The White House has now admitted that the phone call President Trump claimed to get from the Boy Scouts praising his sex yacht speech never actually happened. But somehow, that's not the biggest presidential phone call news of the day. The Washington Post got its hands on transcripts of two of Trump's infamous early calls to other world leaders, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. Those incidents drew some concern at the time about the Trumpian approach to diplomacy. Now, it's clear we weren't nearly worried enough.
First, there was the call with Peña Nieto, in which the president called his counterpart "Enrique" throughout—a total of 14 times—to show Tremendous Respect. The most obvious point of discussion was The Wall, which Trump insisted Mexico would pay for throughout the campaign. Apparently, there are people who actually believed this, and Trump felt some pressure to follow through. Peña Nieto (not to mention former president Vicente Fox) was clear in public statements that Mexico was never going to pay for The Wall, and Trump, in their first powwow, was desperate for him to stop acknowledging reality so loudly:
Stop saying that! Just say "we will work it out" until one or both of us gets run out of office. (Peña Nieto can also claim some godawful approval ratings.) Later, Trump was also candid about why The Wall was actually so important.
Trump made a bunch of different claims about how much The Wall would cost, but WaPo cited one of his estimates of $8 billion. The Department of Homeland Security put the actual numbers at $21.6 billion, so Trump will really have to flex his Inexpensive Building Skills. But the real takeaway is that Trump will readily admit The Wall is primarily a political device.
Elsewhere, he offered an intriguing take on the Drug War:
Trump did not actually win New Hampshire in the general election. But he is well aware of the opioid abuse epidemic there. He attributes that not at all to the overprescription of painkillers, but completely to the flow of drugs over the Mexico-New Hampshire border.
Then he just descended into self-parody:
This is what a liberal Twitter user who exclusively calls the president "Drumpf" would imagine his conversation with the president of Mexico would sound like. But it's what actually happened.
Having safely shored up our relationship with one geopolitical ally, the president moved on to Malcolm Turnbull, prime minister of Australia. This call got a lot of play right after it happened, even when the full details weren't clear, because reports were widespread that things hadn't exactly gone well. The transcript lays that bare, and more. It's not just that Trump was like a bull in a china shop, raging about a deal for the U.S. to accept some refugees from Australia. It's that he was so breathtakingly ignorant about everything he was raging about.
It's always nice to use a metaphor, like "dumping ground," that implies human beings seeking refugee status are actual garbage. Trump's description of the deal, as Turnbull later explained to him, is also off: The U.S. was not required to accept 2,000 people, or anyone at all. The U.S. agreed to review and vet at least 1,250 people the Australians had put in camps on two remote Pacific islands—in conditions human rights groups deemed inhumane—and let in whomever passed the vetting process. The people were not from conflict zones, Turnbull added, but were economic refugees.
Trump zeroed in on the important point, however:
And then things really went off the rails:
Recommend reading this excerpt from Trump's call with Australia's prime minister, because... https://t.co/8tmGlYIJSE pic.twitter.com/op7b1iyNjVAugust 3, 2017
"I am the world's greatest person," he said, before once again misstating the terms of the deal. When corrected, he threw out another number that "he also heard." But then came the worst of it:
They're not in prison. They're in refugee camps. Jesus Christ. This is an actual toddler's interpretation of events. And what the hell are "local milk people"? Is this an attempt from the president, a Man of the People, to throw out some Normal All-American Job That People Still Do, like be a milkman? This is another disturbing look into the president's brain, which is rapidly atrophying in a jar of 1950s nostalgia.
He also had some thoughts on refugees in light of the Boston marathon bombing:
The only difference between the president in public and the president on the phone with world leaders is that on the phone, he's apparently willing to admit The Wall is just politics. Otherwise, he's the same: He knows nothing, cares less, but is always willing to lash out at anyone or anything that threatens him—whether it's the prospect of negative media coverage or the 5,000 refugees knocking on the door of his addled mind.
This post has been updated.
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