America can survive four years of U.S. President Donald Trump, says a Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times columnist, but a second term would be a whole different story.
“He’s unlike anything we’ve had before,” said author and journalist Thomas Friedman in an interview for this weekend’s edition of The West Block, airing Sunday morning at 11 a.m. ET.
“We can survive four years of him, I suspect. Eight years would be a disaster.”
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Friedman doesn’t mince words about the U.S. commander in chief, calling him “disturbed” and accusing Trump of playing solely to his base — at the expense of both the rest of Americans and the country’s most fundamental democratic institutions.
“On the global stage he’s been undermining, or seeking to undermine, the institutions that have been the pillar of the global order since World War II,” he said, citing bodies like the United Nations and the World Trade Organization and trade pacts like NAFTA.
Friedman said Americans have been lucky to have Canada as an ally, and if Trump manages to do major damage to that relationship or others, they won’t be easily repaired.
“If you take them apart, the next person who comes in doesn’t just, with the snap of his or her fingers, resurrect them. So that’s what’s worrying to me.”
One of the most concerning aspects of Trump’s presidency thus far, Friedman said, is his unwillingness to confront Russian president Vladimir Putin over Russian meddling in the U.S. election.
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Trump’s behaviour toward Putin has been “inexplicable,” he said, unless you assume that the president has been personally compromised by some kind of Russian blackmail scheme, that he doesn’t care about the interference because it ultimately benefited him, or that “he’s a towering fool.”
“None of those three conclusions are very good for Americans,” Friedman said.
“Putin could use a high fastball right toward his chin, to put it in baseball terms, from America and Donald Trump has proven utterly incapable of doing that.”
Still, Friedman maintained that not every decision made by Trump since his inauguration has been wrong or ill-advised. His views on the unfair trading relationship between the U.S. and China, for example, aren’t far off the mark, according to the columnist.
Asked if Trump can survive his full four-year term, Friedman said the “healthiest thing” for his country would be for the Republican Party to be “crushed” in the fall midterms, and forced to do some soul-searching.
“To be a healthy democracy I think we need a healthy conservative party — one that’s focused more on markets and merit-based solutions to problems — to be in competition with a progressive party, one that favours bigger government and stronger safety nets. And in between the two, you find the healthy solutions.”
As for the president himself, Friedman said an impeachment would need to be supported by extremely clear, unequivocal evidence.
“I think it’s very important for the country that he be voted out the way he was voted in, otherwise his supporters will feel very aggrieved.”
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