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President Trump and the Other Countries

Today’s news will be all about President Trump’s tense phone calls with the leaders of Australia and Mexico. The popular spin is that the president was rude and aggressive with both of them. Very unpresidential, say the critics. Maybe he is crazy! And orange! Chaos! Chaos! Chaos!

Another spin on the same observations is that both Australia and Mexico required their leaders to “stand up” to President Trump in a more aggressive way than you would expect with a normal president. I didn’t hear the details of the calls, but I have to think they were lecturing him, or talking down to him, or generally being dicks because that’s what their countries required of them in this situation. Trump just showed them what that strategy buys them.

If you see one phone call as an event that stands alone, you’re missing the story arc. Everything is an ongoing negotiation with Trump. Australia and Mexico just had to sleep on the idea that their relationship with the United States is worse today than yesterday. And it sends a signal to other leaders that lecturing President Trump with an eye toward grandstanding or embarrassing him isn’t the strongest strategy. He probably needed to make that point one way or another. That’s done. Now let’s see if the next foreign leader decides to lecture him or not. I’m thinking no.

There will be plenty of breathless commentary today about the end of civil diplomacy. What we don’t know is how it all turns out. Don’t judge a book by the first sentence. The fun is just starting.

Just to be clear, I’m sure the new administration is making plenty of rookie errors. It’s not all brilliant persuasion. But don’t assume you can tell them apart with limited information.

Scott Adams

Co-founder of WhenHub

Author of How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big

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