Margaret MacMillan -- one of our finest minds -- writes in today's Guardian that Canadians are bewildered: "Bewilderment. Fear. Anger. Hurt. Canadians today are struggling to understand what Donald Trump has just done to us."
Canadians and Americans, MacMillan writes, are cousins:
Canadians see the Americans as cousins. We love the same sports: Canadians are crazy about baseball and basketball, and our beloved game of hockey is played all over the US. For generations, Canadians have moved south in search of jobs, education and fame. A large part of Canada heads for Florida, California and Hawaii in the winter to get away from the snow. When the US endures disasters we sympathize. In the immediate aftermath of 9/11 Canadians opened their airfields and homes to the thousands of American planes and travellers who were stranded here. (In what seems to have been a vain attempt to win over the Trumps, Justin Trudeau took Ivanka and Jared to a cheery, feelgood musical about what happened when a plane bound for New York found itself in a remote Newfoundland village.)
But none of that matters to Donald Trump:
In the past few months increasingly testy growls have been emanating from the White House. Canada has a huge trade surplus with the US. (No matter that it doesn’t.) Canada cheats. Canada is a security threat which is why the US has to put tariffs in Canadian steel and aluminium. The Canadian government has politely disagreed. And Trudeau, in his now notorious press conference as Air Force One was heading to Singapore, repeated what he had already said: it is insulting to impose what are probably illegal tariffs on specious grounds.
It is Trump’s reaction that should have us all extremely worried – Americans included. Their country is very powerful but power does not last for ever and the US is facing challenges, from China in particular. The US needs friends and partners. So when Trump calls the chief minister of one of his country’s most reliable friends “very dishonest and weak” he is clearly not putting the interests of the United States first. His sorry advisers have piled in, so eager to please the boss that they don’t care what further damage they do. Peter Navarro, the self-proclaimed expert on China who doesn’t speak much Chinese, talks about a stab in the back. (Where have we heard that one before?) Larry Kudlow – the economist with the record of wrong predictions and the one who used to oppose Trump’s tariffs – exclaims that disagreeing with Trump on the eve of the summit with Kim Jong-un is undermining. “Kim must not see American weakness.” So that is now the role of American allies – to shower praise on the Great Leader just as his cabinet did in that shameful televised meeting last June.
Kudlow -- who is so dense about so much -- let the cat out of the bag. To score points with Kim, Trump plans to make an example of Canada, even if that example is contrary to the facts. Canadians have been schooled. Like all the contractors and workers Trump stiffed over the years, they've learned that Trump and his country are unreliable partners. There are other places to sell our wares; and there are other countries to buy from. And the next time the Americans need Canadian airports to land their planes, they can call on Vladimir Putin to help them out.
Image: Trump's Reliability