Transcripts of President Donald Trump’s early conversations with heads of state in Australia and Mexico reveal two very different themes.
From Trump’s side, the general messages seem to toggle between “We’re in this together” and “Don’t make me look bad.”
Maybe that’s one man’s brand of diplomacy and deal making.
Coming from a new president who boasts of making the “best deals,” his patter sounds less pointed and more public appearance-oriented than some fans may have expected.
Trump’s chats, seven and eight days after he took office, with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull convey an expectation that both should earnestly care how the U.S. executive will look.
Sample Trump quotes from the White House records disclosed by The Washington Post:
“This is going to kill me . . . ”
“Boy, that will make us look awfully bad . . . ”
“This is a killer . . . ”
“I look like a dope . . . ”
The Republican president was complaining to Turnbull that accepting a deal signed by his Democratic predecessor, Barack Obama, to resettle 1,250 refugees in the U.S. would make him be “seen as a weak and ineffective leader.”
Although in the same vein, this exchange with Nieto got the bigger rise from commentators when posted on Thursday:
Nieto: “My position has been and will continue to be very firm, saying that Mexico cannot pay for that wall.”
Trump: “But you cannot say that to the press. The press is going to go with that and I cannot live with that.”
Then there’s the flip side, the mano a mano attempt to bond, clear in the same conversation.
Trump characterized Mexico through last year’s campaign as having cleverly taken advantage of the U.S. for many years.
But he told Nieto: “It is very important for you to understand this — I want the best [trade] solution also for Mexico. I do not just want a great solution for the United States.”
And later: “It is you and I against the world, Enrique, do not forget.”
The conversation with Turnbull took a sour turn, especially when the Australian tried explaining the relevant refugee policies and dealings to the new American president.
Trump ended up complaining: “I have been making these calls all day and this is the most unpleasant call all day. [Vladimir] Putin was a pleasant call. This is ridiculous.”
And yet, there was still the standard reach-out.
Turnbull: “I believe you and I have similar backgrounds, unusual for politicians, more businessman, but I look forward to working together.”
Trump: “That is exactly right. We do have similar backgrounds and it seems to be working in this climate — it is a crazy climate.” (He was evidently referring to terrorism).
Generally, it at least sounds like the same Trump we hear in public. But we rarely get a glance of him in conversation, where he may confront a point of view different from his own.