Who needs old-fashioned democratic allies when you can go hang out with a dictator who ordered his half-brother poisoned and other people executed using anti-aircraft guns? By comparison, surely Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau is “weak” (according to Donald Trump). Welcome to the wacky – and corrosive – world of American foreign policy as our president stiffs the leaders of what Ronald Reagan used to call the “free world” in favor of serenading Kim Jong Un in Singapore.
Speaking of stiff, what to make of this photograph posted from the official account of German chancellor Angela Merkel as the G7 summit was collapsing into discord? Some people online have interpreted the photo as Trump sheepishly taking a scolding from Merkel playing the role of school marm. I couldn’t disagree more. Trump is displaying what is perhaps his single most signature expression: an upside-down “grin” caused by a rising chin. Left to itself, that facial muscle activity reveals anger, disgust and sadness. But in this case, there’s also a slight, actual smile accompanying the upside-down grin – plus narrowed eyes that signal anger. Throw in the defensive, folded-arms body gesture and what you’ve got here is Trump as defiant bad boy, pleased with himself as Merkel tries to cross the moat into the castle of Trump’s ego.
How about the other folks captured on camera here? Figure 6 is Merkel, looking slightly pained around the eyes as she tries to reason with Trump. More demonstrative is Figure 7: the French president Emmanuel Macron. Even at this oblique angle, it’s hard to miss the wrinkles across Macron’s forehead, expressing both surprise and fear. Figure 8 is British prime minister Theresa May, all but invisible (apt symbolism there, nice job Germany!). Finally, Figure 4 is Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, doing his best imitation of being Trump’s mirror brother.
How well is the G7 summit outside of Quebec City going? Figure 3 is a senior official in Japan’s foreign affairs ministry and his face sums up the summit’s status as debacle. His right outer eyebrow is cocked upwards in alarm, while his mouth is simultaneously both taut with tension and pulled ever so slightly wide in fear. So much for famed Japanese subtlety! When Donald Trump is part of the picture, forget nuances: it’s right on to people like Figure 9, Larry Kudlow, the president’s new director of the U.S. National Economic Council. He’s the guy who afterwards told CNN that Trudeau “stabbed us in the back” at his post-G7 summit post conference by again denouncing the new U.S. tarriffs on steel and aluminium being imported from the EU, Mexico and Canada.
How wrong of an ally to “stab us in the back.” Trump’s not “very dishonest” like Trudeau supposedly is. Why, you might say that he verbally stabs people right in the stomach instead. Reinstate Russia to make it the G8 again? Take that Theresa May. The recent poisoning of former Russian double agent Sergei V. Skripal and his daughter Yulia on British soil can’t count for much. Not when you are all robust smiles (so uncharacteristic of anger, disgust and sadness-ridden Trump) at the prospect of picking up a Noble Peace Prize for officially ending the Korean War with your new pal, Kim Yong Un.
Isn’t cooperative, paint-slowly-by-numbers democracy such a bother? Long live the regime, whether it be yours or mine. That might not be what Trump is thinking, but it’s most assuredly what he’s impulsively feeling one tweet and photo-op after another.