As Donald Trump continues his pre-presidency equivalent of trying every button on the dashboard of a new car in rapid succession, hoping a design flaw at Honda has given you a special ejector seat or a K-cup input, he’s revealing himself to be either even more inept or more corruptible than even his staunchest detractors imagined. Most of the media attention regarding the Donald tipping his diplomatic hand has been dedicated to his ill-advised, maybe planned/maybe perfunctory phone call with President Tsai Ing-wen of Taiwan—which I’ll touch on in a moment—but just as important is his similar phone meeting with Philippine strongman Rodrigo Duterte, who has been in the news in his own right this week after being accused of conducting drug raids intended not to capture kingpins or seize shipments, but to liquidate users and sellers.
According to Reuters, drug busts in the Philippines since Duterte began his personal vendetta against substances in the country have resulted in 51 shootings by police in drug busts, during which 100 suspects were killed and just three wounded—a 97 percent kill rate. Putting these stats down in black and white makes one wonder why Donald Trump would want to talk to the man responsible for such carnage on the phone. Duterte has shown a Caligula-like delight in the violence his power can inspire and has insulted or frightened much of the world while implementing that power. Unless the president-elect is calling Duterte for pointers, he is dangerously misinformed about the state of affairs in Manila.
But how could he be misinformed to that extent when the man who was recently appointed Manila’s special emissary to the U.S., Jose Antonio, worked with Trump on a $150 million luxury development before being appointed by the psychotic Duterte? This is hardly the first potential conflict of interest to be raised from the Trump administration’s existence, nor will it be the last, but it does highlight pretty roundly the kind of people Trump sees fit to do international business with.
During their phone call, Trump reportedly invited Duterte to the White House—despite the fact that in recent months tensions between the two nations have been at a heightened level thanks to Duterte’s talk of cutting ties with the U.S. in favor of Russia. Their seven-minute phone call was the latest in a series of meetings that seem to highlight Trump’s ignorance of diplomacy. For example, he told the Prime Minister of the UK that she should “let him know if she’s coming to the States.”
Trump’s absolute rejection of any state-to-state protocol shouldn’t surprise anyone, but exactly how he chooses to use that move has been more than a little surprising. Apart from fawning over murderous strongmen and making a fool of himself, Trump also decided to put a cherry on top of the pre-apocalypse sundae that is his foreign policy. In what was first described as a simple meet-and-greet phone call, then described by the same sources as a premeditated action to show China who’s boss, the Donald broke decades of international agreements by speaking to President Tsai Ing-wen of Taiwan over the phone. Part of the U.S. and China’s shaky friendly relationship is the fact that we recognize their sovereignty over Taiwan, meaning that like his befriending of a maniac, his attempted Taiwan power play is either stupid or destructive. Neither is good for the United States.