Donald Trump

US President Donald Trump has said and done some pretty contentious things in the short time he has been in office, such as today inventing a terror attack in Sweden. Understandably, this has increased tension on diplomatic relationships with other countries. How do you criticise actions you don’t condone without damaging ally relationships? Here are some of the verbal gymnastics Australian politicians have undertaken to avoid the wrath of the outspoken 45th President of the United States.

The Trump-Turnbull phone call

After speaking with Prime Minister Turnbull on the phone, Trump reportedly said the call was “the worst by far” before ending the conversation abruptly.

Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop, however, said it was a “very positive discussion about a whole range of issues”.

After leaked information about the phone call hit the media, Malcolm Turnbull told the ABC’s 2GB:

“As far as the call is concerned, I am very disappointed that there has been a leak of the purported details of the call in Washington, but I want to make one observation about it: the report that the President hung up is not correct. The call ended courteously.”

Trump responded, as usual, with a tweet:

Who needs a two-state solution?

On Wednesday last week, Trump vowed to work for peace between Israel and Palestine, but he said he wasn’t set on a two-state solution:

“I’m looking at two-state and one-state and I like the one that both parties like. I’m very happy with the one that both parties like.”

US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley spoke out today on the subject:

“We absolutely support the two-state solution but we are thinking out of the box as well, which is — what does it take to bring these two sides to the table? What do we need to have them agree on?”

In a statement, Julie Bishop was careful to not contradict what Trump had said, despite the Turnbull government’s support of a two-state solution:

“We encourage both Israel and the Palestinian Authority to negotiate an outcome that would see Israelis and Palestinians living side by side, within internationally recognised borders, in a peaceful and stable environment.”

‘Muslim Ban’

A press release from the Trump camp on December 7, 2016 stated:

“Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.”

In late January, Trump banned all refugees and all travelers from seven predominantly Muslim nations from the United States for months. Of course, he said in a statement on Facebook it was not a Muslim ban:

“To be clear, this is not a Muslim ban, as the media is falsely reporting. This is not about religion – this is about terror and keeping our country safe.” 

Malcolm Turnbull refused to condemn the President:

“It’s not my job as Prime Minister of Australia to run a commentary on the domestic policies of other countries.”

Turnbull tries it on with the TPP

In an act of national protectionism, Trump signed the executive order to pull out of the Trans Pacific Partnership on January 23, 2017. As he signed it, he said: “Great thing for the American worker what we just did.”

Despite the cameras present to capture the moment Trump signed the executive order to kill the partnership, Malcolm Turnbull refused to give up hope for the U.S.’s continued involvement in the partnership:

”I am confident we will maintain the arrangements we have entered into with the previous administration. They are in the interest of both parties. We have a very close relationship with the incoming administration.”

Is that why Trump said your phone call wasn’t that important, Prime Minister? 

Fake News

Trump introduced the world to the term “fake news”, and there are endless examples of his crusade against the media (his Twitter feed shows he has a particular vendetta against The New York Times). When asked why he calls stories he doesn’t like in the media “fake news” instead of saying “I don’t like that”, he responded:

“Look, I want to see an honest press. When I started off today by saying that it’s so important to the public to get an honest press. The press — the public doesn’t believe you people anymore. Now, maybe I had something to do with that. I don’t know. But they don’t believe you.”

Malcolm Turnbull was asked today about Trump’s comment on the fake news, and far from diminishing the comments, he said:

“A very great politician, Winston Churchill, once said that politicians complaining about the newspapers is like a sailor complaining about the sea. There’s not much point, that’s the media we live with and we have to get our message across, and we thank you all in the media for your kind attention.”

There have been a rash of politicians jumping on the “fake news” bandwagon, too. Last week, Senator Nick Xenophon wrote the word “FAKE” across The Australian in response to an article about his blocking of the omnibus bill. At a press conference in Canberra, Scott Morrison told the press the reports that moderate Liberal MPs would push for a free vote on marriage equality, abandoning the proposed plebiscite, belonged in the same category: “I will leave the fake news to others.”

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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