At a press conference at the G-7 summit in Japan on May 26, President Barack Obama declared that world leaders are “rattled” by Donald Trump, “and for good reason. Because a lot of the proposals that he’s made display either ignorance of world affairs or a cavalier attitude or an interest in getting tweets and headlines instead of actually thinking through what is required to keep America safe.”
This statement is remarkable not only for its eccentric syntax and convoluted logic. Obama assumes that 226 million Americans eligible to vote this year should take note of the fact that his G-7 colleagues—Messrs. Hollande, Trudeau, Abe et al—are unnerved, shocked, or put off by the Republican candidate, and that this should influence their decision next November. It should not: the election is an American affair, and it is offensive to suggest otherwise. Lyndon Johnson in 1964 and Jimmy Carter in 1980 could have made the same argument, yet for all their faults they sensed how impertinent it would have been to do so . . . but those were different times.
Obama’s statement is additionally irritating in view of the fact that three of his eight fellow-summiteers are unelected. Socialist Matteo Renzi is the third successive prime minister of Italy to be appointed through backroom deals in the country’s parliament; the last real “leader” to be elected to that post was Silvio Berlusconi, back in 2008. Luxemburger Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, was nominated by the European Council in 2014 and duly confirmed by the “European Parliament,” an institution chronically devoid of democratic legitimacy. In that same year, former Polish prime minister Donald Tusk was appointed president of the European Council by the Council itself. All three belong to the postnational, globalist elite class, so it is normal that they support Hillary Clinton. It is equally unsurprising that Obama cherishes their opinions. It is scandalous, however, that he expects to cajole American voters into taking those opinions to heart when deciding on who should be their next chief executive. Does Obama seriously expect us to assume that his fellow-“world leaders” are “actually thinking through what is required to keep America safe”?
Had it been up to the G-7 types, John Kerry would have been elected president in 2004. More significantly, during the 1980 campaign Ronald Reagan was viewed with much suspicion by the “world leaders,” to put it mildly. With the exception of Margaret Thatcher, our European allies regarded him as a dangerous, trigger-happy populist who could drag the world into World War III. They were horrified by his description of the USSR as an “evil empire” and his refusal to parrot the platitudes of détente and peaceful coexistence. The rest is history.
Three and a half decades later, one of the most rabidly anti-Trump organs of the Establishment is the Washington Post. It is an even bet that in the next day or two its editorialists will treat the world leaders’ alarm about Trump with grave concern. Let us recall that, exactly one year after Reagan’s first inauguration, the Post asserted that European nations “no longer trust our judgment and good sense . . . and they are alarmed by the Reagan administration’s compulsive flow of tough talk”:
Thus, more and more Europeans are asking: can the current administration—or indeed any administration chosen under our prevailing electoral system—ever again develop an informed and sophisticated strategy—what lawyers call “a theory of the case”? Or will America continue to flail about until it precipitates ultimate disaster? . . . Flawed as it was, détente was intellectually and emotionally satisfying: it acknowledged the existence of diversity in Soviet politics and rejected the banal hypothesis of a rigid ideologically driven adversary immune from internal conflicts and unresponsive to world opinion. If many Europeans now regard American policy as erratic and unpredictable, they are right . . .
Trump’s “America first” is today’s equivalent of rejecting détente in 1980. The global context is different, but he shares with Reagan an abiding antipathy to the establishment’s cock-sure arrogance and moral absolutism. He, too, presents a challenge to the elite world outlook, to the intellectual and emotional satisfaction the global elite class derives from living in an abnormal world. Depriving them of that morbid satisfaction is in itself enough to hope for Trump’s victory.