HAWAII'S ONLY WEEKLY FILIPINO-AMERICAN NEWSPAPER
SERVING THE FILIPINO COMMUNITY SINCE 1993
NOV. 18, 2017
CANDID PERSPECTIVES

Did Trump Do Anything in Asia?

by Emil GUILLERMO

The biggest thing Donald Trump did when he went to Asia was not say something stupid to start an international conflict, let alone War War III.

But what Trump cares about he tweets out, and he sure made hay of how he got three UCLA basketball players accused of shoplifting in Beijing out of trouble with the Chinese government. Trump even tweeted on Wednesday how much he wanted to make sure he got a thank you.

Later in the day, he looked more presidential delivering the official statement of the trip in the White House. But half the time, you wondered if he knew what he was talking about, especially when he mispronounced the Philippine President’s name “DUARTE.”

Trump’s wrapup statement seemed like an attempt to make it all sound like he actually did something useful over two weeks in Asia.

Trump talked about his trip’s three core objectives: “to unite the world against the North Korea nuclear threat; to promote a free and open Indo-Pacific region; and to advance fair and reciprocal economic relations with our trading partners and allies in the region.”

And then he tried to sell it to America.

“This is our beautiful vision for the future,” Trump said. “This is a future, this dream…, is only possible if America is strong, proud and free…My fellow citizens America is back and our future has never looked brighter.”

Convinced?

I followed the trip and it’s hard to imagine a greater missed opportunity than the “Donald Trump in Asia” excursion, where the American leader seemed to be using it simply to get out of the harsh spotlight of D.C.

There was the increased heat from the Mueller investigation on Trump ties to Russia; plus, the back drop of sexual harassment claims in the news against power white men was making people realize that the person in the White House is an admitted “pussy-grabber” in chief.

Considering all that, there’s nothing quite like an official  photo op far, far away to  help one look more presidential.

But would there be anything really accomplished? The bar was set low. Go have dinner with some Asian leaders, including the man who some people consider has eclipsed Trump as the most powerful in the world, China’s Xi Jingping.

That was a delicate dance, where Trump’s jokiness just made him look more oafish than normal.

Trump praised China for taking advantage of America, but didn’t hit China hard on trade. That’s where Trump could have showed some guts.

But he didn’t.

As an American watching Trump in action, it’s clear, the Asians see him as the buffoon that he is. They act politely, but in Trump they see the personification of a diminished America as Asia ascends.

In China, there’s already the feeling that its hybrid system of economic capitalism girded by an autocratic strong-armed communism is superior to America.

It used to be that freedom was seen as the ultimate, exemplified by the west and particularly the U.S.

But with the artless Trump at the helm, the Chinese from top-to-bottom, no longer seem to look to the west for guidance as they did in decades past.

The trip only showed that Asian self-worth is high.

If democracy gives us Trump as a world leader, they’ve realized there’s a real crack in democracy.

And did Putin put it there?

That was another bit of intrigue about the trip, whether Putin and Trump would officially meet during one of stops.

But the real news was Trump’s apparent acceptance of Putin’s denial that there was any meddling in the U.S. elections, despite all the U.S. intelligence that say otherwise.

In other words, Trump would rather believe in lies rather than his own spies.

The Chinese who are masters at intel and espionage must have had a real laugh at that.

Is Trump being stupid? Or was it some kind of master counter-intuitive stroke?

Nah, there’s nothing complex here.

It’s Trump trying to bury the Russia story. But he’s doing it by insulting his intelligence community. That can’t be smart.

The worst yet was when it came to the Philippines, when Trump and Duterte (not Duarte) played around, and Duterte ended up serenading Trump with the song, “Ikaw.”

Yes, a love song for a narcissist, and anything to keep from talking about serious matters like the Spratlys or the human rights violations in the Philippines.

I doubt if Trump even knows the issues about the extrajudicial killings, and likely just sees it as an autocratic leader in Asia doing his thing. In his wrapup, Trump mentioned praising the Philippines for freeing Marawi from “ISIS.”

But on Duterte’s killing plan that claims both drug dealers and innocents? Nothing.

Why? I suspect because Trump would like to be an autocratic leader in America.

The trip exposed how low democracy has sunk under Trump.

The west wants to be more like Asia.

And Asia? The U.S. is not the center of any universe they care about.

And what does Trump have to show for the trip? He mentioned billions from Asian companies in jobs and investments, because as a businessman, that’s what makes sense to him. 

But for the average American who didn’t pay attention at all to the trip, they just don’t care.

Bottom line:  Trump got out of the heat in Washington, and showed what a rookie president he was. And he got the three UCLA guys out of trouble.

But Asia has the last laugh. Trump’s visit only confirmed what Asian could sense over the last year. Trump may say “America is back.” But the Asian leaders saw first hand.

America isn’t what it used to be.

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EMIL GUILLERMO is an award-winning journalist and commentator who writes from Northern California. He recently won the 2015 Dr. Suzanne Ahn Award for Civil Rights and Social Justice from the Asian American Journalists Association California.

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