Trudeau and Trump- The Presser and the Aftermath
Wheels up at 6:00 p.m., and back to YOW, the three letter call sign of the Ottawa Macdonald–Cartier International Airport, Justin Trudeau’s first visit to the Trump White House went out with a yawn.
The Canadian media and observers quickly broke into self-congratulatory back-patting, almost certainly at the behest of, and stoked by the Prime Minister’s Office, over the content of the joint communique ‘that could have been written in Ottawa.’ The subjects included being good neighbours, being reliable fair trading partners, energy security, border security, and international security, all right out of the President Donald Trump campaign playbook. The Canadian content seemed linked to this new Canada-United States Council for Advancement of Women Entrepreneurs and Business Leaders meant to help women in business and economic growth in the two national economies. Although it appeared in the communique, following the round-table that was in honour of President Trump’s daughter, it was later announced by Prime Minister Trudeau in the presser likely meaning it was a Canadian initiative. It is seemingly the only ‘social issue’ in the whole discussion, although coached as an economic one.
During the joint press conference, President Trump looked bored except for a few smirks, and when he beat Trudeau to the punch, proclaiming that Canada and the United States shared the same values. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for his part spoke in platitudes, tried to avoid the potential minefields, and antagonizing ‘the Donald.’ The Prime Minister tried to look his usually dashing and worldly self, enjoying the contrast with Trump. Trudeau only took the bait-line of the press twice to stress Canada and the United States had differences of opinion but then recovered nicely on immigration and the so-called “Muslim Ban” by making a back-handed comment that Canada would not lecture another government on how to govern its country.
The press was pretty-disciplined and did not raise the question of the day, around whether-or-not, President Trump would fire his National Security Adviser, Michael Flynn. Nor did they ask Prime Minister Trudeau about missile defense even though North Korea’s recent missile test came up in questions and NORAD came up in the joint statement. The Ministers of Global Affairs, Chrystia Freeland, National Defence, Harjit Sajjan, Finance, Bill Morneau, Public Safety, Ralph Goodale, and Transport, Marc Garneau played their parts as ‘potted plants’ by staying silent and listening dutifully to the two senior statesmen. Given the heavy presence of security-related Ministers it makes you wonder as an afterthought about who was here in Canada to ‘mind the store,’ if there was a security incident somewhere in Canada.
In the end, the Prime Minister and his advisers will return to Ottawa loudly claiming victory and foreign policy triumph in Washington. Trump will quietly, or not so quietly, look at his advisers, and say he has Canada on the run, and he is right. We are better off than Mexico in North America Free Trade Talks, but only moderately better off. I heard one observer say, ”look the Prime Minister is wearing a blue tie, and not a red one,” only to realize, that blue in the United States is associated with the Democrats, and red with the Republicans.