The Washington Post has released full transcripts of President Trump’s first conversations as president with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, and as a 21-year-old college student, I couldn’t contain my excitement.
Finally, a chance to see the negotiating skills of Donald Trump, 45th president of the United States, billionaire businessman, and author of the The Art of the Deal.
Admittedly, I haven’t read his book, but keeping in mind Trump’s speeches touting himself as a shrewd businessman who only makes the best deals, I braced myself for ruthless and unflinching confidence. Pen in hand, I was ready to learn from the master.
First up, his conversation with Nieto. After brief pleasantries, Trump quickly resorted to calling the president by his first name, Enrique – a sense of informality that was not reciprocated by the Mexican president. Apparently deals are made by casting aside any shred of presidential formality and respect.
With typical bravado, Trump quickly moved the conversation toward trade policy. Sporadically weaving in comments about his election victory and popularity with Hispanic voters, Trump alluded to new border taxes and regulations, which was a revelation to Nieto. He was not aware of any new taxes and wanted to know how the sanctions would affect Canada.
Trump bullishly disregarded Nieto’s concern. “Well, Canada is no problem – do not worry about Canada, do not even think about them.”
But their conversation centered on Trump’s proposal for Mexico to pay for a security wall along the border – a major talking point of Trump’s presidential campaign. This was a moment for the president to flex his diplomatic muscle and strike the deal that he had promised to his millions of supporters.
Judging by the transcript, Trump stooped to desperation. He admitted that the wall is more important to his political reputation that his country. “Believe it or not, this is the least important thing that we are talking about, but politically this might be the most important talk about.”
When Nieto reiterated that Mexico will not pay for the wall, Trump conceded. “But you cannot say that to the press,” he said. “The press is going to go with that and I cannot live with that.”
Bravo, Mr. President, bravo.
Trump’s call to Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull started as a congenial conversation, but took a turn when the Obama administration’s agreement to take 1,250 to 2,000 Syrian refugees residing in Australia came up. Trump was not happy because the agreement coincided with his travel ban.
“This is going to kill me,” he said. ” I am the world’s greatest person that does not want to let people into the country.”
Turnbull assured Trump that he could both accept the refugees and honor his travel ban. But Trump accused Turnbull of brokering “a stupid deal.” When cornered, it seems, Trump resorts to hurling insults at world leaders.
Turnbull continued to try to comfort the president, but Trump cut the call short. “I have had it,” he said. “I have been making these calls all day and this is the most unpleasant call all day. Putin was a pleasant call. This is ridiculous.”
That’s the demeanor of a world-class businessman? Trump once said about deal-making, “You either have it, or you don’t.” That’s one thing we can agree on.
James Meadows is a University of Pennsylvania student interning at Philadelphia Media Network.