Monday, July 30, 2018

What did Donald Trump do today?

His administration took two extremely different approaches to Iran, whether he knows it or not.

During a joint press conference with the Prime Minister of Italy, Trump was asked whether he would be willing to meet with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. He replied, "I’m ready to meet any time they want to." When the reporter asked if there would be any preconditions for such a meeting, Trump responded:
No preconditions. No. If they want to meet, I’ll meet. Anytime they want. Anytime they want. It’s good for the country, good for them, good for us, and good for the world. No preconditions. If they want to meet, I’ll meet.
Within hours, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was appearing on CNBC to insist that there would be a great many preconditions, none of which Iran's current leadership is likely to meet given the current state of affairs between the two countries.

It's not clear whether Trump had instructed Pompeo to try to erase Trump's answer, or whether Pompeo was trying to do damage control without asking permission—a Trump-handling tactic the State Department has used effectively recently.

Trump's answer to the reporter's question included a lengthy complaint about how the media had covered his meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Trump said that that meeting was "so positive—I had a great meeting, in my opinion. Of course, the fake news didn’t cover it that way." In fact, the meeting went so well in Trump's opinion that he declared in a tweet shortly afterwards he had single-handedly ended the nuclear threat posed by North Korea.

The Washington Post reported today on U.S. intelligence agencies' reports that North Korea has accelerated its work on an intercontinental ballistic missile that can reach the United States.

What's the problem here?

  • Diplomacy is a lot harder and a lot more important than Trump seems to think it is.
  • A good dealmaker would understand that giving away something for nothing is not a great negotiating tactic.
  • Even if it is their job, it's bad when a president's staff has to save him from himself.