Today, Donald Trump as diplomat. We’re not talking about the big stuff, like his ominous national security appointments — I know you’ve had a hard week. Let’s take it easy and just look at his phone calls with heads of state.
Most of them have been taking place in Trump Tower, although last weekend he decamped to Trump National, his resort in New Jersey. Excellent move! Trump National has two golf courses more than all of Manhattan, and as far as we know, there are no immediate neighbors trying to chisel the word “Trump” off their apartment buildings. Plus, if the president-elect gets bored, he can always arrange to have Chris Christie crawl over and keep him company.
It’s tough enough for New Yorkers to deal with the concept of a Trump administration without having it headquartered in their midst. Traffic is jammed: Fifth Avenue businesses are blocked off and in shell shock. Never before has it been possible to feel such sympathy for the problems of Gucci and Tiffany.
In theory, this should end with the inauguration, but it’s hard to imagine the first family ever actually moving into the White House. Dad isn’t the kind of guy who would enjoy living in harmony with historic preservationists.
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But about those head-of-state calls. Normally the State Department would work out a schedule, according to all sorts of diplomatic priorities, but Trump seems to just be picking up the phone. One of his first conversations was with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who got Trump’s number from golfer Greg Norman.
The British were stunned when Trump talked with the Irish prime minister before he spoke to any of the other European leaders.
Pop Quiz. When Donald Trump finally took a call from British Prime Minister Theresa May, he:
A) Asked her if she’d ever played at the Trump International Golf Links in Scotland.
B) Told her: “If you travel to the U.S., you should let me know.”
C) Asked her if she’d ever been to New Jersey.
D) Appeared to believe “crumpets” were a breed of small, fuzzy dogs.
The answer is B. Britain may have a special relationship with the United States, but so far Trump barely appears to understand we’ve been dating. The 10 minutes devoted to May was less than he spent accepting the good wishes of former “Celebrity Apprentice” winner Piers Morgan.
Pop Quiz II. When Donald Trump spoke to the president of Turkey, he talked about:
A) Turkey’s rapid and disturbing slide from democracy to dictatorship.
B) The war on terror.
C) Trump Towers Istanbul.
The answer was probably B, although you can bet Trump Towers Istanbul was in the back of his mind. “I have a little conflict of interest ’cause I have a major, major building in Istanbul,” Trump said during the campaign. “It’s a tremendously successful job. It’s called Trump Towers — two towers, instead of one, not the usual one, it’s two.”
Two towers, got it. Trump made those comments during an interview with Stephen Bannon, who was then the awful head of a racist website, not the appointee to a powerful position in the incoming White House.
Trump has also had a lot of visitors, ranging from the owner of the New England Patriots to Nigel Farage, who led the Brexit campaign in Britain. (Once again we are noting that the prime minister is coming in behind everybody.)
Trump gave an hour to Bill de Blasio, the very liberal mayor of New York City. The mayor said the meeting went great. This is good news. Maybe Trump does have an untapped potential for diplomacy.
Tell it to the British. Meanwhile, I am sorry to report that de Blasio didn’t suggest Trump move to New Jersey.