How to Manage Trump: Modeling Madness at the G-20
Imitation is the highest form of flattery. Trump is very predictable in one way: He laps up flattery – the more the better.
November 30, 2018
Off and on, when it comes to its conduct in international relations, the United States has been characterized as a bull in the China shop. That has become an especially apt metaphor now that Donald Trump is in the White House.
Trump is no ordinary bull – he is hyper-active and essentially oblivious to his surroundings.
As the G-20 nations meet in Buenos Aires, here is a guide to the other leaders gathered there. The list below contains useful insights for their dealings with the U.S. President, whether they actively model themselves on Trump, are just keen to win his favor – or want to make sure not to be completely blindsided by him.
A list of do’s and don’ts
1. Imitation is the highest form of flattery. Trump is very predictable in one way: He laps up flattery – the more the better. Lay it on as thick as possible.
There really are no limits. Trump will not see it as contrived or cynical fawning. Remember, at all times, you are dealing with a narcissistic juvenile.
2. To be state of the art, shed your inhibitions: Communicate only via twitter. That’s where the public’s emotional G-spot is. And that hits other leaders in the gut directly.
3. Never apologize. Never express regret. Never admit error. That’s for wimps
4. Whether in Buenos Aires or at home, find an enemy or two to use as a scapegoat. They come in a couple of categories: Foreigners and enemies from within.
5. Work the paranoia vein. Fan people’s fears. Whatever happens that makes them anxious, blame that on your opponents. That could be hurricanes, floods, fires, mass killings, a drop in the stock market, airline accidents, an embarrassing loss in an international sporting competition.
6. Militarize! Make your armed forces the symbol of the strength and victory you’ve pledged to achieve. Celebrate them on every occasion, hold lots of parades, have them by your side on every possible occasion, show off new weapons, create audacious sounding new command centers – Polar, Space, Antarctic, Seabed, whatever.
Just stay on the safe side and never visit the troops in any war zone. That’s trivial stuff better left to Democrat presidents.
7. Insult people wherever possible. That is the key to showing everyone that you are number 1, the boss, the big kahuna.
Don’t give a damn about the opinion of anybody else. That’s a sign of weakness.
8. Use vulgar language – it has more impact. Select a gallery of foreign leaders to spit at on a routine basis – again, they should be randomly chosen: The leaders of “shit-hole” countries, the Iranian mullahs, the Indian guy who speaks that comic English, the little upstart in Paris, anyone in Mexico.
9. Pick some favorites. That’s useful because it gives the impression that you don’t despise everyone, that your friendship can be won – if you bow to Trump.
10. A close knit family is critical – thus keep your relatives in a tight embrace. If the son-in-law you are stuck with (because your fabulous daughter couldn’t snare Tom Brady) is a nebbish like Jared Kushner, bestow all kinds of phony honors on him.
Stick him in a big office – and prey that the file with all the lowdown on his money-laundering activities never gets slipped by anyone under Mueller’s door.
11. To stay in the headlines even after you have been president for a while, do something absolutely outrageous at least once a week.
That is especially important if your voter base is made up of loonies who feel threatened and betrayed by signs of a return to sanity.
12. Keep your anger level high. The reason? See the preceding paragraph.
13. Hire only staff who are ruthlessly ambitious ego-maniacs with killer instincts. That ensures that the pot will keep boiling, that they’ll undercut each other. That is what provides a lot of entertainment and keeps you in the headlines without even lifting a finger, mouthing a word or tweeting a single tweet.
14. Never let your senior advisers get too comfortable. Get rid of them after a year or 18 months – max! Before the firing action, keep up the suspense. Laud ‘em, chide ‘em. Just keep everybody, including the ever hungry media monster off balance.
Then make the firing a humiliation so that the others get the message. Always claim that there are endless numbers of folks keen on serving as a replacement.
15. If you ever feel the inclination to think, do the following – lie down on the couch, turn on Fox News and binge drink Diet Coke cans. Close your eyes until the feeling passes.
In international relations, the US has been called a bull in the China shop. That metaphor has become especially apt now that Donald Trump is president.
Trump is hyper-active and essentially oblivious to his surroundings.
Trump is very predictable in one way: He laps up flattery – the more the better.
Trump’s cardinal rule: Never apologize. Never express regret. Never admit error. That’s for wimps.
Michael J. Brenner
Professor Emeritus of International Affairs, University of Pittsburgh [Texas, United States] Michael Brenner is Professor Emeritus of International Affairs at the University of Pittsburgh and a Fellow of the Center for Transatlantic Relations at SAIS/Johns Hopkins. He was the Director of the International Relations & Global Studies Program at the University of Texas. Brenner is […]