We’re getting a more complete picture of diplomacy, Donald Trump style, as we watch the rapidly unfolding impeachment investigation. Trump’s Art of the Deal* should really be called Shakedown Strategies. Threats and intimidation, extortion and blackmail pass for diplomacy in the Trump State Department.
It should come as no surprise since assuming office, that Trump has repeatedly tried to shakedown his prey with little or no success. Remember when he called Kim Jong Un ‘Rocket Man’, in an effort to bully Kim into a nuclear arms treaty? Since 1945, Kim is the third generation supreme ruler of North Korea. Trump didn’t get that. Two embarrassing summits later, North Korea boasts a more powerful arsenal and both South Korea and Japan are feeling much less safe. The China tariff debacle is self-evident. What is only now coming to light are whole swaths of our economy that have been torn asunder with no hope of repair. Trump tried to bully President Zelensky of Ukraine by withholding much needed funds to stay Russian aggression, asking for dirt on Joe Biden’s son that he could use during the upcoming election. At least, that is what journalists speculated was the case. It’s turning out to be a much more extensive shakedown attempt. Queue Rudy Giuliani, Russian mobsters and money bags.
Who knows how much of the rest of his foreign policy, his domestic governance and political activities are really shakedowns billed as “deal-making”. When you’ve been bullying for as long as he has, with no moral compass or emotional keel, the lines are so blurred that recognizing his strongarm tactics is like trying to tell the difference between Adderall and cocaine dust. It turns out that we are extremely vulnerable to these shakedown tactics, too, because Americans have little or no experience being on the receiving end of threats, someone forcing their agenda through intimidation and coercion.
Do you know who isn’t vulnerable to these cowardly tactics? Immigrants. They’ve been there. They’ve seen this behavior up close and personal. That’s not to say that the threats are any less intimidating, or painful if carried out, but immigrants know a shakedown when they see one while we’re still naively asking, “Gee, isn’t that a little rude?”
In the end, the shakedown is not a great strategy. It requires an exhausting amount of energy to maintain the status quo and ultimately fails. We’re about to witness that, as well.
*title of the book ghostwritten by Tony Schwartz