Dear Australia, Take some deep breaths.
Australia, take the weekend off.
Yes, Donald Trump (aka “the ratings machine”) slighted our leader Malcolm Turnbull in a phone call between the pair this week, but there is no need to overreact. In fact, the smart move for Australia would be to not react at all.
Daniel Flitton, in The Age yesterday, suggested that Australia needs to send a subtle rebuke to Trump by recalling an Australian army general that is posted in Hawaii. That’s the opposite of what we should do.
To understand Trump is to understand that he lives life in simple terms; he’s simply not complex enough to understand subtlety. As Trump’s Art of the Deal ghostwriter, Tony Schwartz, told The New Yorker in a fascinating and compelling interview: “Trump only takes two positions. Either you’re a scummy loser, liar, whatever, or you’re the greatest.”
In the The New Yorker article, Schwatz explained that in the course of interviewing Trump over a series of Saturday mornings it soon became clear that Trump “has no attention span.” The article goes on to say that “even when Schwartz pressed him, Trump…made it clear that he was bored. Far more quickly than Schwartz had expected, Trump ended the meeting.”
Sound familiar, Mr. Turnbull?
Trump is intimidated by intelligence. It’s clearly part of his disdain for Barack Obama, a Columbia University political science and Harvard Law graduate as well as President of the Harvard Law Review. He has also shown little respect for two esteemed Judges when things just haven’t gone his way with his dodgy university and his attempted religious ban.
Intelligent people get in the way of Trump, they bore him with all their knowledge of actual facts. This contributes to Trump’s reliance on aggression and domineering; it’s all he has in his toolbox. Lengthy conversations with foreign leaders will only serve to expose his lack of depth and understanding of complex issues.
Simply watching old footage of Trump it quickly becomes obvious that he has long suffered from a distinct lack of substance. He has difficulty articulating most of what he says, spouts basic headline opinions and has little knowledge of, or willingness to educate himself in the details (“we do terrible trade deals”)— he’s the perfect populist leader when followers rely more on gut feel than the complexities presented by reality.
We should be reassured by the fact that Trump is the largest losing President in the history of US Presidential elections (even without 42% of eligible voters that didn’t see fit to cast a ballot). And that mid-term elections are just two short years (yikes!) away. The President’s party has lost, on average, 30 congressional seats and four senate seats in the past 21 mid-term elections. So an average mid-term swing would mean Democrats would regain control of both the Congress and the Senate.
Australia’s relationship with the US must, and will, endure a single U.S. President. It’s a relationship that is underpinned by having spilt blood alongside one another during 77 years of diplomatic relations. It’s a financial relationship representing almost 30% of foreign investment in our markets. But mostly, it is our shared values and common decency (Trump aside, of course) that has been the cornerstone of a long-term bond. To turn our back on a friend, and on an ideology, to spite one unstable individual, would make us no better than Trump himself.
Nothing will be gained by Australia taking any action against Trump, no matter how subtle. If anything, we should take the opportunity to galvanise support behind liberal causes and reject our own local Trump-esque voices that have been given a platform for hate and fear. Or perhaps we should focus a little less on Trump and reflect on our own immigration policies and the place that they will have in history (we’re no saints!).
So rather than reacting to Trump, when we know he’ll probably be distracted tomorrow by something gold and shiny, let’s concentrate on maintaining diplomatic relations outside of the Oval Office. Let’s concentrate on supporting minority groups; the ones history tells us are the first victims of authoritarian regimes that are looking to create a common enemy.
So all together then, ten deeps breaths, starting now.