Fareed: Trump’s Art of the Spin

Insights, analysis and must reads from CNN's Fareed Zakaria and the Global Public Square team, compiled by Global Briefing editor Jason Miks.

May 25, 2018

Fareed: Trump's Art of the Spin

Almost 500 days into the Trump administration and it's clear that the President's great talent isn't negotiating, it's marketing, Fareed writes in his latest Washington Post column. "Call it the Art of the Spin."

"Where are the deals? Where is the renegotiated North American Free Trade Agreement, the bilateral trade agreements that were going to replace the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the new and improved Iran nuclear pact?" Fareed writes. "The world is laughing at us, he would often say."
 
"Well, what must the world be thinking now, as it watches the Trump administration careen wildly on everything from North Korea to China? What must it have thought as it watched the master negotiator in a televised session with congressional leaders on immigration, where he seemed to agree with the Democratic position, then agree with the (incompatible) Republican position, all the while asserting they were going to make a deal? They didn't.

"By now it is obvious Trump is actually a bad negotiator—an impulsive, emotional man who ignores briefings, rarely knows details, and shoots first and asks questions later."
 

Why You're Going to Keep Getting Summit Whiplash

There's a simple reason why the will-they-won't-they dance continues around a potential meeting between President Trump and Kim Jong Un, writes David Graham for The Atlantic. It's "easier to argue over who wants a meeting and who is responsible for its failure than it is to deal with the underlying issues."

"North Korea and the US remain far apart on substance. The US demands that North Korea denuclearize, while the North Koreans take it as a matter of fact that the nuclear program is their best defense against foes, and are wary to give it up. The US has offered little to Pyongyang that might encourage a change of heart, and Trump's promises of future wealth, while effective when hawking merchandise, don't resonate much with Kim. The North Korean leader already lives in opulence and doesn't seem much bothered by the penury of his people," Graham writes.

"Those matters are perhaps not unresolvable, but they're very difficult, and Trump, for one, has shown little interest in the substance of the negotiation, while North Korea benefits from the status quo."

  • The trouble with Trump's brag. President Trump's letter canceling his meeting with Kim hasn't completely closed the door on talks. But the language it contained is counterproductive, China Daily editorializes.

"Trump also spoke of the United States' 'massive and powerful' nuclear capabilities in his letter, saying he hoped they would never 'have to be used.' All of which has served to highlight the existential threat that prompted Pyongyang to pursue nuclear weapons in the first place. A threat that has been ratcheted up despite Trump saying on Tuesday that 'He (Kim) will be safe. He will be happy. His country will be rich.'"

Kim's Smoke and Mirrors

Don't be fooled by North Korea's carefully managed spectacle Thursday of "destroying" a nuclear test site that "was already basically unusable," writes Donald Kirk for The Daily Beast.

"If anything was clear from the nature of the journalists' expedition to Punggye-ri, it was that the North Koreans were not about to let anyone do any testing anywhere, whether there or at Yongbyon or any of the numerous caves and tunnels scattered around the country where presumably they've got much else to hide, including their program for producing warheads with highly enriched uranium."

Face It Europe, Trump Is Doing You a Favor

European powers might not like to admit it, but President Trump is doing the continent a favor when he chides them over their military spending, argue Alina Polyakova and Benjamin Haddad in The Wall Street Journal. If Europe doesn't want to be sidelined, it needs to pull its weight.

"In a world increasingly defined by great-power competition, Europe is finding it increasingly hard to defend its preferred model of multilateral decision-making and soft-power diplomacy. As Mr. Trump decided to make his U-turn on Iran, he looked to other American allies: Israel, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates," they argue.

"Mr. Trump's snubbing of Europe is a continuation of the broader trend in US foreign policy. President Obama came into office intent on a pivot to Asia."

"If Europe wants to strengthen the trans-Atlantic partnership for the long run, its best path is to invest in defense and security. Wounded tweets hardly help."

Putin Has Syria Right Where He Wants It

The situation in Syria appears to be "moving toward de facto partition accompanied by ongoing low-level military conflict and a functional, but sluggish politics—a so-called frozen conflict," writes Jonathan Spyer for Foreign Policy. That's likely exactly how Vladimir Putin wants it.

"Moscow's pattern of behavior elsewhere suggests that it is comfortable with the maintenance of unresolved conflicts, at relatively low cost. In Ukraine, for example, the conflict in the Donbass remains far from resolution. But by holding parts of Donetsk and Luhansk provinces, Russia ensures that it can disrupt Ukraine's internal affairs at will, and that its plans and strategy are the most urgent issue facing any Ukrainian government," Spyer writes.

"In Syria, of course, Russia is backing the government, rather than an insurgency of its own making, as in Ukraine. But Moscow is now making clear that its interests don't entirely overlap with Assad's."
 

Support for the Strongmen Isn't Coming from Where You Think

The warning signs for democracy are flashing red across the globe. But the embrace of the strongmen might not be coming from where you expect, writes David Adler in The New York Times.

"On the right, ethno-nationalists and libertarians are accused of supporting fascist politics; on the left, campus radicals and the so-called Antifa movement are accused of betraying liberal principles. Across the board, the assumption is that radical views go hand in hand with support for authoritarianism, while moderation suggests a more committed approach to the democratic process," Adler writes.

"Is it true? Maybe not. My research suggests that across Europe and North America, centrists are the least supportive of democracy, the least committed to its institutions and the most supportive of authoritarianism."

 

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