Today, as Donald Trump leaves on his first foreign trip as president, we learn from The New York Times that foreign governments consider him very easy to wrap around their fingers:
After four months of interactions between Mr. Trump and his counterparts, foreign officials and their Washington consultants say certain rules have emerged: Keep it short — no 30-minute monologue for a 30-second attention span. Do not assume he knows the history of the country or its major points of contention. Compliment him on his Electoral College victory. Contrast him favorably with President Barack Obama. Do not get hung up on whatever was said during the campaign. Stay in regular touch. Do not go in with a shopping list but bring some sort of deal he can call a victory.In other words, assume he's an ignoramus. Assume he's extraordinarily susceptible to insincere flattery, and to anything that enables him to be flattered by others, particularly his electorate. Attack his enemies. Voila: president successfully manipulated.
Notice what's missing here? Any sense that these officials and consultants fear his expert negotiating skills. That's because he doesn't have those skills.
Wonder how many copies of the Electoral College map he's packing.— Regina Schrambling (@gastropoda) May 19, 2017
Yeah, I'm wondering that, too.
In addition to that, we're reading this at the Daily Beast about Trump's relationship with ousted national security advisor Michael Flynn:
... Trump doesn’t just hope that Flynn will beat the rap. Several sources close to Flynn and to the administration tell The Daily Beast that Trump has expressed his hopes that a resolution of the FBI’s investigation in Flynn’s favor might allow Flynn to rejoin the White House in some capacity—a scenario some of Trump’s closest advisers in and outside the West Wing have assured him absolutely should not happen....Is this just because Trump worries that Flynn could bring him down? That's what a lot of people believe, but BuzzFeed's Ben Smith has an alternate explanation:
“Trump feels really, really, really bad about firing him, and he genuinely thinks if the investigation is over Flynn can come back,” said one White House official.
One former FBI official and a second government official said Trump thought he owed Flynn for how things ended up and was determined to clear Flynn’s name and bring him back to the White House.
... an old book and a new movie hint at something else, that Flynn brought from the military and from Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s band of brothers a trait that Trump, a self-described “loyalty freak,” values above others: personal loyalty.If Smith is correct, it's not really that Flynn is using emotion in a cynical way to manipulate Trump. It's more that Trump can't put his own self-interest ahead of his desperate craving for loyal hangers-on -- just as he can't resist flattery and ego gratification from people outside his inner circle, and is very malleable when he gets those things.
... [Flynn] rose through the [military] ranks on McChrystal’s coattails, and played a central role in another great public crisis: the 2010 downfall of McChrystal and his loyal men after they were quoted in Rolling Stone trashing their civilian masters.
The new movie War Machine, out on May 26 on Netflix, includes a thinly veiled portrait of Flynn as Gen. Greg Pulver, the top aide to Brad Pitt’s arrogant US general in Afghanistan. As played by Anthony Michael Hall, Pulver makes up for being somewhat dense with awe-inspiring, fierce personal devotion to his boss.
... The writer and director of War Machine, David Michôd, confirmed to me that he had McChrystal’s inner circle in mind in while he was writing the film.
“The loyalty felt like a hugely important part of that bunch of guys,” he said in an email. “A bunch of guys collectively propping up a delusion. And they do this with their unwavering loyalty and admiration for the General. And I know this to be true of these guys in the real world."
The most common mistake in American journalism these days is overthinking Donald Trump — imputing a strategy, or even a plan, to a cipher who operates on impulse and gut. He has always surrounded himself with a certain kind of man — die-hard loyalists, whose loyalty he mostly returns, sometimes after he fires them.
A friend of Flynn, Michael Isikoff reported today, described the general and the president as "brothers in a foxhole."
... Even after he'd forced Flynn out — and on the day he would have his fateful dinner with Comey — Trump was grumbling in public that his former aide-de-camp had been treated “very, very unfairly.”