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An Offer they Can't Refuse: Trump's

By       Message Juan Cole       (Page 1 of 2 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   2 comments

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From Informed Comment

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Hundreds of thousands of Britons took to the streets to protest Trump's visit on Friday, as he was ridiculed with a baby Trump blimp. The vast majority of Britons deeply dislike the American president, our homegrown weird hybrid of Mussolini and the scheming trickster Newman from Seinfeld.

Trump's visit was marked by a peculiarly vicious attack on his host, Theresa May, in an interview in The Sun tabloid, which appeared quite awkwardly on the morning he was set to have talks with ... Theresa May. This is something I had predicted earlier this week.

In the interview, Trump virtually commanded Britain to take the "hard Brexit" path of avoiding a common market with Europe that would keep the British economy closely tied to the EU. Such a path, which May has opted for, would place restrictions on British trade with blocs outside the EU or at least would interfere with tariff sweetheart deals.

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Trump wants the British economy to be solely at the mercy of US business tycoons.

Trump also attacked British immigration policy, warned Dr. Strangelove-style about the pollution of the West's precious bodily fluids by pesky non-Christian non-white immigrants (as though Trump were a Christian and as though his grandfather hadn't been an immigrant with seedy businesses).

And, Trump suggested that Boris Johnson, the bigoted and erratic proponent of hard Brexit who had "just" resigned from May's cabinet over her plans to go soft with the EU, would make a good prime minister.

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Then when Trump did his news conference with May, he denied it all as fake news, leaving the ordinarily professional and hardhitting British press corps flabbergasted and almost speechless (I was watching British television yesterday and they clearly could not figure out how to cover the combination of brutish brutality and bald-faced dishonesty).

What was going on here? Well of course it is possible, as some European and NATO diplomats have said they have concluded, that Trump is just loony as the day is long and that all sorts of unfiltered things come out of his mouth all the time, each contradicting the ones before.

But it is also possible that Trump's antics have an element of deliberateness about them (without my wanting in any way to question the conclusion about his fragile hold on reality).

His British visit could be explained if he thinks he is an organized crime boss from an old Francis Ford Coppola movies.

Organized crime operates in the shadows and outside of law, and is run by specialists in violence and intimidation. It is characterized by an honor system (organized crime in Sicily appealed to the old tribal virtue of omerta or manliness).

If a person plays in that system, they will want to intimidate and commit violence toward rivals, but they will also want to leave open the possibility of alliances with those rivals against other forces (law enforcement or third party rival gangs).

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So the mob boss captures the lieutenant of the rival boss, and tortures him to death as a warning not to cooperate with the boss's enemies or not to try to make inroads in the boss's turf (selling drugs or running gambling rings in his territory).

But when the two mob bosses meet for a fine steak in a fancy restaurant to discuss future cooperation, they have to pretend that one's lieutenant wasn't gruesomely tortured by the other and they have to maintain their mutual honor in public.

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Juan Cole is an American academic and commentator on the modern Middle East and South Asia.  He is Richard P. Mitchell Collegiate Professor of History at the University of Michigan. Since 2002, he has written a weblog, Informed Comment (more...)

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