Politico reports: Obama hears world leaders’ fears about the Republican front-runner so often that he has developed a speech meant to ease their nerves.
First, he walks them through the Republican primary process: Trump has had success, but there are big states yet to vote and the front-runner could still stumble. Then he explains the complications of the GOP convention and how weak rules and convoluted balloting could leave Trump a loser. And finally, Obama assures America’s allies that Hillary Clinton can defeat the Manhattan billionaire.
It’s a familiar routine but not a particularly successful one. They respond — sometimes directly to Obama and other top administration officials, sometimes stewing privately about being brushed off again — that the Obama administration has been downplaying Trump’s odds for six months.
“Most people said that he didn’t have the wit, wisdom or wealth to get very far in the primaries,” said Peter Mandelson, a member of the British Cabinet under Prime Ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, as well as a former European commissioner for trade who remains in touch with many leaders. “And they’ve been wrong.”
Now, world leaders cop to being afraid of a Trump presidency, and they’re making preparations: scrambling to get deals done with the Obama administration while they still have the chance.
Leaders, members of their governments, even their aides are so spooked that they don’t want to say anything, and many privately admit that it’s because they think he’ll win, and a quote now could mean a vengeful President Trump going after them personally next year.
“As we’re on the record, I’m rather hesitant to give you big headlines on this,” said Olli Rehn, the Finnish minister of economic affairs. “In Europe, we are concerned about the U.S. possibly turning toward a more isolationist orientation. That would not be good for United States, good for Europe, good for the world. We need the U.S. engaged in global affairs in a constructive, positive way.”
They’re not caught up in some gushy lament about what’s become of American politics, as Obama has sometimes framed the conversations when he’s talked about them publicly. They’re worried about what it means for them: for their arms deals, for their trade deals, for international funding and alliances that they depend on.
“However much people recoiled from George W. Bush or have been disappointed by Obama, they see Trump as off the Richter scale,” Mandelson said. “The reason for that is not that he must be stupid — nobody thinks that — but that he’s disdainful, unscrupulous, prepared to say anything to harvest the populist vote. And that makes people frightened.”
Then there are the more parochial concerns: that Trump’s rise will encourage and empower their own nationalists. [Continue reading…]