The White House / Flickr trump saudis...
The White House / Flickr

Trump has slapped tariffs on our allies, put the first dent into NATO’s previously unquestioned commitment and pulled out of the Paris Climate accords, all to the bitter anger and disappointment of this nation’s biggest allies. Meanwhile, Trump is busy palling around the globe with dictators from Putin (it always begins with Putin), to the Middle East, and through the Pacific Rim and the Philippines. The easy explanation is that Trump admires absolute power, sees himself as having absolute power, and feels he is among equals with dictators.

Others might say that dictators have mastered the art of kissing Trump’s ass in a way that Angela Merkel cannot (thank god) and never will. Yet, France’s Macron and Canada’s Trudeau have embarrassed themselves to a degree in their willingness to flatter our insecure, stubby-fingered pres. So, what is it?

Politico sets out the embarrassingly simple explanation.

First, disabuse yourself of any notion that flattery plays any role beyond condition precedent.

Trump is very selfish and I think he views flattery as a one-way street where he gets flattered and then there’s no real reciprocal benefit going back the other direction,” said one former White House official. “If you’re a foreign leader you have to realize if you try to butter up Trump it doesn’t really matter, it’s a one way street.”

So, what is it that a dictator might have that a leader of a functioning democracy does not …

That’s right, slap your hand to your head. Money, money explains why Trump is drawn to dictators. Dictators are the only world leaders able to buff that flattery up with something “real” attached, as opposed to the “understandings” preferred by the world’s non-corrupt governments.

What makes the difference, the former official said, is that those regimes take a transactional approach. Many American allies have relied on appeals to reason, data and shared values.

God help anyone wanting to forge a relationship with Trump based upon appeals to reason, data, or a “value” other than a valuation in a transfer of cold hard assets.

“If you’re not a despot, you can’t really be transactional,” the former official said.

I suspect it will take close to a decade to sort through all the “transactions” this president has made on behalf of the United States that were merely a front for the real “transaction,” the one that mattered to our budding despot.

Trump once famously boasted that: “It’s very possible that I could be the first presidential candidate to run and make money on it.” Well, according to the linked Washington Post article, he failed. He lost money in the race. It appears now that Trump has set about to remedy that failure by being the person to make the most money being president. Would the Trump you’ve come to know have any other goal?

God help us, because our allies sure won’t, but dictators around the world are lining up to assist Trump in his quest, one that mirrors theirs. U.S. foreign policy will be weakened for at least a generation because of it.



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