Yes,I know, this is a petty and niggly little thing to pick on. But having spent over 40 years following politics almost as closely as I follow my beloved Cubbies, I know that this is precisely the kind of nuanced, subtle, petty niggly stuff that people much smarter than I pick up on.
I used the word “has” rather than the more urgent “just” in the title because this was not a single, catastrophic event, Trump has been doing this from day one. From appointing a Russian Medal of Friendship recipient as Secretary of State, to holding our NATO Article 5 responsibilities hostage in a mob shakedown of the other NATO members, to leaving critical ambassador posts empty, to naming a former Fox and Friends sofa turnip as the #4 at the State Department, Trump has sought to make American diplomacy superfluous. And he has succeeded, beyond his wildest dreams.
Today was supposed to be nothing more than a standard photo spray, His Lowness officially welcoming Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Don the Con spent his time predictably, giving an infomercial for Mar-A-Lago, touting the accomplishment of a Japanese dude that whacked a little ball with a crooked stick better than anybody else a couple of weeks ago, and bragging about how much shit that blows up we sell to Japan. Prime Minister Abe looked like he’d rather be an extra in “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.” You know, the guy who’s car won’t start in the woods at 2 am? But then, Abe opened his mouth, and US diplomacy took it’s last breath.
In public, with cameras rolling, the Prime Minister of Japan referred to the President of the United States as “Donald.” And it wasn’t an accident, it wasn’t just a slip of the tongue, he did it on at least four separate occasions by my amazed count. And it wasn’t in a respectful way, not like”My great friend and President, Donald,” it was like he just bought him a Schlitz at Stompers on a Saturday night. “Donald and I are going to,” and “as I told Donald.”
If you think that I’m just picking nits here, answer me one question. In all of your years of watching TV news, when have you ever heard the leader of a sovereign nation, especially an important one, refer publicly to a counterpart by his or her first name? Hell, Secretaries of state, foreign ministers, and even ambassadors don’t refer to each other casually in public. This would be like Neville Chamberlain sitting in the Chancellery in Berlin and saying “I thank you so much for your hospitality. Me and my boy ‘Dolph here just had a long chin wag, and we decided that Czechoslovakia don’t mean shit.” Even Dolt 45 himself has never referred to the Chancellor of Germany as “Angela,” or the French President as “My man Manny.” As far as I can recall, visiting dignitaries even use formal titles for the spouses of their counterparts.
The old saying goes “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” It is becoming more and more apparent that from Britain to Bangladesh, the first impression Trump seems to have made is “What a pompous, lightweight asshole.” If our own President is treated with such casual dismissal, what chance does our Secretary of State, or any of the ambassadors we still have occupying embassies have? If the President of the United States is not going to be afforded full respect by foreign countries, especially allies, then the United States is not going to be respected either.
It may take 20 guys to build a house, but it only requires one jerkwad taking a sledgehammer to a load bearing member to bring the whole thing crashing down. And if today was a representative example, once we come out of the other side of this slow motion train wreck, it’s going to take at least 20 guys to rebuild our diplomatic house. It’s bad enough when we Americans jokingly refer to ourselves as a “banana republic” under Trump, but it’s so much worse when the rest of the world seriously sees us that way. Thanks, “Donald.”