Fred Henneke, Attorney & Counselor-At-Law
I write on the eve of the Trump-Putin summit meeting in Helsinki, Finland. My prayer is that this meeting does not result in irreparable harm to the United States. My fear is that the President will agree to some action which he alone can take in an effort to ingratiate himself with the Russian autocrat – e.g., recognizing the Crimea as part of Russia. We shall know tomorrow.
The President touts himself as the master of the “deal”. His book is entitled “The Art of the Deal”. It is possible, although questionable, that Donald Trump, the mega-real estate developer, was a successful deal maker. A deal to build a casino and large luxury hotel is far different from a diplomatic negotiation. In a real estate transaction, everyone has the same over-riding interest – making a lot of money. Bullying and denigration are tolerated because of the immense up-side. Money is the common denominator; hard feelings and insults can be accepted as the path to riches.
Mr. Trump has as his basic philosophy that every negotiation is a zero sum game – if I end up with more sheckels that you, I win and you lose. If I negotiate a contract for less than what you proposed, I win and you lose. There is no such thing as a win-win scenario. A good loser is still a loser. and “loser” is the worst name Trump can call anyone.
Diplomacy is different. Each participant has their own unique goal and perspective. They each want to reach an agreement that benefits their nation and are generally willing to concede certain less important points for the final product if that product satisfies their particular needs. No amount of bluster, name calling and bully tactics will force them to sacrifice their fundamental needs and goals. National pride and self-interest is always the bottom line.
Let’s look at the President’s recent international dealings. He met with Kim Jong Un in SIngapore, a meeting that I applauded. Out of that meeting came no concrete agreements. The President cancelled joint military exercises with South Korea. Even though the joint communique referenced “de-nuclearization”, it has become very apparent that the North Koreans do not share the President’s understanding of that term. There was some mention and discussion about returning the remains of American soldiers who died in the Korean War and remain buried in North Korea; the North Koreans boycotted the latest scheduled meeting to discuss implementation of that agreement. Empty rhetoric on our side; a desirable suspension of joint military exercises on their side of the ledger.
The President has announced and implemented tariffs on virtually all of our major trading partners in a ham-handed effort to reduce our trade deficit. If appears obvious that he expected then to knuckle under. Instead they have each announced, and implemented, counter tariffs, tariffs that have the real potential to raise prices in American on many of the goods we regularly purchase and enjoy and blunt the economic advancement since the tax cuts. His arrogant behavior at the G-7 meeting failed to produce any positive actions on the part of our trading partners.
At the NATO summit, he criticized our most important allies and insulted their leaders. He denigrated their progress in meeting their commitment to raise their individual defense spending to 2% of GDP by 2024. He went so far as to crow that they had upped their commitment to 4% of GDP, a pronouncement that was news to the other attendees. While visiting Great Britain, he managed to insult Teresa May, the Prime Minister, and interject himself into British domestic policy in a recorded interview with The Sun newspaper that he tried to later recant.
Perhaps President Trump should stay home where he can manipulate and brow beat the Republican members of Congress to the delight of his “base” and cable news. At least he would do less harm.