Justin Trudeau was a man on a mission Monday. Canada’s global golden boy came to Washington ready to go head to head with Donald Trump, newly elected US President and international orange pariah.
First, there was the handshake. Trump’s grip and grin style is a classic, though awkwardly applied, power move: yank the unsuspecting fellow world leader in and only let go on your own terms.
Trudeau, a sometimes amateur boxer and full-time media savvy politician, was ready. He bound from the car and immediately grasped Trump’s shoulder, turning the President’s opener into a stalemate:
Then there was the joint press conference. While the focus was clearly on NAFTA and the plans Trump had to renegotiate it, reporters did ask about the infamous (and now officially suspended) travel ban. In particular, they wanted to know how the two leaders would square the circle that is their quite different approaches to refugees.
Trump dodged the issue, like, well Donald Trump. He talked about his Electoral College victory. At least he managed to mention an initiative for women in business without plugging his daughter’s clothing line. He’s, um, learning?
As for Trudeau, well, he spun it like a pro. First he talked about Canada accepting 40 000 Syrian refugees and then finished by saying that “the last thing Canadians expect is for me to come down and lecture another country on how they govern themselves.”
Mission accomplished. At least for Trudeau’s international reputation as a refugee-hugging progressive. He met the beast head on and prevailed. The memes, shared video and pics will attest to that:
As for his claim that a lecture is the last thing Canadians would expect him to bring, well, he’s right. After the NDP tried to get his government to publicly condemn the Trump travel ban, Trudeau dodged and refused. If he wouldn’t step up in the comfort of our Parliament, why would we expect him to in Trump’s home?
That doesn’t mean a good many of us didn’t want him to say something a bit more confrontational. Maybe he could have put the same energy and tact into fighting against arrogant and ignorant discrimination that he did into his photo-op handshake.
Criticizing the travel ban would not be akin to “lecturing another country” either. There are plenty of Americans vocally opposed to the executive order. Thousands of them took to the streets and the airports and quite a few can be found in both the legislative and judicial branches of the US Government and it’s the judicial branch that has the final say in the US, no matter what the President thinks.
But…diplomacy you may argue. Sure, fine, but Trudeau’s agree to disagree approach in the press is hiding a just agree but try not to talk about it one behind the scenes.
The day before Trudeau’s trip to Washington, the CBC reported on Bill C-23, the so-called Pre-Clearance Bill, which would give US Border Control agents the power to detain Canadian citizens on Canadian soil and even deny permanent Canadian residents the right to re-enter Canada. While this was, admittedly, originally negotiated by the Harper and Obama administrations, it’s Trudeau’s Liberals who are trying to make it law.
They’re doing so with full knowledge that they will be giving new powers to an agency that didn’t think twice about implementing an illegal, illogical and immoral ban. They’re also doing so in cooperation with an administration run by white supremacists who propagate myths equating refugees with terrorists.
Diplomacy is one thing. This is falling in line with the fascistic tendencies of the Trump Administration. Trudeau won the handshake battle on camera, but in reality, Trump’s power move prevailed.
And then there’s Keystone XL. At least, with this one, it’s something Trudeau has supported all along. He even went to Washington before he was Prime Minister asking President Obama to approve it.
Now, with a new President hell-bent on profit for energy companies regardless of the environmental cost, it looks like he will get his wish. Keystone was a key part of the joint statement the two released.
Coming across as a progressive environmentalist standing next to Donald Trump is easy. Living up to your international reputation here at home in reality, not so much.
I’ll leave it to The Beaverton to sum up the Two Trudeaus in this comedy skit:
He’s not as bad as Trump, nowhere near it. He may be the progressive hero the world needs, but that fiction is not what Canada has.