How the US president’s salesmanship trumps his statesmanship.
Listening to US President Donald Trump tell Fox News on Sunday that “We won two world wars, beautiful world wars, that were vicious and horrible,” one does not know whether to laugh or cry.
It is certainly a shocking statement, but the fact that it is no longer surprising to hear such crudity from the American president is, in itself, disturbing.
The president boasts of having an Ivy League education and knowing the “best words”, but his poor and slurred speech and repetitive use of a very few words like “tremendous”, “amazing” and “beautiful”, tell a different story.
The use of “beautiful” in this context of world war may be another slip of the tongue, caused by dementia – something psychologists have claimed he may have.
But this is different from “Belgium is a beautiful city” which slipped Trump’s tongue in 2016.
It signals something more sinister.
Regardless of whether Trump meant it or not, the record shows his use of “beautiful” may rather be associated with his long history of salesmanship. Well, “used-cars”-style salesmanship to be precise.
In other words, it is linked to deception.
Trump has boasted of reviving “beautiful clean coal” and called the environmentally controversial Dakota Access oil pipeline “beautiful” as well. He has lamented the taking down of “beautiful” Confederate statues that are associated with the dark past of fighting to maintain slavery in the South, and bragged about his appointment of “brand new, beautiful conservative judges”.
Trump has spoken of a “beautiful” healthcare bill to replace Obamacare, although it is yet to materialise as the administration continues its assault on what is left of the much-needed programme amid a pandemic.
Trump has also committed to building a real, high and “beautiful” wall along the border with Mexico, which Congress and most Americans have opposed, prompting the president to declare a national emergency for the sole purpose of paying for it.
Trump has justified his extraordinary decision to build his “beautiful wall” on the grounds of ending undocumented immigration, stopping drugs from coming into the US, and making Mexico pay for it. He has even warned of threats to national security.
In reality, the construction of the border wall has not curbed border crossings, which have recently increased. It is also unlikely to have much effect on drug trafficking, as drugs are mostly smuggled through legal ports of entry. And, last but not least, Mexico is a trade partner, not an enemy – it has not and will not pay for the wall.
Nowhere is the use of “beautiful” more disturbing than in association with weapons and the Middle East.
During his first foreign trip in 2017, Trump boasted in Riyadh of his eagerness to sell “beautiful weapons” worth tens of billions of dollars to Qatar and other rich Gulf countries to create more American jobs and better Gulf security.
But a few days later, Trump sided with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain when they imposed a blockade on Qatar based on false pretexts and fabricated pretences.
Trump soon reversed his position, but has not been able to pressure his Gulf allies to end their siege on Qatar and cease the unnecessary divisions and instability.
Instead, the Trump administration has inflamed regional instability by walking away from the Iran nuclear deal and, along with Israel, escalated tensions with Tehran.
After the assassination of General Qassem Soleimani, the head of Al Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Trump boasted of spending $2 trillion on arms and threatened to target Iran with “brand new beautiful” weapons.
Trump bragged about these and other Middle East policies to the Israeli American Council, which is subsidised mainly by his own “patron-in-chief”, casino owner Sheldon Adelson.
There, he sang the praise of a “beautiful and mighty” Israel and ridiculed Arab and other leaders, who appealed to him not to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel or recognise its annexation of the Syrian Golan Heights.
And to top it all off and take it to a whole new level of absurdity, Trump later described the happy reaction of his once personal lawyer and present US ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, as that of a “wonderful, beautiful baby”.
The preposterousness of the image is matched only by the farcicality of the story behind the decision on the Golan Heights. As Trump tells it, he asked for a “quickie” explanation about the Heights, then “I went Bing! – it was done”.
This has all been part of the “big, big beautiful difference” between his and his predecessor’s commitment to Israel – one which comes at the expense of its Palestinian and Arab neighbours, and which ended up torpedoing decades of US Middle East diplomacy.
Trump’s beautiful policy failures in the Middle East are only matched by his failures in East Asia.
Trump praised and mused about his “love” relationship with the North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un, who apparently sent him “beautiful letters”. After their 2018 summit, he declared that Americans can “sleep well at night” knowing that North Korea was prepared to give up its nuclear weapons.
The following year, Trump praised Kim’s “great and beautiful vision” for his country which, as anyone who knows anything about the totalitarian regime knows, is a big lie, a political heresy, an utter humbug.
And soon enough, it turned out his buddy Kim has been using their bromance to perfect his vision of North Korea as a nuclear power with long-range missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads.
For the record, Trump also said he received “beautiful” letters from Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese leader, Xi Jinping.
Need I say more?
Trump even got a “beautiful birthday card” from Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as the latter cracked down on royal family members, journalists and human rights advocates.
And so the president with the “beautiful temperament” and “beautiful [some say small] hands” promises to continue to work for a “bright and beautiful” future for the new generations across the Middle East and beyond.
A beautiful man indeed.