Donald Trump’s legacy to last year’s G-7 was to sign the traditional communique at the end of the summit, pledging to carry out what was agreed to therein, and then to huffily nullify it via tweet after hearing Justin Trudeau talk about U.S. tariffs. With that in mind, Emmanuel Macron will dispense with the tradition this year, calling it “pointless.”
The communique is not the only area of division that Trump brings to the summit, not by a long shot. He is alone in wanting Russia to be readmitted to the group, and that’s a major sticking point. Washington Post:
The president has been isolated on that issue, one of several where the G-7 is increasingly breaking up along familiar lines, said Heather Conley, director of the Europe program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
“What I think we’re starting to see is the institutionalization of what I now call the six plus one, which is the six other countries and the United States,” she said. “What we’re seeing, I think, is the institutionalization of America alone.”
Trump also is adamant about trade and the economy issues dominating the summit — for good reason, because if he doesn’t do something to save a tanking U.S. economy, he’s toast in 2020 and he knows it. However, other world leaders perceive that there are bigger fish to fry. Macron sees the key issues that need to be addressed as the crisis of the burning Amazon and climate change, global inequality, and development in Africa. Trump’s not up for that, he wants to talk about him and grandstand for the base. Macron had lunch with Trump immediately upon his arrival, hoping to set the tone, and Trump sat there stone-faced, according to the Post.
Trump’s continued embrace of his “America First” agenda — even in the face of growing signs of global economic turmoil — indicates that the various world powers will not be able to rely on the United States for steady leadership amid crisis, said Jon B. Alterman, senior vice president at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
“There has been a complete realization on the world stage that the U.S. is not playing its traditional role, and may never again play the role it’s played for 75 years,” he said. “But it’s unclear what role the United States will play, and what the consequences of that might be.”
Trump is there to tout his America First platform, to gloat about how “phenomenal” the United States economy is, while other world economies suffer, and to do as many soundbite moments for Fox News to play for the base, as possible. That’s it. That’s what you can expect from a reality TV actor, currently improvising a character as American president.
He’s there to grin and preen and do a Fonzie-like thumbs up. That’s all that any of this means to him. Never lose sight of the fact that all that Donald Trump knows is television. And his mastery of that medium is what put him where he is, in the most important job in the world, where he can’t function at all, because the man doesn’t live in the real world and never has. The great cosmic irony of all this, is that Trump saw the presidency only through the lens of television. That’s why he took it on. It looked easy. Anybody sane with his real-world qualifications, i.e., reality TV and going bankrupt, would never have even attempted this particular quixotic quest or would have abandoned it upon becoming an immediate laughing stock — but Trump’s particular psychological makeup got him over those hurdles because his narcissism told him to ignore what any sane person would have taken as obvious warning signs and walk away. He didn’t. Because as long as it was all photo ops and sound bites, he was game. Trump’s penchant for television, plus immense anti-Hillary sentiment, is how we ended up with the first made-for-television, and made by television, president. Slate:
Trump is really only good at one thing: being on television. Any event that can be engineered to look like a scene from The Apprentice can be fudged to his advantage. Stadium rallies, press availability from inside the Oval Office, even canned speeches read from a teleprompter can be salvaged; so long as he is essentially only producing a simulacrum of presidenting, he can shift along. But reality confounds him. Take him out from behind the oceans of fawning MAGA hats and put him next to a real survivor of sexual violence, and all the grinning and preening tricks fail him. Put him next to actual heads of state discussing actual international policy, and he sulks and mopes. Oh, he can pull off the photo-op; this is a man made of photo-ops. But time and time again, when he is called on to deal with real people—not glassy superfans but genuine human beings whom he allegedly serves as president—he fails to meet the occasion. The consummate reality-TV president is unerringly confounded by reality.
Trump cannot function in reality. He lives in a hall of mirrors with his made-for-TV family, as the national security apparatus, the national intelligence apparatus, the foreign service, and foreign policy detonate all around him. And on the rare occasion on which he is called to step out from behind the glass panopticon that he has built, he fails, spectacularly, because that which really matters can’t be tweeted or reduced to a campaign video.
That which really matters in the world is now set for discussion by the G-7 summit. Trump is already sulking and pouting. He’s in deeper over his head than he’s ever been. In the days leading up to the summit, Trump escalated his trade war with China, after China called his bluff, he once again confounded Denmark with his rant about Greenland and cancellation of the September state visit there, he went for Jerome Powell’s jugular any number of times, even saying to reporters that he would accept Powell’s resignation; then he declared that the world was in recession, except the U.S., because of him, and capped it off by threatening tariffs against several G-7 nations.
Today’s lunch with Macron is the calm before the storm. The man is both desperate and unhinged, in equal measure, and he’s not going to pull it together and follow Macron’s, or any sane agenda, at G-7. With Trump there, more than the communique at the end of the weekend is pointless. With Trump there, it’s a pointless charade altogether, insofar as expecting any meaningful participation or input from the United States is concerned, and they already know that. Plus, and this is paramount, Trump doesn’t even want to be there, not with everything else that’s blowing up around him. He’s just going through the motions This does not bode well.