The New York Times is trying to stir up a diplomatic spat between the U.S. and China:
By MARK LANDLER 6:02 PM ET
President-elect Donald J. Trump spoke by telephone with Taiwan’s president on Friday, a striking break with diplomatic practice that could create a rift with China.
He is believed to be the first president or president-elect who has spoken to a Taiwanese leader since 1979.
Now it could be that Trump is playing 5-D chess or, more likely, he was just being friendly.
Last year I identified China-Taiwan as a topic on which Trump’s shoot-from-hip common sense is a poor fit. As I wrote on September 6, 2015 when the first poll ever came out showing Trump in the lead over Hillary:
The Statue of Liberty once stood for an American’s right to say what he felt was true. Now the Statue of Liberty has been repurposed as an icon of how Americans had better shut up about immigration and diversity.
Donald J. Trump is the living embodiment of the First Amendment.
On the other hand, there are a lot of foreign policy issues on which the President really shouldn’t mouth off. For example, the official stance of the United States government since February 1972 has been that China and Taiwan are one country that should be under one government; we just won’t say which one.
Now that I think about that, I have that wrong: that was the 1972-1978 policy dreamed up by those devious machiavels Nixon, Kissinger, and Chou. Then Carter cut formal ties with Taiwan. Then Congress retaliated by passing a law creating de facto ties with Taiwan.
In reality, both China and Taiwan are independent countries, but these diplomatic fictions have their reasons.
Granted, that’s ridiculous, but, at least so far it has worked. And therefore the President shouldn’t say it’s ridiculous even though everybody knows it is.
I don’t see any indication that Trump did this, but diplomatic relations have all sorts of abstruse protocols that that a president should follow unless he has a particularly carefully thought out reason not to.
A low energy guy like Obama, who more or less was raised to be some kind of Foreign Service diplomat, is probably not going to tell an interviewer that of course China and Taiwan are separate countries: everybody knows that. But a President Trump might.
In contrast, domestic policy (e.g., immigration policy) should be far more of a free for all than it is under the current rules of what’s respectable. Obama’s diplomatic Blank Screen approach where nobody is supposed to get the joke about why we elected this guy President has been a slow-moving disaster. I suspect that deep down Obama feels bad about how his Administration has, in effect, agitated blacks to murder each other, all in the name of #BlackLivesMatter. But “personnel is policy” and a lot of Obama’s appointees, such as Eric Holder, have been too dim to figure out what they are doing to America.
When it comes to domestic policy, Congress and the courts have huge says, so the President using his bully pulpit is a good thing: the embodiment of democracy.
But much of foreign policy, perhaps too much, is handed over to the President under the guise of the National Security state. So the President has less freedom to spout off his opinion about whatever comes to his attention… Trump has a little under a year and a half to grow into the job. It’s a challenge, but not impossible. Mostly, he needs to get across that he’s not going to upset settled foreign policy just for fun.
Trump should get himself a stuffed shirt Secretary of State in the William Rogers mode.