Trump, the man who would be dictator
Donald Trump said it was a joke.
But we know what Freud said about jokes.
There’s no so thing as “joke lang.”
There’s some deeper meaning in there. So, when Trump praised Kim Jong Un on Friday for being a strong leader, that’s one thing. But then he added: “(Kim) speaks and his people sit up at attention,” the President told Fox News. “I want my people to do the same.”
Hmm, sounds just short of “Sieg Heil.”
When asked later to clarify, Trump told reporters, “I was kidding,” he said. “You don’t understand sarcasm.”
No, we understand that Donald Trump loves strong men like Putin, and Kim and Rodrigo Duterte.
Canada’s Justin Trudeau? He may as well be Justin Timberlake. A girly man.
And after a week that saw a semi-historic meeting in Singapore, the state of the world is more tentative than ever.
What’s scarier? A Kim de-nuked in name only? Or an emboldened Trump playing fast and loose with world power?
And who needs to worry more– the Philippines or the American public?
In the Philippines, you have to be happy that the unpredictable disruptor, Donald J. Trump loves an effective strongman.
And that has to please Duterte, who already has been lavished praise by DJT for his extrajudicial effort on drugs. At the same time, U.S. tariffs on China and the escalation of a trade war will surely be a global disruptor. And how will that impact the Philippines and China? The Philippines has been playing all sides in the last two years; thumping the U.S., then nuzzling up to China, then Russia. With the U.S. and North Korea in the mix, Duterte may have been playing it right all along.
Sleep with everyone?
Of course, in the U.S., no one knows what to think with Trump at the helm. Depends on the news cycle.
Flags and fathers
But before I get into the Trumpster, let me digress into more personal matters. In America, the weekend is known as one where we honor our fathers. But for me Father’s Day begins on June 14th.
That’s also known as Flag Day in the U.S., created by public law similar to the one commemorating Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.
So as Congress is set to vote next week on two anti-immigration bills (one from Goodlatte and the other from Ryan/Trump), a group of Asian Americans in Washington, D.C. today urging a “no” vote were draped in the American flag to show their true “American-ness.”
I can never forget Flag Day.
It’s like my early Father’s Day. By coincidence, it’s the day my father died, June 14, 1978.
Willie Guillermo was born in the Philippines under the American flag as a colonized Filipino a few short years after the Spanish American War’s Treaty of Paris. The flag was all he needed. He came to the U.S. without need of papers around the Great Depression.
Forty years ago, we went to see the San Francisco Giants play at Candlestick Park. After honoring the flag and singing the anthem, we enjoyed America’s game while eating homemade Asian style pork-belly adobo sandwiches. The Giants rewarded us with a come from behind victory, after which my father predicted they’d win the pennant. Then he went home and died. And then so did the Giants that season.
To commemorate that day, I always try to see the Giants play, and on this day, they did not disappoint. They engaged the boring Florida Marlins on the road for 16 innings, nearly two full games, before waking from the dead to win, 6-3.
Great day, right?
So as not to get overly maudlin, my father’s death day also coincides with Donald Trump’s birthday.
I just never noticed until this year.
Let’s just hope Trump didn’t see President Woodrow Wilson’s declaration from 1916, where Wilson called for a national Flag Day to “give significant expressions to our thoughtful love of America, our comprehension of our great mission of liberty and justice. . .or an America which no man can corrupt, no influence draw away for its ideals, no force divide against itself.”
Trump, undoubtedly, will think Wilson was writing about…him, The Donald.
That declaration is uncanny. Trump is doing all he can to create an America which he can corrupt, draw away from its ideals, and divide against itself.
And yes, it’s the very same Donald Trump who makes a pit stop in Singapore, and after a photo op is ready to declare North Korea “no longer a nuclear threat.”
And now back to that image of a de-nuked KIM
I guess that means that North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un is now well on his way to rehabilitation given his elevation to three letter status.
JFK, LBJ, MLK, we all know.
Is the world really ready for the new and improved KJU?
When I heard a news commentator say that in reference to Kim, I nearly fell to the floor.
Maybe in return for a quick restore to full global statesmanship, Kim told Trump that they could simply trust each other on denuclearization. It just leads to an odd paraphrase of that Reagan line.
“Trust but verify?”
In this administration, it’s all “Trump, not verify.”
Whatever he says goes. Even the half-truths are made whole by Fox News.
As Trump sees it, everything else is “fake news.”
Having Trump at the helm of the free world is like inducing a political heart attack every 24-hour news cycle.
Last week, when many people were mourning the death of world traveler and chef Anthony Bourdain, I had a few suicidal thoughts of my own. Trump winning in Singapore with Kim; the creation of a new Cold War with Canada; the isolation of America from its allies; and all of it leading to a victorious second term.
Bad dream, right? Well, pass the smelling salts. This is the reality we’re stuck with for now.
Less of a dream, more like a bad storm, or tropical depression we’re forced endure. It’s like Harvey in Houston, where Trump visits and throws toilet paper at us like it’s a celebratory streamer.
The problem is Trump is riding high playing his PR game. And the Singapore Summit is just another good example.
Sure, it’s historic when North Korea, an adversary for generations, sits down to talk. That it never did previously and now here we are pawing and fawning over each other is a big deal.
But let’s not get too excited. All Trump and Kim did was talk. And declare an odd trust toward each other like history doesn’t matter. (Does anyone really recall North Korea’s two broken nuclear promises since 1994?)
It’s naive and comical to expect Kim will be any different. But to see our Dealmaker-In-Chief in action is to watch the diplomatic version of Trump having unprotected sex.
Trump thinks he scored and leaves Singapore smiling. But Kim left with the biggest smile.
For the painless price of a photo op, Kim is on his way toward everyone forgetting all his bad perm years as well as the prisoners in his Gulags.
I recall in 1981 when then-Vice President George Bush praised Marcos, who had been under fire imprisoning dissidents under martial law. Instead of criticism, Bush lauded Marcos for his “adherence to democratic principles and to the democratic processes.”
And Marcos didn’t even have nukes. If you loved Marcos, like my dad and his generation did, you didn’t bat an eyelash.
If you hated Marcos, well, the Bush statement was so full of irony, you could build a whole Philippine Naval ship to patrol the Spratlys.
So where are you with the Trump Kim summit?
If you like Trump, then you are now in bed with the backslapping dictator Kim. He’s your guy too. And that loosely worded “agreement” where Kim promises to “work toward” denuclearization? It’s a promise of nothing. Not even as strong as any statements elicited from North Korea in previous generations that were both broken.
It is really just a bit of political puffery. Show biz. “Nuclear threat over” as declared by Trump in a tweet?
Consider that nothing has changed because of the Trump Kim summit.
All warheads are still in place and presumably still pointing at adversaries like the U.S. Nothing has been decommissioned.
We do have a dictator and a truth-challenged president trying hard to create some “history.”
But this is the Trump game. To be like no other politician in the past, to be disruptive and just go for the quick hit win. A lasting, meaningful achievement? Unnecessary. He’s just in the presidency temporarily, remember.
The Trump Way
For Trump, the “victories” just have to be shallow and easy. No heavy lifting here. Just say it’s so, do a photo op, and propagandize your truth on Twitter and Fox.
It’s smart and not smart politics, all at the same time.
It’s the paradox of what’s becoming the dumbest presidency ever, that goes about things in a seat of the pants way.
In an era when people don’t like the way traditional politicians have acted, Trump’s getting away with high profile, short term spikes.
The problem is as Trump uses the presidency as his joystick, he may well create real permanent problems down the road, especially when it comes to U.S. foreign policy.
The man already seems to value deals with dictators much more than with allies. If you’re in Canada, France, England, and Germany, you’ve got to wonder what is going on in the U.S.
This is the world under Trump. It should make us all yearn for the boring, steady, traditional leadership that takes governance seriously.
I keep thinking at some point one false move will have us all doomed.
Trump is certainly testing it all by consorting with only the deadliest of dictators like Putin and Kim.
But with Marcos and others, the U.S. has consorted with bad guys before. Surely, Trump pointed that out upon return from the summit.
He was asked about Kim being a bad guy for doing things like imprisoning tens of thousands of people, or starving his people into compliance.
For all the implied misdeeds of Kim, Trump could only say this to Fox News:
“Yeah, but so have a lot of other people that have done some really bad things. I can go through a lot of nations where a lot of bad things were done.”
Singapore sounds like the international version of Trump at Charlottesville. White Supremacists on the domestic front. Dictators on the global front.
Trump is envious of the strong who don’t have to deal with nasty things like constitutions and legacies of freedom and justice.
He’d like to be Duterte who kills drug dealers on the street.
He’d like to be Kim, who has imprisoned hundreds of political opponents, if he wasn’t able to execute them. The Institute for National Security Strategy, a South Korean think tank, reports Kim ordered 340 executed in just his first five years of power.
If Trump would do that, he wouldn’t have to pardon all his friends. To all lovers of freedom and democracy, we just have to get through it all.
It too shall pass. If it doesn’t kill us first. The Trump years are Democracy’s stress test.
Emil Guillermo is a veteran journalist and commentator. He writes a column for the Inquirer’s North American Bureau. Listen to him on Apple Podcasts. Twitter @emilamok.