In the world of international politics and diplomacy, Donald Trump and his administration are rubes.
During Chinese President Xi Jinping’s meeting with Donald at the Mar-a-Lago estate last week, the fact that the administration has no chief of protocol, was glaring. As the two leaders talked, Xi was poised and sat up straight. Donnie slumped all over the couch.
Later over dinner, Don told the Chinese leader that the United States was sending 59 missiles into Syria, in retaliation for its chemical gas attack on April 4. Obviously intended to show Xi his muscle, it wasn’t the smartest move because the only muscle on display was the one between Donnie’s ears. Xinhua, the Chinese news agency, called the strike “the act of a weakened politician who needed to flex his muscles.”
The photo above was on the front page of People’s Daily, China’s largest newspaper. It ricocheted across Chinese television and news sites. In it, Xi appears calm and in command. Trump, on the other hand, appears slouched on the couch, and his posture could be viewed as less authoritative and showing a lack of respect.
In any White House — until now — the chief of protocol has enormous responsibilities. Typical duties would include making sure guests clear Customs, find their baggage and are treated with dignity. The chief, or his staff, educates government employees on the fine art of manners, and Donnie’s actions provided another oops moment, possibly due to his enormous budget cuts to the State Department, which is where the chief of protocol resides.
One etiquette skill that Donnie and many of us lack is sitting erect and standing tall without slouching. To slouch, believe it or not, is considered very rude in many countries. It shows a lack of respect for others.
More examples of how a chief of protocol might help: In China, India and Japan, a handshake is not appropriate. Just a slight bow is acceptable, according to Dealing with an International Clientele: Communications, Diplomacy and Etiquette by Meri Meredith.
Another detailed publication devoted to protocol for government officials is United States Protocol: The Guide to Official Diplomatic Etiquette, written by Mary Mel French, who served as chief of protocol in Bill Clinton’s White House. It uses her personal experience and includes a gigantic list of international, national, and state-level dignitaries, and where and how they are to be treated, seated and other facts, to the tiniest detail. Among other manners items little known to many Americans is to always greet older people, or those in authority, first. Never pick up eating utensils until the oldest person at the table does so.
As for Donnie, don’t forget that during the presidential campaign, he attacked China for “raping” the U.S. economy and killing American jobs with unfair trade practices that include manipulating its currency to make Chinese imports cheaper, while erecting barriers to U.S. exports. He threatened to impose tariffs of 45 percent on imported Chinese goods to reduce the huge U.S. trade deficit with China. Words like that are easily recalled and did little to smooth the start of a new U.S.-China relationship.
As for his golf club guest, Xi — a lifelong politician and bureaucrat who worked his way up from the local to the national and world stage — has never been seen playing golf. And, to rub more salt into The Donald’s thin skin, Xi and the Chinese delegation stayed at a different resort nearby.
Oh Donald, you really need to get someone to read one of those books on protocol to you. Apparently you won’t (or maybe can’t) read it yourself, so maybe your son-in-law Jared Kushner could read it to you in his spare time. I wonder if there’s a chapter on nepotism.