Friday, August 31, 2018

What did Donald Trump do today?

He got angry at a news organization for not helping him sabotage trade talks with Canada.

Speaking with Bloomberg news yesterday, Trump told their staff, off the record, that he was deliberately sabotaging trade talks with Canada. Specifically, he said that he intended to offer Canada nothing at all at the bargaining table, but that to say so publicly would be too "insulting." He painted a picture of Canadian representatives as desperate: "They came knocking on our doors last night [saying] 'Let’s make a deal, please.'"

"Off the record" means that Bloomberg agreed to exclude the remarks from their reporting. Bloomberg honored that agreement, but another person in the room--or possibly even Trump himself--subsequently told the Toronto Star about his remarks. The Star was not bound by the agreement between Trump and Bloomberg, and printed Trump's comments today.

Not surprisingly, the Canadian government took Trump's claims that he was not bargaining in good faith at face value, and talks immediately broke down.

Trump then went to Twitter to falsely accuse Bloomberg of having "BLATANTLY VIOLATED" their agreement with its "dishonest reporting."

But Bloomberg didn't print anything about Trump's comments, and the Star report wasn't "dishonest," as the White House was forced to admit today. (Trump had no choice but to confirm the accuracy of the Star's account, because Bloomberg reporters were witness to the original remarks, and going "off the record" would not protect him if he chose to lie about what he told Bloomberg.)

As the Star noted in its reporting, the fact that Trump tried to keep his mocking of the Trudeau government's position a secret suggests that he at least dimly understands how weak his own is, as he seeks to head off the worst of the damage caused by his own decision to start a trade war with virtually all of America's major trading partners. 

Why does this matter?

  • A president who can't keep from insulting allies and trading partners when he most needs them is too incompetent to hold office.
  • It's wrong to blame other people for your actions.
  • Presidents who don't fear the truth don't attack the free press.