Life in the age of Trump.
We are accustomed by now to the unfathomable ability of President Trump to declare victory even amidst another bad defeat.
We are also beginning to get accustomed to the fact that U.S. media celebrate as a success every occasion when President Trump did not act more or less like an idiot.
It is hard for them to swallow the number of times when Trump has left the wider American public or the international community merely dumbfounded.
The bar gets lower by the day
In a dangerous reversal of the history of human evolution, the Tweeter-in-Chief continues to lower the bar of what passes these days for presidential behavior or becoming the Office of the President.
That such a man is arguably still the most powerful man in the world points to the significance of the “checks and balances” challenge which U.S. society and U.S. institutions face.
So far, it seems, they are still given to all too self-congratulatory referrals on that account. The proof of the pudding will come in the eating. It’s no longer the time for the self-glorifying penchant of American society and politics.
The golden moments
It has come to this: As long as Trump does not mock the disabled, calls Mexicans rapists or insults the parents of a fallen soldier, Donald Trump is golden.
Golden in his buddy-buddy dance in Riyadh with reprehensibly misogynistic reactionaries, aka Saudi royals. And as golden as the tacky Trump signs that adorn his buildings (or more correctly, the buildings that he lends his name to, for a steep licensing fee, of course).
Defending the indefensible
It is one thing for Mr. Trump to lower the standards of what goes for American propriety. It is quite another for an all too compliant U.S. media to ape the man.
That is why it is so frightening when the U.S. media seem to insinuate, egged on by ever-so-balanced pundits and a vast army of Republican Trump-apologists, that Mr. Trump’s first trip abroad as President was a continuation of steady U.S. foreign policy.
They can’t beat the truth
Truth tellers they are not. When they refuse to label it an unmitigated disaster, they are indeed engaging in FAKE news, not that Mr. Trump or his followers would call it that.
This is indicative of an unfortunate trait of U.S. society – to refuse to criticize the office holder in the vain hope of protecting the nation and its reputation. (The latter, it should be obvious, can only be protected by criticizing the man).
The Trump transformation
To be sure, the ripple effects of that disaster are not simply transitory. They are profound and possibly irreversible.
How else may it be explained that German Chancellor Angela Merkel, a woman known to be deliberate and reserved in her choice of words, noted after the G-7 meeting that this was a new era where historical alliances may no longer be relied upon?
How else may it be interpreted that her major opponent in the forthcoming German elections was far less diplomatic in describing Mr. Trump’s behavior as unacceptable to the German people.
The image is the message: An America apart
This was not about Mr. Trump’s alleged description of Germany as being “bad, very bad” or his childish, separate ride in a golf cart behind the six other leaders at the Taormina summit as they were taking a short walking tour.
This was and is about the emergence of a new world order. This was and is about a watershed moment in post-World War II history, where the “free world” no longer is defined by its economic ideology (capitalism) and those “unfree” are no longer labeled as Communist.
US as a floater between liberal and illiberal
This new world consists of open democratic, pluralistic societies on the one hand, and closed undemocratic plutocracies on the other.
And Trump’s United States curiously, unbelievably floating in between.
So how can Europe make sense of all of this? It all starts with the rebuilding of a strong French/German relationship.
In post-World War II Europe, the most important relationship and eventually personal friendship developed between French President Charles de Gaulle and German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer.
Kisses – and beyond
At the signing of the Élysée Treaty of friendship between France and Germany on January 22, 1963, de Gaulle said:
My heart overflows and my soul is grateful that I have signed this treaty with the chancellor. No-one on this planet can fail to appreciate the immense importance of this act. It not only turns the page on a long and bloody era of fighting and war, but also opens the door to a new future for Germany, for France, for Europe and therefore for the world!
German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer humbly responded by saying: “General, you have spoken so eloquently that I cannot add anything to your words.”
De Gaulle then hugged the reserved Adenauer and planted a kiss on his cheek, which took Adenauer off guard. He quickly recovered and kissed de Gaulle on the other cheek.
Chancellor Merkel and Emmanuel Macron have their own redo opportunity now. Theirs can be a joint economic agenda as well as a new vision for an invigorated Europe.
In the end, what matters for Europe’s future is the Franco-German relationship. Rather than being a high brow “condominium” dominating the others, the benefit of that relationship for all EU nations is that, between Germany and France, most of the tensions and the varying positions found on the continent are fully reflected.