Sunday, May 28, 2017

America The Pariah

I always supposed that if another Republican got into the Presidency, the United States would be the skunk of the world once again.  But under Donald Trump, we've become the sort of animal even a skunk would avoid.
In his first trip abroad as President, Donald Trump has managed to insult European leaders, lend succor to a feudal regime in Saudi Arabia, picked a fight over trade with the Germans, gotten the rest of the world worried about the fate of the Paris climate agreement, and shoved the Prime Minister of Montenegro - a country neither Trump nor his supporters had likely heard of before now - when Montenegro made its debut as a NATO member at the alliance's annual summit.  Even worse, Trump demonstrated his ignorance of how NATO works when he said that the money that 23 of 28 NATO members haven't paid through spending at least 2 percent of their gross domestic product on defense  was money that the American taxpayers were owed back.
Imagine a leader so ignorant of how diplomacy works that you're glad Rex Tillerson is Secretary of State.
Trump did pull one amazing coup.  He drew old enemies France and Germany closer together by aming them realize what a common enemy they have in him.  French President Emmanuel Macron snubbed Trump at the NATO meeting, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel assumed leadership of the West by declaring in her NATO summit address that Germany was ready to stand for human rights and open borders all over the world - two ideas Trump has always had problems with.  Trump also angered his distant German cousins (his German immigrant grandfather changed the family name from Drumpf) by vowing to stop the exports of German cars to the United States in response to Germany's trade surplus with the U.S.  Trump claims that the Germans have harmed the U.S. auto industry with their unfair trade advantage and their plants in Mexico, somehow forgetting about their plants in the American South.  (Hey, Donald, you don't think it's possible that BMW and Mercedes buyers simply prefer Bimmers and Benzes over Cadillacs, and it is possible the VW owners prefer Volkswagens over Chevrolets and Americanized Toyotas because German engineering is far more sophisticated?)
As of this past week, Volkswagen shares are down 2.2 percent, while BMW and Daimler AG shares are each down 1.5 percent lower.
Uncoincidentally, I have decided to take my sweet time renewing my passport, which expires this fall.  Because I don't see myself going abroad for as long as Donald Trump sits in the White House.  It's a shame, really, because at my age, I have everything I want - a Volkswagen, an impressive record collection, a nice digital camera, et cetera - and my last unfulfilled desire is foreign travel (not counting travel to Canada, which I've been to twice).  When I was in college, I saw my classmates travel to England, Germany, Italy, and Russia when I hadn't even been to Chicago (my trip there in 1994 was my first trip outside the Eastern time zone).  I've always wanted to go to London, Dublin, Paris, possibly Vienna or Berlin, and maybe even Vilnius.  Attempts to visit my maternal grandfather's hometown in Italy with my mother never panned out.  And so now in the middle of middle age, it looks like I'll again have to put foreign travel off indefinitely - not only because of lack of time or money, but because of that blow-dried pantload in the White House.
Because right now, traveling through Europe with a U.S. passport in your pocket is like going anywhere with a "KICK ME" sign on your back.
And if Trump throws VW out of the States, don't expect me to get over it.  If I can't have another VW when my Golf gives up the ghost, I'd sooner ride the bus than buy a Toyota.  

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