Thursday, 24 May 2018
Given Donald Trump's domestic woes and his increasingly desperate attempts to try and claim some bizarre and wholly fictional conspiracy against him and his campaign, you might imagine he would concentrate a little more on his attempts at diplomacy as he tries to get the much needed win. Most presidents end up switching focus to international affairs at some point in their presidency. But few do it before they have even passed the two year mark of their first term.
But Trump's focus is so fuzzy that he is veering all over the shop here too. Many agreed with him that China's abuse of trade has become problematic and needs addressing. Yet once again Trump's simplistic and transactional way of looking at the world has led him to make mistakes, have no strategy and thus has allowed China to play him. The trade war is over and China has won having made a few worthless concessions to Trump in return for his backing off his administration's wholly justified attack on the Chinese telecoms ZTE. When China was targeted with tariffs they hit back where it hurts against farming across the US in Republican voting districts. It was smart and it hurt. So nothing was done on the much more important issues of China's persistent theft of intellectual property and their attempts to corner some key markets that will have effects long into the future. Trump quickly surrendered. He lost. Remind me, does Trump like losing?
His much vaunted talks with North Korea are looking doubtful now and even if they go ahead the DPRK's team will have the measure of Trump. He is desperate for a win and will proclaim any deal to be one. So they don't need to offer him much at all. He would be much better off postponing or cancelling the talks altogether. But what then for his Nobel Peace Prize that his supporters have already regarded as a shoo in?
All this comes as more and more is emerging about just how mired in scandal and corruption and self dealing this president is. The man who came to power promising to drain the swamp is up to his neck in it and sinking. His lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen is looking more and more likely to do time and those around him are flipping as they are threatened with the same. There are persistent stories that another associate of Trump, Elliott Broidy, who used Cohen to pay off a model and get her to have an abortion may in fact have been a cover for Trump himself. Why would Broidy do such a thing? In return for Trump's help with a very dodgy looking deal for a vast sum of money in the Middle East. Details are still sketchy about that but if it ends up being as bad as it appears - and they usually do with Trump - then this alone is enough to end his presidency.
Trump is doing his best to cloud this and other issues with claims of spies in his campaign, claims that don't bear a moment's scrutiny, but his past is catching up on him. Trump has been comparatively successful thus far in evading too much scrutiny, not releasing his tax returns for instance, but that scrutiny has been there in the background all the time and all of his tried and tested methods for ending it or silencing critics are not working because this is the presidency, not a badly run autocratic real estate and branding business based around debt and hyperbole.
The President is looking and sounding more and more frantic as his enemies circle. This is no longer even about the Mueller inquiry. That in many ways is the least of his worries.