Thursday, November 16, 2017

President Trump's Asia Sojourn: Welcome To Amateur Hour

President Trump and China President Xi
Upon his return this week from a 12-day tour of Asia, President Trump made an unsurprising number of self-congratulatory declarations about the trip's alleged accomplishments.

“Our great country is respected again in Asia,” he Tweeted. "You will see the fruits of our long but successful trip for many years to come!”

But none of that is true. The journey, which took him to Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam and the Philippines, yielded no substantive achievements. Zip. Nada. During the trip, which actually set us back on several fronts, Trump gave China a pass on trade, kissed up to a burgeoning dictator in the Philippines, and insulted Japan, our best friend in the region.

What Trump's Asia sojourn did above all was show the world just what an amateur diplomat this President really is. And it didn't give us the first clue what the future holds for the United States and the Pacific Rim. We're no closer to a concrete Asia strategy now than we were before Trump left. We still have no idea, for example, what his plan is with regard to North Korea's development of nuclear weapons. 

And most significantly, every leader he saw on this trip demonstrably had more respect for President Obama than they have for Trump, but they couldn't play Obama as well. Trump is an easy mark.

Trump Is Putty In Xi's Hands

In China, Trump fell hook, line and sinker for President Xi Jinping's Politics 101 strategy to continually flatter the President. That's all it takes for Donald to bite, and speak about you in glowing terms. Just tell him you like his suit. Or his hair. And he's silly putty in your hands.

Politically, Donnie Trump is a freshman, whereas Xi and most of the world leaders Trump encountered on this trip are grad' students. Yes, it's the classic checkers-chess analogy, and I don't need to tell you which one is playing checkers.

After feverishly accusing China of "raping" U.S. workers while on the campaign trail, Trump did a wimpy 180 during this trip and said the trade imbalance between the U.S. and China is "not China's fault." 

He caved, and blamed past U.S. leadership.

I like that we are engaged with China. I have a deep and abiding respect and love for China's people. But Trump is being played by Xi. Trump looked like a fool, much to Xi's obvious delight, and did nothing to challenge the fact that China, not the U.S., is now the number one influential force over the future of the Asian continent.

Trump embarrassingly fawned over Xi, calling him “a very special man” with whom he has “great chemistry.” He even congratulated Xi on the recent Communist Party Congress, which gave Xi sweeping new power as China's leader.

Trump's Asian trade strategy is not a strategy at all. It's a mess. Like virtually everything in this administration. Trump has expressed a desire to make trade deals with each individual Asian state, but there's very little interest in this among any nation in Asia.

Meanwhile, most of the countries Trump visited are involved in healthy new trade deals and/or negotiations with other countries around the planet. Things are moving fast in Asia, and Trump isn't even on the bus, despite having spent 12 days there.

Chummy With One of the World's Worst Leaders

Trump also nauseatingly and irresponsibly made too-nice with one of the world's most despicable and corrupt leaders, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who called President Obama a “son of a whore" and is responsible for a bloody drug war that has led the the deaths of more than 12,000 Filipinos. At least 2,555 of the killings have been reportedly attributed to the Philippine National Police.

Trump never mentioned these glaring human rights abuses during this trip. But he did once again bring up the false claim that Obama “didn’t land” in the Philippines because of his “horrible” relationship with that country.

It was actually Obama who decided to cancel a meeting with Duterte in September 2016 after the two world leaders had a public disagreement over the mass killings in the Philippine drug war.

Trump has a very tenuous relationship with reality and the facts.

“I mean, the Philippines, we just could not have been treated nicer," Trump said, embarrassing himself, again. "And as you know, we were having a lot of problems with the Philippines. The relationship with the past administration was horrible, to use a nice word. I would say ‘horrible’ is putting it mildly. You know what happened. Many of you were there, and you never got to land. The plane came close but it didn’t land."

This simply did not happen. It's fiction.

Blasting Our Best Friend in Asia

But perhaps the most insulting and inexplicable blunder on this trip didn't happen in China, or the Philippines, but in Japan, which has been our greatest ally in Asia for many years. When speaking with a group of Japanese business execs, Trump stupidly said, “Try building your cars in the United States instead of shipping them over. Is that rude to ask?”

Uh, yeah, it's rude to ask. And it's utterly clueless.

Most Japanese cars that Americans drive are already built here in America. Some of the top Japanese automakers, including Nissan, Toyota and Honda, already build millions of their best-selling vehicles here in the states and have brought hundreds of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars into the US economy. 

Could they build even more cars here? Yes, I suppose. And is there still some trade imbalances between the two countries? Yes. But Japan contributes an enormous amount to the U.S.

Not that this disrespectful remark is at all a surprise. This President puts his foot in his mouth on a daily basis. But he simply should have known better. He claims to be a smart businessman. He isn't. He's bankrupted businesses five times. And making real estate deals isn't the same as making deals with international leaders.

Trump needs to step out of the 1980's and get with the new program. Try reading. It's never too late to educate yourself, Mr. President. The days of hostilities between Japan and the U.S. are long gone. Sure, trade is a legit issue, but Japan is now a solid partner with the United States, and a strong economic friend.

I was personally offended by his comments. I'm a 26-year loyal customer of Nissan. They're the best cars in the world, and the only ones I drive. And I've gotten to know a number of executives at Nissan in the United States.

The relationship between Nissan and the U.S. has been very healthy for both sides for decades. Nissan is an enormous contributor to the US economy and has 22,000 employees across the country.

"Nissan has vehicle assembly plants in Smyrna, Tennessee, which opened in 1983 and is the largest volume plant of any automaker in North America,” Brian Brockman, director of group communications for Nissan Group of North America, told me this week.

Brockman said there are also "Nissan assembly plants in Canton, Mississippi, powertrain assembly plants in Decherd, Tennessee, R&D facilities in Michigan, Arizona and California, a design studio near San Diego, a sales finance corporation near Dallas, and eight regional sales offices" and other training and distribution centers across the country.

But what impresses me most about Nissan is the active role the company plays at the community level in the U.S. Here in San Diego County (California), Nissan is deeply involved in supporting local police, local veterans and our indigenous surf culture.

Mossy Nissan Kearny Mesa, for example, the car dealership where I've bought and serviced my trucks for more than two decades, recently built a fully equipped Titan truck and donated it to the Oceanside Police Department.

At the Supergirl Surf Pro women's surfing competition this summer, Nissan was one of the primary sponsors and was scheduled to give away a new Nissan Rogue to the winner of the competition. But two surfers tied.

"The chances of a tie were like one in a million," Mossy Nissan Kearny Mesa's Executive Manager, Sean Hogan, told me this week.

Nissan executives were faced with a bit of a dilemma. So what did they do? They decided to give both of the winners new cars. "When we made the announcement, the crowd, and both of the winning surfers, went wild," Hogan said with a proud smile.

Sure, it was a smart public relations move. But the point is Nissan makes the effort. That’s just how the company rolls.

Nissan is involved in countless positive programs throughout the U.S., and the Nissan Foundation provides grants annually to organizations that promote cultural awareness and diversity.

Nissan also has a long-standing partnership with Habitat for Humanity that dates back to 2005. The company has contributed $15 million, donated dozens of vehicles to local chapters and logged more than 97,000 employee volunteer hours building 85 homes in communities where Nissan’s American employees live and work.

On a personal note, my cars have been unbelievably reliable. Not a single mechanical issue with any of them, neither my Pathfinder nor either of my Xterras. I've always been treated well by Nissan dealerships.

And of course it's not just Nissan. Toyota’s largest auto manufacturing plant in the world is in Georgetown, Kentucky. The plant employs 8,200 people. In 2016, Honda manufactured nearly 70 percent of U.S.-sold cars in America.

President Trump needs to open a book, a magazine or a newspaper and spend less time watching "Fox and Friends" and Tweeting. He needs to learn how the world really works.

And he really needs to learn how to treat a friend.

1 comment:

  1. Spot On ! I kept thinking how good he did , I haven't had to run for the bomb shelter. YET ?