Donald Trump has few fixed convictions. His views on abortion rights, climate change and gun control all underwent convenient conversions when he decided to seek the Republican presidential nomination. But let’s give him credit for something—one thing he seems to have genuinely believed for decades is that the United States, due to its leaders’ stupid generosity, is constantly screwed by the rest of the world. That conviction—detached, as Trump always is, from any serious understanding of the complex policy issues involved– was the basis for the turmoil in Quebec created by the world’s most famous narcissist.
I was doing some quick research on US-European trade policies yesterday, intending a post on the merits, if any, of Trump’s anti-Europe rants, when I came across this typically excellent piece by Paul Krugman. (I almost missed it, as you would, too, if you only read the print version of the Times.) Since I really can’t add much value to Krugman’s brilliantly succinct formulation, I’ll just urge you to read it. Here are some excerpts:
… Trump demanded that the other G7 members remove their “ridiculous and unacceptable” tariffs on U.S. goods – which would be hard for them to do, because their actual tariff rates are very low. The European Union, for example, levies an average tariff of only three percent on US goods….
Was there any strategy behind Trump’s behavior? Well, it was pretty much exactly what he would have done if he really is Putin’s puppet: yelling at friendly nations about sins they aren’t committing won’t bring back American jobs, but it’s exactly what someone who does want to break up the Western alliance would like to see.
Alternatively, maybe he was just acting out because he couldn’t stand having to spend hours with powerful people who will neither flatter him nor bribe him by throwing money at his family businesses – people who, in fact, didn’t try very hard to hide the contempt they feel for the man leading what is still, for the moment, a great power.”
But Trump in Quebec did do us the favor of clarifying his attitude toward the truth. I have said that Trump is an extraordinary liar not only because of the frequency of his falsehoods, but because of his utter indifference to the truth–the truth or falsity or credibility of his words simply don’t matter. But “indifference” may not be the right word; “contempt” might be more accurate. Here is Trump justifying his call to reinstate Russia in the G-7/8:
I have been Putin’s worst nightmare. If Hillary got in—I think Putin is probably going, ‘Man, I wish Hillary won.’”
Everyone except Trump’s hardcore supporters knows that this is exactly the opposite of the truth. Making a claim that is so obviously ridiculous is Trump’s way of telling the world openly that the truth really, really doesn’t matter. Get used to it.