Donald Trump is a grandstanding genius. He just loves it.
And being President just makes it so much easier. I mean you only need to pitch up and hundreds of people will flock to your side and hang off your every word. What you say as president means nothing to them. They just want to be there and bask in glory by association.
Then there are the millions of followers on social media, a pertinent description for the people who can’t actually be physically present, mostly because they couldn’t be bothered, but can bask by virtual association. Again there is no need to say anything special to followers other than to meet their approval for a second.
So what happens when you, the consummate grandstander, go into a boardroom to meet with leaders of countries whose economies make up 60% of global commerce?
You grandstand of course.
Only these people, the G7 leaders and their advisors, have come to discuss issues of state, to agree on the politics that affects everyone, and to make sure their country is a winner. They are the players, there a no spectators here.
But still your grandstanding prevails.
It is as though there is nothing else in your playbook.
So you look grumpy or at times aggressive. You claim that the world is against you and must be punished for it. You sit with closed crossed arms, open to nothing. You big up all the lies and deceits to get the attention required. And then you leave early.
Grandstander – A player who appears to seek the approval of the spectators rather than concentrating on the playing of the game; (in extended use) a person whose words or actions are motivated primarily by the desire to attract attention or gain approval
As a G7 report by the ABC put it…
[Trump’s] early departure means he will miss a working session among the leaders on climate change and clean energy, as well as talks among the G7 and poorer countries focused on the health of oceans.
Oh yes, and an announcement on significant funding for women’s education.
These things do not matter.
They are topics rarely, if ever, on the minds of the virtual spectators so have limited capability to attract attention. They are easily ignored for far grander actions… like meeting with a crazed dictator whose family have all but decimated a whole country and brainwashed too many of its people. Not to mention assassinate unruly relatives.
But what a gesture?
Play to the crowd by exiting the building, leaving behind the important issues to those who don’t matter, tainting those issues in the process. Let the spotlight follow you.
The politics of grandstanding is that approval means far more than truth. So honesty and pragmatism will decline to nothing in favour of pleasing the followers.
And followers will follow for that is what they do. There are any number of livestock truisms involving noses, herds and sheep that tell us that once a crowd is assembled it can be easily whipped.
Trump followers are not going to stop following if he keeps grandstanding. It is his cattle prod and it works.
The truly scary part is that it’s clever. He’s making a huge legacy for himself and his kids. He will leave office far wealthier than when he swore the oath and he won’t need books and lecture tours to fund his retirement. Think hotels on Korean beaches and Russian oil pipelines.
Whatever the guy says and however dumb and clumsy he looks he is making the deal of human lifetime, thanks, in no small part, to his grandstanding genius.
Scenarios with pragmatic outcomes
One morning the sun rises a little brighter than usual on its winter path. It gains a little extra height in the sky and creates unseasonal warmth. A woman sits in an Andronicus chair painted crazy daisy yellow and admires her newly landscaped garden.
“Do you watch the news my darling?” She says to a teenager perched on the arm of the chair.
“No nonna” the girl says leaning into the safety of her family.
“That’s good my love” the woman says and smiles.
This post was written before Trump attended the NATO meeting in July 2018 and then the UK followed by his parley with Putin. As you will have noticed you can insert any of these more recent events into the post without any change to its intent.