Donald Trump’s four-day state visit to Japan is shaping up to be a microcosm of his entire presidency.
Everything is pageantry. There’s no substance. Decorum and tradition are secondary, his convenience primary. And the very minute he gets bored, he opens his Twitter app and serves notice that if someone doesn’t take him to an ice cream shop (figuratively or literally), he’s likely to misbehave. He’s something of an adult Augustus Gloop.
“North Korea fired off some small weapons, which disturbed some of my people, and others, but not me. I have confidence that Chairman Kim will keep his promise”, Trump tweeted at one point. “[I] smiled when [Kim] called Swampman Joe Bidan a low IQ individual, & worse.”
That would be unfathomable had it come from any other US politician, let alone a sitting US president. That the President of the United States would celebrate derogatory comments about a US politician (any US politician) attributed to Kim by North Korea’s notorious state propaganda machine is surreal in the extreme, and is probably an impeachable offense on its own. And yet, because it’s Trump, nobody was wholly surprised. And just like he accidentally managed to defuse the tension with Puerto Rico by describing it as “An island surrounded by water. Big water. Ocean water.”, Trump somehow took the edge off an otherwise heinous endorsement of a dictator’s smear campaign against a former vice president by spelling Biden “Bidan” while branding Joe a “low IQ individual.”
On Sunday, the world was treated to the visuals from Trump’s highly-anticipated cameo at the final match of an annual summer sumo tournament in Tokyo. He couldn’t be bothered with the traditional cushions. Instead, Japan had custom-built chairs installed so Trump had the necessary lumbar support. Shoes aren’t permitted in the sacred sumo ring, which, in theory, should have precluded footwear when Trump presented the 60-pound trophy to the winner. Instead, Japan gave him some slippers. He donned a pink tie and grinned like an imbecile while hoisting the trophy, which Japanese media informally called the “Trump Cup.” In a testament to the idea that Shinzo Abe understands he’s dealing with someone who has the mentality of a child, the Prime Minister reportedly considered Trump’s long history with American professional wrestling when deciding how to entertain the US president. “Abe chose shrewdly in extending the sumo invitation to Mr. Trump, who for decades appeared on television in the United States at professional wrestling extravaganzas”, the New York Times wrote.
“It was something to see, these great athletes, because they really are athletes”, Trump said later. “It’s a very ancient sport. And I’ve always wanted to see sumo wrestling. So it was really great.”
This is one time when you can be reasonably sure Trump is being genuine. He later posted a video of the event set to dramatic music on Twitter. The crowd numbered more than 11,000, apparently.
Prior to the match, Trump golfed with Abe for nearly three hours and even that experience had to be enhanced to ensure the US president felt sufficiently important. Abe roped in Isao Aoki for the round. After 16 holes, they had lunch: A double cheeseburger made with US beef. Abe is perhaps more adept than any other world leader when it comes to handling Trump. The Prime Minister’s relative success in that regard stems entirely from understanding that the best way to deal with a child is to simply treat him like a child – provide constant entertainment, give him vanilla ice cream if that’s what he wants and shower him with flattery. “We were able to exchange our views frankly in a cozy atmosphere”, Abe said of the two leaders’ fifth round of golf since Trump took office. “It was wonderful”, he added. Abe later tweeted a selfie, which Trump immediately retweeted.
True to form, Trump co-opted Japan in his war with Democrats. “Great fun and meeting with Prime Minister Abe”, Trump said, before leaping to a non sequitur. “Numerous Japanese officials told me that the Democrats would rather see the United States fail than see me or the Republican Party succeed”, he claimed, adding two words and an obligatory exclamation point: “Death Wish!”
At dinner, after the sumo match, Abe took Trump to a hibachi restaurant. Trump had a potato, steak, chicken and vanilla ice cream. Two scoops, one imagines.