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EDITORIAL: Poking the elephant

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visits a non-profit wildlife sanctuary in India with his family, February 2018. — Twitter photo
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visits a non-profit wildlife sanctuary in India with his family, February 2018. — Twitter photo

Trump won’t soon forget Trudeau’s gossip gaffe

It’s not just because it’s Donald Trump who is the president of the United States.

Years ago, in March 1969, a different Prime Minister Trudeau — Pierre Elliott Trudeau — coined a phrase about relations between Canada and the United States as he was on his way to meet with then-president Richard Nixon.

“Living next to you is in some ways like sleeping with an elephant. No matter how friendly and even-tempered is the beast, if I can call it that, one is affected by every twitch and grunt,” Trudeau told the Washington Press Club.

Trudeau may be exactly right about Trump’s behaviour. But that’s not the point.

That speech was given two years before Justin Trudeau was even born, so he certainly didn’t hear it or see live news coverage — but he’s certainly well familiar with it.

And perhaps, as prime minister himself now, Justin Trudeau should have thought about the concept before he let himself get caught on camera gossiping with other world leaders at a NATO summit about Trump’s long and often rambling news conferences. It’s just the latest misstep for a prime minister who seems adept at putting his foot in trouble when he’s handling foreign policy.

A 26-second clip of Trudeau talking with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, French President Emmanuel Macron and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte included Trudeau talking about Trump: “He was late because he takes a 40-minute press conference off the top,” Trudeau said. “His team’s jaws just drop to the floor.”

Trudeau may be exactly right about Trump’s behaviour. But that’s not the point.

We need not point out that, as president, Donald Trump has proven to be neither friendly nor even-tempered. Unpredictable? Certainly. Vindictive and petty? You can certainly make a case for saying exactly that. And, as elephants go, that makes him even more dangerous, especially in the world of foreign policy.

After hearing about Trudeau’s comments, Trump called Trudeau “two-faced” and left the summit early, without attending a scheduled closing news conference.

You can be sure Trump will not forget the slight. Elephants never forget.

Now, you may know the boss of a company you’re trying to land as a customer is an idiot. But it’s bad business to share that information with others at the meet-and-greet reception for the giant suppliers conference you’re attending — even if there aren’t television cameras present.

You may think that you’re smarter than the people who are interviewing you for a job — but let that slip, or even let a hint of condescension find its way into your voice as you answer questions, and it really won’t matter how suited you are to the position.

We’ll close with another saying about living with animals: “You don’t have to run faster than the bear to get away. You just have to run faster than the guy next to you.”

Right now, Justin Trudeau’s looking a little slow.


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