There was a lovely cartoon, I think from a German newspaper, which I cannot unfortunately now trace, but it was a compelling scene. It showed the empty chairs around the table at the Paris climate change talks. They all had the country flags on the back of them, and in the long line of chairs inspection of the US’s uniquely styled empty seat revealed that it was in fact a high chair….
Looking at the rather excruciating images of Trump’s visit to Paris it seems to me that somebody who ought to be at ease internationally is clearly something of a little boy lost and so lacking in self-awareness that it shows.
The poor chap wants friends – even worse, he needs friends. As he might say, he needs friends so bad…
If we look at his administration, he doesn’t seem to have filled all his cabinet posts even after six months in office. Many, if not most of those he has appointed are friends or friends of friends. He still uses his son-in-law as an advisor and his daughter came to occupy his seat for a short time at the G10.
He seems to have loved all the ceremony of the 14th July in Paris. Yet, having held hands with the UK Prime Minister in America he has reportedly got cold feet about a return visit to the UK because he doesn’t want demonstrations. He wants friends.
He’s gradually discovering that running America isn’t like being a Chief executive of a corporation, where you can sack those you don’t like never to hear from them again. In politics they crop up somewhere else and start criticising you. He doesn’t like that. He wants loyalty – that’s what friends are for. He tried to be friends with Macron – even not finally closing the door on the climate change agreement. The thought may well not survive a few weeks back in the US. But he just wanted to be friends.
Most of his prospective friends will have heard Lord Palmerston’s dictum that “England has no eternal friends, England has no perpetual enemies, England has only eternal and perpetual interests.” So the more the US President tries to acquire international friends the more they seem to recoil.
We know Trump had a difficult upbringing in the indulgent lap of luxury. He had a damaged childhood and his lack of psychological suitability for the task of President becomes ever more evident.
Still if Trump is unaware of Palmerston’s famous dictum then he is unlikely to have discovered the success of the accompanying gunboat diplomacy.
On balance perhaps we’re better off if Trump just wants to have friends.