Donald Trump is an expert in manipulating the media.
The president consistently demeans journalists and the outlets they represent, but they keep coming back for more. While Trump knows how to attack CNN and The New York Times, his grandstanding falls short when he is placed before an audience with a foreign counterpart.
Justin charms, Donald rambles
World leaders have been flocking to Washington or calling the White House to officially welcome the latest president of the United States. We’ve seen Trump golfing with Japan’s Shinzo Abe and exchanging pleasantries on the phone with China’s Xi Jinping. In both of these situations, Trump showed a part of him we do not get to see in his Twitter rants or in Sean Spicer’s daily updates: an awkward, one-note man.
These excuses stopped short when Donald Trump stood next to Canada’s Justin Trudeau on February 13. Justin charmed with his eloquent portrayal of Canada as a secure but welcoming nation while Donald rambled in his signature half-baked sentences about winning the electoral college and renegotiating NAFTA with Mexico.
This is a “yuge” problem for a country at a crossroads in the development of a new foreign policy agenda. The way our president articulates his policy plans is reflected in international relations. Policymakers around the globe pay particular attention to these press conferences to analyze where American policy is heading.
Even when placed next to a foreign counterpart, Trump continues to deploy the same buzzwords he used on his campaign trail to garner support: America is going to correct the huge job losses, recoup the millions of dollars shipped away, and renegotiate deals so those who have been ignored can benefit.
This is propaganda aimed at a particular domestic audience, not a global audience.
Trump is purposefully not answering the journalists’ questions but is providing his base with proof that they voted correctly. Even with foreign dignitaries, Trump continues to keep his base in mind.
The president’s pandering is evidence of an important shift: While other presidents have used press conferences to promote the United States as a global leader, Trump is doing the exact opposite. When Trudeau mentions Canada as a welcoming land of stability and an important global partner, Trump describes the United States as a country interested in economic isolation.
We are only three weeks into the new presidency, but the shift in rhetoric is profound.
While some of the grandstanding can be purposeful, Trump’s propaganda is supplemented by his awkward demeanor and irrational unwillingness to engage the media in a productive way (think tweets about fake news).
Trump’s press conferences with foreign leaders paints a White House disinterested in engaging a broad audience.
We can all laugh at Trump’s awkward handshakes and childish Twitter behavior, but we must be careful that these actions do not harm diplomatic relations with other nations.
Photo Credit: Kevin Lamarque—Reuters