Name a world leader Donald Trump has not fallen out with.
Benjamin Netanyahu, I suppose, because he and Trump share similar feelings of victimisation. That and the need for vigorous assertions of nationalism in the face of onslaughts by ruthless enemies – in Netanyahu’s case those wicked Palestinians with their constant demands for statehood, in Trump’s case the liberal elite and their bombardments of ‘fake news’.
And Vladimir Putin, perhaps, because it never seems clear to me whether Vlad is on Trump’s black list or whether the American president secretly nurtures a soft spot for him for helping him get into the White House. Trump, at the recent G7 conference in Quebec, proposed that Russia, expelled from the club over the Crimea takeover, be allowed back in. Why he thought that was a good idea he failed to explain, either to his fellow delegates or to the American public. It was an odd gesture considering many of Trump’s advisers are under investigation for colluding with Putin’s advisers to rig the American presidential election.
The G7 broke up like a schoolyard fracas, with everyone going home in a funk. Except Trump, who jetted off to Singapore for his meeting with Kim. Trump may not have enjoyed Quebec, though secretly he probably did, and it remains to be seen whether he enjoys Singapore.
Clearly, there was never any kind of a special relationship between Trump and Theresa May, and now he has gone public by calling her a stern schoolmistress who keeps lecturing him as if he were an errant schoolboy. That of course is exactly what he is.
Trump and Angela Merkel are Chalk and Cheese, which sounds like an old vaudeville comedy turn, though the body language when they are together more suggests a divorcing couple with a fortune to divide.
Emmanuel Macron of France got high marks recently for snuggling up to Trump in Washington, although that may have been because Trump fancied smuggling up to Madame Macron. Their respective world-views – Donald and Emmanuel, that is – are a constellation apart and the insults are flying.
Trump could never really be friends with Canada’s Prime Minister because, of the two men Justin Trudeau, is seen by many as so much more handsome and charismatic. Trump can’t possibly tolerate that. Even so, he had only plaudits for Trudeau until the Canadian had the temerity to voice his objection to American tariffs on Canadian steel. Now Trump tweets that his neighbour and ally is ‘dishonest’ and ‘weak’. Don’t fret, Justin, it’s only Donald having his early-morning twitter workout – nothing personal, you understand.
Trump has had well-publicised telephone spats with the prime ministers of Australia and Mexico. He has called Kim Jong-un of North Vietnam, whom he is meeting tomorrow in Singapore, ‘little rocket man’. More importantly, he has accused President-for-Life Xi of China of taking liberties with the United States on trade. He has not yet called Xi rude names that I can recall, but that is probably because China is a bit more powerful than North Vietnam, and anyway Trump needs Xi onside if he is to get anywhere with Kim and be able to claim that Nobel Peace Prize.
All this may be bringing Trump’s name into disrepute around the world but at home it is doing the world of good to Trump’s domestic poll ratings. His core supporters have never wavered, and his political protagonists never will, but the ‘undecided’ are decidedly wobbling, his approval rating with this group having by all accounts risen significantly. The significance lies in the chances for improved Republican prospects for the coming mid-term elections, and more importantly for the outlook for a Trump second term in office (which I for one see as more likely than not, and certainly more likely than they seemed six months ago).
Middle America has for years been yearning for a champion of American interests and supposed virtues. They have not had one since Nixon spoke up for the ‘Silent Majority’ and now, in Trump, they feel they have a worthy successor. America’s metropolitan elite and the Democratic Party have been rendered powerless of late, and largely speechless. If Trump pulls off some kind of coup in Singapore, they will be reduced to a state of permanent catatonia.
The Trump-Kim meeting is intriguing, to say the least, if only because it is utterly unpredictable. Most ‘summits’ are held only after advisers on both sides have worked out each and every point of agreement, and then negotiated in precise terms what should be said about the points of disagreement. Various advisers may have been doing just that on this occasion, too, although I suspect that little has been agreed so far, and that neither side is entirely sure what will come out of the mouths of the two principals on the day. Anything seems possible, from a major understanding to an early sulky departure by one or both participants.
Trump is no less a curiosity that Kim. He does not care to conform to the niceties of diplomacy. He thinks of the normal protocols as prissy and pointless. Above all, he enjoys playing to the gallery in the role of maverick. Anyone with an ego of his gargantuan proportions can only be a maverick, since nobody else can possibly match his grandeur and originality.
Kim may or may not be looking forward to the meeting. The rest of us can only wonder what might happen, some fearfully. Japan will be taking it seriously.
Of one thing we can all be perfectly sure: Donald Trump, peerless, clueless and friendless though he may be, will be enjoying himself immensely.