraged. Members of Parliament called him “stupid”, “racist” and “a fascist”. Parliament debated not allowing him to address them in a future visit, the second time that Parliament talked about whether to deny this American President a state visit. The Speaker of the House of Commons said that Trump would not be welcome to speak in Parliament. Half of Britons surveyed want Trump to be disinvited. The videos have nothing to do with immigration to Britain or the US.
Trump began damaging our relationship with Mexico at the start of his candidacy in 2015, by speaking in demeaning terms about all Mexicans in the US and demanding that Mexico pay for his gigantic Wall. Six days after Trump was inaugurated, Mexican President Peña Nieto canceled a trip to Washington, because of Trump’s insistence about the Wall. In a subsequent phone call, Trump threatened to impose tariffs on Mexican goods and demanded that Nieto stop saying that Mexico would not pay for the Wall: “if you are going to say that Mexico is not going to pay for the Wall, then I do not want to meet with you guys anymore, because I cannot live with that.”
Peña Nieto’s attempts to continue cordial relations with the US government sent his approval ratings down under 15%. A poll in July found that 88% of Mexicans viewed Trump unfavorably. With no evidence that Mexico will make any contribution toward the wall, Trump said again on Saturday that Mexico will pay for the Wall, but he asked Congress to appropriate $18 billion for it.
A new Mexican President will be elected in July, and Mexican officials have told Washington that Trump’s behavior might help whoever is the most anti-American candidate win. Duncan Wood, the director of the Wilson Center’s Mexico Institute, part of the Smithsonian Institute, said, “Having worked in international relations for twenty years, I never thought we’d get to the point where one person could come along and blow everything up. But here we are.”
Trump is blowing up our relationships with all our most important foreign friends. He is not the biggest peacemaker, as we have long hoped our Presidents could be. He is not the biggest promoter of democracy, which we have long claimed is our national interest. He is not the best advertisement for America, not the face we wish to show the world. His work is a world-wide disaster.
He just gets the most attention, which he demands and will do anything to keep. Too bad he only succeeds at being the biggest personality, not the best President.
Published in the Jacksonville Journal-Courier, January 9, 2018