What a time to be alive! To witness a president of the United States dismissively tell a brutal communist dictator, “thanks for the hostages,” is a truly special thing.
Of course, Trump waved off Kim Jong-un on Thursday knowing the “Rocket Man” would realize he made a mistake and come lumbering back to the negotiating table, albeit with an adjusted tone. In a Friday press release that followed Trump’s au revoir, Pyongyang said: “I would like to conclude that President Trump’s statement on the North Korea-U.S. summit is a decision that is not in line with the wishes of the humankind who hope for the peace and stability of the Korean peninsula as well as the world.” That is quite a 180 in rhetoric.
One day after the president dumped a moody Kim, the White House reported “very productive talks” about having the summit after all. Come Saturday, Trump said renewed talks were “doing very well” and after convening in secret at the behest of Kim, South Korean President Moon Jae-in reported that Pyongyang was willing to discuss “complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.” By Sunday, U.S. officials were in North Korea to help organize the summit that, “experts” say, was canceled because Trump was “worried North Korea would beat him to it.”
Business Insider furnished its own faceless yet authoritative source close to the matter to corroborate Paul Vale’s “expert” take in the Huffington Post. These experts, however, are distinct from those Max Boot invokes when in paroxysm over the death of neoconservatism. But I digress.
A New Tone
Enter trollitics. Trump has masterfully blended big city mogul with politico, a fusion Scott Adams calls “the unstoppable clown car that is Donald Trump.” Our president is a world-class troll. Through his prolific trolling on Twitter, Trump has made the media his unpleasant yet devoted mistress. More to the point, Trump is a wrecking ball to the institutionalized dandyism of politics, characterized by moral preening and worthless platitudes—see: Conservatism, Inc. And let’s not forget the bootlicking of internationalism that is, properly understood, a utopian pipe dream.
Nobody’s surprised Trump is pushy. He’s a businessman who made his name in America’s most famous concrete jungle. It is an entirely different thing, however, to be that kind of pushy on the stage of international politics.
It became evident that Trump wasn’t going to tone it down during a NATO summit, when he literally pushed his way to the front of a group of heads of state who had until then largely ignored him. “This is not fair to the people and taxpayers of the United States,” Trump declared, regarding the disproportionate contributions of the United States to NATO. The world shuddered at the president’s remarks, the prime minister of Luxembourg appeared to cover his mouth in disbelief, but Americans cheered. For the first time in ages, someone was sticking up for them and cutting seemingly untouchable world players down to size. Trump made posh heads of state feel insignificant, the way they had made Americans feel insignificant.
Flash forward one year and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg says, “What we see now is that after years of decline or reducing defense spending across NATO allies in Europe and Canada, all allies have stopped the cuts. All allies have started to increase defense spending. And more and more allies have spent 2 percent, which is a NATO guideline of GDP on defense.” Stoltenberg says the president’s “very strong message” did the trick.
Kim Jong-un, then, is merely the latest victim of Trump’s trollitics. Following the theories of Adams, the model of trollitics on the international stage could be considered “clown car diplomacy.”
A Mallet of Hard Rubber
Trump’s trollitics seem to go something like this: Trump takes on a hot-button issue with what seems to be the reckless abandon of all political and social norms. The clown car has arrived. Then, Trump pulls out a big rubber mallet that makes everyone uncomfortable. “What’s he going to do with that?” Usually, it’s something that Ta-Nehisi Coates and Bill Kristol hate, so it ends up being good for America.
Sure, Trump’s mallet is made of rubber. If he swings it hard enough, it will cause some real damage. But he doesn’t always. This was demonstrated in his approach to China. Trump threatened tariffs, the world subsequently lost its mind over the impending Trademageddon, then China agreed both to buying substantially more American made products and negotiating trade conditions more favorable to the United States. Tariffs haven’t hit yet, but they’re not off the table, and China conceded in ways that are important.
On the Korean Peninsula, Trump went Gallagher and seemingly smashed to smithereens the nascent peace talks, after which South Korea played good cop and sure enough, an American delegation is in North Korea “until Tuesday or beyond” to prepare for a summit. The rubber mallet did its work.
Why It Works
Adams argues there is a method to the president’s madness outlined inThe Art of the Deal. “As far as I can tell, Trump’s ‘crazy talk’ is always in the correct direction for a skilled persuader,” Adams wrote in 2015. When Trump claimed that in one year he would have ISIS routed, everyone laughed at him. When ISIS was defeated one year later, the naysayers had to bite the bullet. The effectiveness of Trump’s trollitics ultimately earned him the title of “Keeper of Promises” from CNN, although that may as well be a pejorative from them.
People are sick of sanctimonious politicking at home and abroad, because Americans invariably are left with the tab. Likewise, mainstream media is a joke, more and more regularly stooping to deceit through nameless sources and absurd claims. Trump has overseen a dramatic turn around in the way the country is run over the last 17 months. If he facilitates peace in North Korea, he will have done so while making a mockery out of the establishment and its progressive intelligentsia. Trollitics, then, embodies the zeitgeist perfectly.
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