• What Trump’s triumph means for Filipino-American relations

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    FRANCISCO S. TATAD

    FRANCISCO S. TATAD

    Donald Trump’s phenomenal win in the US presidential elections, against all pre-election forecasts of a Hillary Clinton victory, has been described in the British press as America’s Brexit–recalling the stunning British vote on June 23, 2016 to leave the European Union despite all pre-referendum surveys predicting a majority decision to “remain.” This was not the first major upset in US presidential history. But it is on the same class as Harry Truman’s election on Nov. 2, 1948 when the widely underrated incumbent president, who had come to office upon the death of Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1945, won by the skin of his teeth after all the opinion polls had predicted his defeat to Republican challenger Gov. Thomas Dewey, and the Chicago Tribune had screamed in its early election-day headline, “Dewey Defeats Truman.”

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    But what makes this upset even more awesome is the fact that Trump was a complete outsider who defied all the rules of the establishment. And his party carried both Houses of Congress. Not since the 1920s, American political commentators point out, has any party controlled the presidency, the Senate and the House of Representatives at the same time. Trump managed to achieve this despite a highly conflicted campaign marked by women claiming to have been improperly touched in the past by the Republican candidate, his less than startling performance in the debates, Republican rivals and former presidential candidates denouncing him as unfit to be the candidate, and not the least of all, an extremely hostile press.

    As early as October 19, 2016, Dr. Sam Wang, PhD, of Princeton Election Consortium, a highly regarded name in present-day polling, was reported to have said: “It’s totally over. If Trump wins more than 240 electoral votes (out of the 270 needed to become President), I will eat a bug.” Weeks before that, on Oct. 1, The New York Times, the world’s most important newspaper, reported that Clinton had a 76 percent chance of winning; on the eve of the election, The Times raised that number to 85 percent. Throughout the campaign, the newspaper and many others ridiculed Trump, belittled his supporters, and wrote off any possibility of his ever getting elected.

    Too many hillbillies?
    When the results turned out to be the exact opposite of its advocacy, forecast and analysis, some of its pundits turned their venom on the voters. Leading The Times’ shocked commentariat is the Nobel Prize winning economist-turned columnist Paul Krugman, who wrote: “There turn out to be a huge number of people—-white people, living mainly in the rural areas—-who don’t share all our idea about what America is all about. For them, it is about blood and soil, about traditional patriarchy and racial hierarchy.”

    Obviously, the pollsters and the pundits did not notice the “rustication” of American politics during the campaign. They did not notice that their great nation was filled with so many “little people” who seemed to matter only during elections. They noticed it only after the stunning results were in. And yet a week before the elections, I myself, a foreigner, watching from Manila, had begun to see signs that the forecasts could go wrong. Unlike the propaganda fraudsters in Manila, whose polling is usually integrated into the cheating operations of the political syndicates, the US independent polls have no means of guaranteeing the accuracy of their forecasts.

    That fateful week, my wife and I held an international telephone conference with pro-life and pro-family colleagues in the US, UK, Canada, Poland, Nigeria, Brazil and Ecuador. During that conference, our American panelist, a keen political observer, said that despite the polls claiming increasing support for Hillary, all the data available to him seemed to point to a Trump victory. For his part, our Polish panelist, a demographer, said that from the very beginning he could see no indication of Trump losing to Clinton. Being a distant outsider, with significant American acquaintances on both political camps, I tried not to show any bias for or against either candidate, and tried not to engage the question: who would be good for the Philippines, Trump or Clinton?

    Even believers could not believe
    Yet those who had allowed their opinions to be molded by the polls were shocked and gobsmacked by the results. Even Trump supporters could not all believe that they had won. They had every reason to say with Trump that the impossible had become possible. It was certainly a bad day for modern polling, and for political punditry in American journalism. Amid so much talk of American decline, Trump has injected a booster shot into American exceptionalism. “This is the country that declared its independence, won two world wars, landed a man on the moon. This is America. We can and we will get it done,” Trump said. “You will soon remember what it’s like to win as an American.”

    On the margins of the US 2016 Election Watch at Sofitel Hotel on Wednesday, before the final results were out, I tried to suggest in a couple of live TV interviews that the election of a new US President could help, and should help, turn the page and restart Philippine-US relations, if President Duterte is willing. All DU30 has to do is pick up the telephone or write a short message to congratulate the President-elect, and that would be the start of a new conversation between the two heads of state, which will have nothing to do with the words exchanged between DU30 and the outgoing US president.

    A change of heart
    DU30’s initial statement from Kuala Lumpur, where he is visiting now, tends to support that view. The only difference is that instead of personally calling Trump to congratulate him, he did so in a public speech or through his Communications Secretary Martin Andanar who announced that DU30 congratulated Trump. This wasn’t wrong at all, but it would have been more meaningful had he made the telephone call.

    DU30 sees Trump as a kindred soul, with similarities in behavior and temperament. Both are “gentlemen,” if by “gentleman” we mean “someone who never insults anybody unintentionally.” Like DU30, Trump rained insults on his enemies during the campaign, although unlike DU30, he never used four-letter cuss words on anyone. Both have the same apparent weakness for women. Both are populists, with no small amount of ego and demagoguery. Both are determined to shake up the complacent elite in their respective societies. When they meet, they should hit it off well.

    Question: After saying he would “separate” the Philippines militarily and economically from the US, and align it with China and Russia “against the world,” would it not be hard for DU30 to suggest a reset of “special relations”? I don’t see any problem here. He has not done anything specific and concrete to carry out what he had threatened to do with the US military and economic ties. He could still modify his statement to lend it a much broader perspective.

    A hyperbole?
    With respect to his aligning with China and Russia “against the world,” neither the one nor the other has reacted officially to it. In fact, some Chinese and Russian friendly sources have referred to the formulation, smilingly, as a political “hyperbole.” One friendly Chinese source wondered whether DU30 was not, in fact, simply trying to increase his political value to Washington by threatening to align with Beijing and Moscow. “Meaning to say, he’s simply using China for his own purpose?” I asked the source. “Why, is that unthinkable?” she answered. Despite their policy differences on various issues, China, Russia and the US have robust relations; they are rivals, competitors, but not enemies, she pointed out.

    Question: How could DU30 walk back from his threatened military and economic “separation” from the US without any embarrassment?

    Perhaps he could begin by saying that since the American people have just voted down the US policies and practices he had spoken against under the Obama administration, he would be pleased to give his vote of confidence to the incoming Trump administration, which has promised to give back America to the American people. He could perhaps assure Trump that he would be happy to talk to him about the drug killings in the Philippines in a spirit of friendly consultations between two friends and allies, and not as a US inquiry into the affairs of his government.

    Reviewing military sales
    Then they could perhaps review the status of US military sales to the Philippines, which have been suspended upon the cancellation of the delivery of 26,000 N-4 rifles to the Philippine National Police. In addition to the suspension of the rifles deal, the US appears to have suspended all other Philippine military acquisitions. So have the US military (NATO) allies. In particular, this has affected the purchase of ammunition for the OTO Melara 76 mm cannons on board the Philippine Navy’s four frigates.

    The OTO Melara 76mm cannon is a naval artillery piece manufactured by the Italian defense company of the same name, which is used by 60 navies around the world. It was designed for small warships such as corvettes, aviso and patrol boats. Military sources have disclosed that attempts by the Philippine government to purchase ammo from its Italian supplier have been stymied by the refusal of the German banks to accept the Letter of Credit to cover the transaction, because of a new government policy not to have any dealings with the Philippine government on military purchases.

    This appears to be the unforeseen effect of DU30’s announced decision to separate militarily from the US. What DU30 obviously failed to see when he made his announcement is that outside of the weapons produced by China, Russia and North Korea, the weapons used by the rest of the world belong to a global chain with the US at the very center of it. Thus, a plane manufactured in one country will most probably need a US-made engine, and so it cannot be sold to an end-user without the express permission of the US State Department.

    Replacing the military inventory
    Of course, the government could decide to replace its entire military inventory with weapons from China or Russia; but not only will this take a long time and tons of money, it will also render useless all the weapons being used by the military and the police today, as the government rebuilds its defense system from zero. This means throwing away all those monies.

    This is one reason DU30 will have to walk back from his proposed military separation from the US. Since he has no personal grievances against Trump, I am sure this could be worked out without much difficulty. He need not worry about China or Russia either, because, as shown earlier, they too would be trying to maintain robust and dynamic relations with the Trump administration.

    DU30 has expressed the hope that he and Trump could strengthen relations between their own countries, based on mutual respect, mutual benefit, shared commitment to democratic ideals and the rule of law. It would be an enormous boon if DU30 would recognize that millions of Americans and other nationalities around the world see in Trump’s triumph the beginning of the remaking of America into the great moral power it once was, where religion, according to Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859), was the first political institution, and human life, the family and marriage are the first foundations of society.

    fstatad@gmail.com

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    18 Comments

    1. Trump will not be able to bring back the jobs that were lost during the 90′ s and 2000’s. Their economy is consumption based. Steel and other manufacturings are already gone overseas. Inflations will set in and millions and millions of jobs will suddenly disappear. America of today is unlike the America of the 50’s and 60’s when they are the world ‘s biggest lender. Now they are the biggest debtor. The world is now looking at China to avoid a world recession or depression. China has the biggest holding of gold to back up their Yuan while Fort Knox is empty of gold. America is going to the direction of Brexit. Petrodollar will be replaced by Yuan. We need to be a part of Asia co prosperity spere.

    2. I always enjoy your articles, however a few points. (a) Trump LOST the popular vote, he was elected through an interest quirk in the US election process called the Elctroial college. Trump, Obama (first 2 years), George W Bush and many others have enjoyed the luxury of having both houses of the US Congress and Supreme court all in the same party. It is the time when the most gets done.

      Personally I see du30 and Trump clashing like to lions. Trump owes his white trash hillbillies a punch in Asia face. du30 through his statements has offered him an opportunity. Trump is NO diplomat or trained politician. He is a serial liar, con artist and pitch man… Heck he still faces two charges in federal court before taking office. What he will do is a lot with out much thinking. du30 statements if carried forward will be acted upon by Trump. “Monkey get out we want to align with China and Russia” to Trump it’s “sure” troops out next day, military aid canceled, trade policies canceled, tariffs imposed which will bring jobs home… and like du30 he will be smug about it… Let us all hope for cooler heads. America is now lead by a shoot from the hit spoiled rich white boy who only cares about himself and has no problem trashing everybody else in the world. This is NOT Obama…..

      • A Pilipino economist said that our country will go bankcrupt if the BPO business goes back to US . Millions of jobs lost, billions of wages down the drain. I guess that this country lives by the wages earned thru BPO and remittances from OFW. If Trump follow up with his campaign promises, these two money making machine will be gone in 60 seconds. I do not know how but it can be done. That is what Duterte wants ‘ that is whàt we are going to get. He said Monkeys leave our country, we càn get by. Trump is not a small monkey, he is a very big gorilla.

    3. The good senator’s views on foreign policy matters are accurate and reality-based. P.Du30 and his advisers will immensely benefit from the same if they care to read Tatad.

    4. Why should we get from a weapons supplier who will deny us parts for our weapons systems if we do not bow to their command? That exactly is the reason why we should pivot away from these white western bullies and purchase our weapons from Russia and China. They don’t treat their clients that way. Trump’s election will not change our status as a vassal state in America’s eyes. Our interests are diametrically opposed to each other. We are a “strategic ally” only in so far as we serve as a stepping stone in their drive to dominate China and the Asian heartland. Do you relish being a stepping stone?

    5. “Like DU30, Trump rained insults on his enemies during the campaign” Oh you’re grossly mistaken. Isn’t it the other way around? Get your facts straight. At least, as a former lawmaker you claim you are. lol

      • Clinton and Trump were raining insults with one another. Outside of Clinton, Trump has rained insults on the blacks, women, Muslims, Mexicans, immigrants and would-be immigrants to the US soil. Remember, Kit is not only a lawmaker and a columnist today, he was a journalist and an Information Minister in the past. Those are unmistakably straight facts! Now go straight to Wikipedia and review its Trump entries.

    6. Duterte’s foreign policy, can change from moment to moment, it depends on who he is talking to, he independent foreign policy.

    7. Trump has repeatedly made comments criticizing military alliances that the US has with other countries and has suggested ending them, and he has positioned himself as something that could be described as an isolationist. So if Duterte is thinking Trump is going to be generous with funds and assets, Trump’s line of thinking is very much the opposite. I’m not saying that it is right to abandon or distance the US from the PH and other allies, it is simply a reality of what Trump has been saying over and over. I think it will be a huge mistake if he follows through.

    8. Dealin with Trump, we must study and describe his personality. First, he is anti immigrant said he will deport all Mexicans and will stop Middle Eastern visitors to enter US. Second, he said he will impose a 45 percent tariff in Chinese imports, a trade war will happen. He hates Chinese. Third, he said he will bring all foreign jobs back to US. This will end our BPO , million plus jobs gone. This is who Trump is . If the readers disagree with this description , please educate me more.

      • I am curious. How much is Mr. Soro’s NGO paying you to repeat that misinformation?

        ” he is anti immigrant “.

        False. Mr. Trump is anti ILLEGAL immigrant. Not “undocumented”. ILLEGAL. Violated the host country laws. Which begs the question if an immigrant is going to break immigration law, are they apt to break other laws?

        “he will deport all Mexicans”.

        False. Mr. Trump wants to deport violators of immigration law. Those who are not criminals are welcome to come back the LEGAL way.

        “stop Middle Eastern visitors”

        False. Mr. Trump wants to run background and security checks on LAWFUL immigrants from areas of the globe that support and foster terrorism.

        “he will impose a 45 percent tariff in Chinese imports”
        “he said he will bring all foreign jobs back to US”

        Foreign jobs? Really. NAFTA and other free trade agreements have been gamed and violated to the detriment of the US for decades.

        Maybe Mr. Trump should nullify, via taxation, the advantage that countries have for practicing modern slavery.

        Might just discourage that practice.

      • You are pretty spot on… but I would add that the Philippines is not on the radar of Trump… most white trash hill billies can’t find the Philippines on a globe. They are angry at China for taking the manufacturing jobs away (that won’t ever come back….). Philippines took away call center jobs. If du30 continues to act and talk as he did to Obama, he must understand that Trump is a smug untrained politician and no diplomat. He will take “Monkeys, Son-of-a-bitch” personal.. If he sees America expats in danger, protests outside the US embassy, PLA marching the street, gun purchases from Russia… Exj killings continue… he will move to cancel all treaties including trade AND NOT CARE ONE BIT.. This is not good by any means… Both men shoot mouths quickly and then act.. Let us all pray for peaceful communication !!!!

      • I believe Trump said he is against ILLEGAL immigrants, not immigrants per se. After all, his wife is an immigrant as well. He also said that Muslim immigrants must be deeply vetted. He didn’t say he will stop Middl Eastern visitors to enter US.

        You’re correct about his statement that he will impose a 45% tariff on Chinese imports.

        There, you have been educated. You’re welcome.

    9. I agree that Trump and DU30 will form a strong bond. The US/PH master/slave relationship will evolve to one of cooperation towards common good.

      • Never happen… never. Trump has no strong bond with anybody or anything other than a mirror. I would recommend you put your savings in US Dollars..

    10. Your president announced to the world that it is or will align Ph with China and Russia and as an independent nation, does not need any help from any one or any country. Now that Trump has been elected to the presidency of the US, Duterte’s announcements are no longer just bs and will become reality. It will serves the PH right if USA will cancel the defense treaty and EDCA alliance agreements with the Ph since there is no real benefits for the US and that it (US) should focus its assets and aide to other asian countries more receptive and favorable to the US. The US military has been honed in warfare thru out the middle east, Afghanistan, and warfare training in the European front with NATO, therefore there is no added benefit to the US military training excercises with the Ph military. As for PH military hardware and ammos, look elsewhere and bear the cost burden for the changover. All our best to Ph.

      • Ignacio Balbutin on

        Du30 has already congratulated Trump and I believe the US-Philippines relation will be restored as before because they have many things in common.

      • The US needs PH more than PH needs the US. It needs PH in its pivot to Asia, to ensure their dominance in the Asia Pacific region.