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Jun 18

“King Me.”

That caption to Time magazine’s cover this week is stenciled across the back of an imperious, dark-suited President Trump engaged in mirrored self-regard, crowned, adorned as emperor.

The regal robes fit him like a glove, of course.  He’s spent his entire life striving for supremacy, governed by a turbulent mix of braggadocio and truculence, driven by unquenchable thirst for wealth, power, fame, and influence.

That such a man should find his way to the very pinnacle of power, that his mighty surname should portend his destiny, remains no less astounding today than it was on election day.  But that such a man, finding himself thus validated, should go on to conduct himself as unassailable tempestuous monarch is no surprise at all.

What's in a name?”  exclaimed Juliet in her long-ago lament to Romeo.  “That which we call a rose, by any other word would smell as sweet.”  Maybe so. But had young Donald had been forced to play the Drumpf card his ancestors were originally dealt I doubt he’d be counting the same winnings.  “Drumpf Tower” conjures up images of tenement slums and ramshackle skid-row hotels rather than gleaming skyscrapers of glass and steel.

Nor has “President Donald Drumpf” much of a ring:  Elmer Fudd would have been likelier to occupy the Oval Office than a man endowed with that sour stamp.  (Mr. Fudd wouldn’t be such a bad choice, come to think of it:  he’s more articulate than the Trumpster, with better manners, and the fact that he’s fake is perfect for our era - trade “piggly” for “bigly” and call it a day.)

Donald owes his presidency, it’s no stretch to say, to Opa Friedrich, who hastily mutated the family label to punchy, powerful “Trump” upon arriving from Germany.

Our British cousins employ as slang a smellier connotation of trump, trotted out for boisterous releases of flatulence –noisy farts, in the plainest of Queen’s English.  This version, without question, is the one that Canadians will forever associate with the American president following his pungent pit-stop in our country this week.

Trump invaded the G7 summit in picturesque Charlevoix like a bad odour, oozing derision in all directions.  He barged in late and left early, punctuating his bumptious visit by dropping a stink-bomb on the affair from 35,000 feet.  It was a nasty, angry, churlish performance, a display that raised eyebrows the world over - except in the case of Trudeau, whose left eyebrow apparently went walk-about, likely dislodged by the browbeating he took from the president.  Maligned Canadians erupted in fury, fronted by hordes of dairy farmers frothing with milk-flecked rage.

Energized by that chaotic aperitif, Trump dropped into Singapore for his highly anticipated pow-wow with Kim Jong-un.  And in his haste to be celebrated on the global stage as consummate dealmaker and Solomonic peacemaker, he completely capitulated to the tubby dictator, the big bully gamed by the little bully.  In return for withdrawing America from joint military exercises with South Korea, in return for investing the ruthless leader of the Hermit Kingdom with much-cherished legitimacy, Trump got nothing.  Zilch.  Sure, Kim “reaffirmed his firm commitment” to denuclearization, but that was no more than varnish on a 25-year-old “promise” that had served to shroud North Korea’s steady march to nuclearization in the first place.

The man made famous by the "art of the deal" traded it for the art of the kneel: fresh off attacking the prime minister of Canada as dishonest and weak, Trump fawned over the brutal North Korean dictator, calling him a “very talented man” with “a great personality” – presumably the perfect skill set for exterminating, enslaving, torturing, and starving one’s own people.

Mind you, for much of the world, watching spellbound as the spectacle unspooled, the mere fact that Trump met face-to-face with the murderous criminal was cause for rapture, as if he had single-handedly rescued the globe from doom.  Reams of dignitaries applauded his “diplomacy”, and delirious Norwegian lawmakers immediately nominated him for the Nobel Peace Prize.  A Nobel “Fleece” Prize seems the more appropriate endowment, in my view, given his hoodwinking by the Korean tyrant.

The planet might seem safer today, on the surface, sans the malevolent “my button is bigger than your button” threats of imminent nuclear Armageddon that Trump was spitting at Kim only months ago, but North Korea remains North Korea, only with shiny new bragging rights on the world stage.  I don’t feel reassured, overmuch, nor should the rest of the world.

Meanwhile, in Canada the uproar over Trump’s tactics on trade continues unabated.  Chrystia Freeland, Canada’s talented foreign minister (in a brash attempt to beard the lion in his own den) traveled to the American capital to rail against “protectionism, pure and simple”, her speech fierce and powerfully argued.  But it’s not likely to matter: Trump will do what Trump will do.  Freeland’s bravado may make things worse, even, by further provoking the man.

Justin Trudeau’s father, speaking to the American press corp in that same city in 1969, said, “Living next to you is in some ways like sleeping with an elephant. No matter how friendly and even-tempered is the beast, if I can call it that, one is affected by every twitch and grunt.”

Well, the beast has awoken, and he’s not in a good mood.  And no matter how proudly and eloquently the mouse squeaks about getting “pushed around”, a squeak remains a squeak – the mouse had best take care not to simply get trampled.

The “supply management” dispute at the heart of the milk-tariff tussle is complex (not least because of the immense government subsidies supporting American dairy farmers).  But Trump doesn’t do complexity.  He’s mastered the simple meme as deadly political weapon: witness “Crooked Hillary”, “Lyin’ Ted Cruz”, “Make America Great Again”, etc.

And all he has to do to prevail in this fight is to tweet “#270% Tariff on Milk!” again and again and again.  Stacked up against that, a “measly” 25% tariff on Canadian steel makes Trump seem the model of restraint in the eyes of his electorate.  His base will have zero sympathy for those bloody Canadians prattling on about free trade while protecting one of their own industries with tariffs of almost 300% - Trump voters aren’t enamored with complexity either. America First, America Only, and screw everybody else.

And no amount of patriotic swaddling in the maple leaf will protect Canadians if (when) Trump goes on to levy tariffs on automobiles:  reality will bite, and hard - and when it does, Canadian public support for the dairy industry will vanish faster than pond ice in Florida.  Canadians assemble American cars using American parts and sell the completed product to American customers.  It’s an extremely lucrative business, but it’s not as if Americans can’t just do it themselves – and with tariffs in place, they will, after a period of hiccupping adjustment.  If I was a Canadian dairy producer today, I’d be very, very worried.

Canada has no choice but to deal the cards she has been dealt, and she had better get busy. The best way to deal with a bully is to develop one’s own strengths, and it’s time for Trudeau to get serious about doing so; it’s time to stop blathering on endlessly about gender equity and to stop forcing every single policy initiative through the twin strainers of feminism and global warming.

We are teetering on the precipice of economic ruin, and Trudeau owns a good chunk of the blame.  With all due respect to Canada’s hard-working dairy farmers, their impact on the economic health of this country is a drop in the bucket compared with the energy sector.  Yet while Trudeau goes to the wall for milk, even to the point of imperiling the country, he’s busy strangling the energy industry into a constipated mess.

But Trudeau has a rare opportunity for a genuine reboot, one he cannot afford to miss.  He has the backing of the Canadian people at this juncture in a way that was inconceivable only a week ago.  He should strike boldly while the iron is hot, while Canadians are nakedly aware of the mortal financial danger posed by the rampaging American elephant.  We desperately need access to international markets so that we can harvest our oil - leaving our liquid gold in the ground while despotic regimes gleefully fill the vacuum with oil extracted with zero environmental oversight was never a sensible calculus. So, a reboot: clear away the thicket of regulations thrown up to obstruct the energy industry, get rid of the useless carbon tax that serves no purpose but to provide economic drag, revive the Northern Gateway and Energy East pipeline projects, and use the muscle of the federal government to immediately punch the Trans Mountain line to the coast, Horgan be damned.  And unleash the productivity and ingenuity of Canadians by returning some sanity to our tax regime.

Donald Trump is not going away. His numbers are on a steady upswing, his Republican party is set to run the table at mid-term elections, and the previously unthinkable re-election of Trump in 2020 seems increasingly probable.  The American economy is roaring, firing on all cylinders, unemployment rates at historic lows.  With a chicken in every American pot no amount of prattle about the peccadilloes and personal failings of Donald Trump will make a smidgen of difference to voters: he’ll hoover up their votes and be re-elected in a landslide.  And an aging Trump is unlikely to bring additional stability to the world, to put it mildly.

It’s going to be a wild ride, Canada:  we had best buckle up, grow up, and sort out how to smother the Trump-triggered milkquake before it curdles the country.

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