There is nothing in the art or science of governance that our leaders could use as guide/template in dealing with the 45th president of the United States, Donald J. Trump. Many reasons for this.
The first one is that Mr. Trump has been a businessman all his life, then mixed business with a TV gig, as host of the reality show “The Apprentice.” His multi-billion real estate business was not really built on building good business relationships, the kind of civility that would help him navigate Washington DC and prepare for public office. He said he is too smart to read books so he can’t probably read templates on presidents and their policies and official behavior.
In the New York City real estate circles, Mr. Trump got sued repeatedly for alleged unsavory business behavior and strong-arm tactics. He also filed suits left and right and his legal entanglements are by now legend. He can’t really just use his private behavior as model for his new found public life and amazing power.
The iconic book written by Dale Carnegie, “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” has no relevance with Mr. Trump, whose style, according to his book, should be “The Art of the Deal,” which is not really a Carnegie-like tome on how to conduct business and personal dealings.
Even the “Trump University” he built was called a scam. Before his election to the presidency, Mr. Trump quietly settled the lawsuits against his TU. The cost of the settlement? A grand total of $25 million paid two days before he was sworn in as president of the US.
Getting enmeshed in legal suits was inherited from his father Fred, who built the real estate firm made bigger by son Donald. Fred Trump refused to allow blacks to lease space on his apartments and also got sued for discrimination in the process. His dad, according to published accounts and court filings, was an unapologetic racist.
Does this kind of business prepare him for tact and civility, a requirement for the most powerful public official in the world? Nope.
The second reason is that Mr. Trump does not appear to respect the established institutions of government. During the campaign, he did the unheard of thing, his refusal to release his income tax filings. He claimed his returns were under audit, which was really an alibi, not a valid reason, for non-disclosure of tax filings.
He got his start in politics by spreading the lie that Mr. Obama, the 44th president of the US, was born elsewhere and therefore disqualified from the presidency. Mr. Obama was born in Hawaii, his birth fully documented, but the “ Birther Movement” that Mr. Trump bannered thrived because of the widespread belief of that lie by blue-collar white and rural Americans, the bedrock of Republican support and Mr. Trump
If Mr. Trump has a vague idea on how the institutions of America functions, he did not show that during the campaign. He just belittled his opponents in the Republican primary. He called Marco Rubio, “Little Marco” and Jeb Bush “low energy.”
He intoned that the father of Senator Ted Cruz was involved in the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
But the main reason for the advice in the headline – just flatter Mr. Trump – is based on the character of Mr. Trump. He has, using his favorite word, a yyyuge ego. To Mr. Trump, everything is personal. Those who have gotten under his good graces were those who showered him with endless flattery. The slightest criticisms would make Mr. Trump go ballistics. His Twitter outbursts have been compiled by his critics to paint a picture of a dangerous, raving megalomaniac, who acts as if the whole word revolves around him and his needs. The Saturday Night Live portrayals of Mr. Trump by the actor Alec Baldwin have been particularly irritating to the new president. SNL spoofs of leaders and foibles have been an accepted part of US politics.
His supreme belief in himself and his greatness does not allow criticisms and dissident voices. While the great Lincoln built his government around “A Team of Rivals,” Mr. Trump wants to surround himself with sycophants, gofers and supplicants.
In his first day in office, he and his press secretary, demonstrated that they both live an alternate universe where no facts and data exist. The truth is what they claim is the truth.
So, given these facts, how do our leaders deal with Mr. Trump?
The tone was set by Mr. Duterte. His expression of awe and appreciation of Mr. Trump was a classic, something that would lift the yyyuge ego of Mr. Trump.
“Billionaire. Grabeng ganda ng asawa niyan. Inggit ako. Kung magiging bilyonaryo ka, ganyan ang bunganga mo, tapos, ganyan kaganda ang asawa mo. Naging president ka na, ang asawa mo, heaven ka na.
“Yan ang lamang niya sa akin.”
Mr. Trump would just love the reaction of our president.
We have to deal with the US on an official basis. In fact, we have to deal with the US at a level of engagement that is far and above the dealings with the rest of the world.
And because the US has elected a not-so-conventional president, one who defies the norms of a leader, one who governs on the impulses of his Twitter handle, our leaders should just drop all the rule books on dealing with the US and just follow the lead of Mr. Duterte.
Just flatter Mr. Trump and feed his yyuge ego. We will be fine.