It’s not obvious whether we should laugh or cry at the bizarre G7 abuse-fest that erupted from Donald Trump. But while Trudeau is generally out of his depth as prime minister, he didn’t elect Trump and there’s not a lot he can do about the fact that somebody else did. The question is, is he doing what he can?
Somehow opinions remain bizarrely divided on Trump. Forget the large number of Canadians for whom despising “the Donald” is a classic virtue-signalling cheap thrill they also indulged with both Bushes and Reagan. But many otherwise sound conservatives continue to insist he’s crazy like a fox and if he’s personally loathsome it doesn’t matter.
It does. He’s a shallow, ignorant, narcissistic bully, and woe betide the civilization that mocks honour. And while this counter-cultural Frankenstein’s monster, an appalling pastiche of libido, self-absorption and post-modern contempt for truth, might serve the liberals right if the damage could be contained, it can’t.
When Trump mashes together legitimate complaints about foreign protectionism with mouldy mercantilism, paranoia and ignorance, it threatens to bring down the rule-based structure of partially free trade constructed since 1945. And when he goes off on a close ally with terms like “dishonest & weak” it puts the Western alliance under strains it can ill afford ever, let alone given challenges from North Korea and Iran to China. Ditto claiming to want Russia back in the G8.
Even so, the G7 seemed to be going smoothly, and the NAFTA negotiations appeared salvageable, until Trump got to his Twitter account and went nuts. So what was Trudeau meant to do about it? My short answer is, recognize who you’re dealing with and don’t condescend to him.