Jun 13, 2018, 4:57 AM ET

COLUMN: Little long-term thinking in what Trump says and does


President Donald Trump, just off a whirlwind tour of international diplomacy -- to Canada for the G-7 meeting and then to Singapore for the summit on North Korea -- still has not moved from the tactical to the strategic as regards U.S. foreign policy.

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The president has an unbelievable ability to garner press and make folks respond, but there seems little long-term thinking in what he says and does.

And giving Trump some genius level of strategic credit because everyone is focused on him, and is responding to him, is a bit like giving credit to the teenager who got the keys to his parents car and drove erratically on the highway, because all the other cars on the road and pedestrians had to react to him.

Let us not confuse stream of consciousness actions with strategic planning and foresight.

In the span of just a few days Trump managed to do the following:

1. Help Kim Jong Un achieve a tremendous propaganda victory by standing shoulder-to-shoulder with him on the world stage, and letting Kim wrap his flag of dictatorship with the American flag of democracy. This enhanced Kim’s status among other nations and gave him both a domestic advantage in North Korea and an international platform to engage from. This is something he, his father, and other leaders of North Korea have only dreamed of over the last 70 years.

2. Celebrated the hated dictator of North Korea, who has brutalized his own people, complimenting him effusively within hours of criticizing a longtime democratic ally, the popular leader Justin Trudeau of Canada, and threatening our neighbor with ill-advised tariffs. This is an amazing turnaround for an American foreign policy that looked to Canada for support on international agreements, at the United Nations, and in conflicts and wars around the globe. Neither of these actions will make America safer, nor help the working class of our country economically. I think Trump just pushed the limits of what “Canada nice” will tolerate, and for this president, he has asserted a policy that our allies will see as “no good country goes unpunished."

3. Here is where the logic fails me: So President Trump, with Republican support, saw the Iran nuclear agreement, which had tons of concessions and detailed commitments as bad and needing to be reversed, while the deal with North Korea, with no concessions and no real commitments from Kim, is good and readily embraced. Color me confused on this, or maybe I just smell good old-fashioned cooked-to-perfection political hypocrisy.

4. On his way to Canada, Trump speculated that Russia should be let back into the G-7, ignoring the fact the Russians were kicked out because they invaded and took over Crimea. In the midst of these idle thoughts expressed out loud, Trump blamed President Obama for the Russian invasion of Crimea and basically said since it had nothing to do with Trump, why should he hold it against Putin. This would be like Harry Truman, after FDR died, blaming Roosevelt for the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and deciding not to continue the war in the Pacific because it was “Roosevelt’s problem” and then inviting Japan over for a meeting.

For many Americans, acts and words such as this by our president have become the new normal and we often lose focus on their real-world impact. We must stay alert and not let chaos become expected. Let us not get tired and lost in the maelstrom of maddening, messy and mercurial meanderings of the man from Mar-a-Lago.

Matthew Dowd is an ABC News analyst and special correspondent. Opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the views of ABC News.

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  • fmd160

    Great opinion column. Hits the nail right on the head. Couldn't be made any more clear.

  • CatMom


  • Truthfully

    Long-term Thinking??
    Trump doesn't Think.
    Really GLAD to hear Ivanka and Jared are doing so well in the White House. 82 Million they made last year??? Great TAX CUTS!? for the TOP 1%. I already lost my tax cut with the increase in gas!!!

  • Ted Mittelstaedt

    So spanky castigates our allies and friends and praises our enemies. Isn't this what a traitor does?

  • JuPMod

    Big duh. It is easy to lose focus on the bigger picture when people are distracted by seeing only what is front of them

  • mikevietvet68/69

    it would only be right that one dictator praises another dictator while the gang lines their pockets and the powers that be don't utter a single word,even flakey,gowdy dowdy and corker who does not have to worry where his next meal is coming from.hypocrites all..


    Matthew Dowd is simply another Trump basher who explains the President's success with North Korea by attacking it. He isn't worth listening to and his opinions are pretty useless.

  • Debra

    So, it was a "historic" meeting, with lots of publicity and photo ops. The world's most brutal dictator, with a horrible human rights record, now feels "honored" by the US President, gained legitimacy and accolades, had his trip paid for by Singapore, and looks normalized now in the world's eyes. Win for Kim.
    We gave up drills in SK, without even telling SK! We got a "promise" from Kim, with nothing else and no guarantee (something other US leaders also attained before NK reneged). Trump gained praise, attention, flattery, and more massaging of his huge ego.
    Not sure this is any better than the Iran deal that Trump hates, or the improved relationship with Cuba that Trump also criticized Obama for. SMH.

  • bibleexpert

    Celebrated the hated dictator of North Korea, who has brutalized his own people, complimenting him effusively

    Crocodile tears, Matthew, in view of the numerous brutal dictators the U.S. has supported and effused over - and is currently doing in the Middle East.

  • Prophet With Honor

    Never posted this before, but "duh".

  • Alex Ross

    Nobody with THAT amount of NPDs can think strategically. SAD.