Political News

Trump thinks world leaders actually care that he won the 2016 election bigly

Posted August 3

The leaked transcripts of President Donald Trump's phone calls with the Mexican President and the Australian Prime Minister are a stunning testament to how raw, politically speaking, Trump was when he entered office in January.

Trump demonstrates limited knowledge of world affairs and a decidedly un-diplomatic approach to diplomacy; he tells Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, "I have been making these calls all day, and this is the most unpleasant call all day."

But what is perhaps most striking in the two calls is Trump's obsession with making sure both foreign leaders know the intimate details of his electoral victory. And in that, like almost everything in relation to his candidacy and his presidency, Trump often heavily exaggerates to make himself look better.

Here's some of what Trump told Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto about the election:

"In the latest election, I won with a large percentage of Hispanic voters. I do not know if you heard, but with Cuba, I had 84%, with the Cuban-American vote. But overall generally, I had well over 30%, and everyone was shocked to see this. I understand the community and they understand me, and I have a great respect for the Mexican people ...

"... The people of the United States know this. In Ohio, they are having rallies for Trump right now because Trump has taken a hard stance on Mexico. We lost a lot of factories in Ohio and Michigan, and I won these states -- some of these states have not been won in 38 years by a Republican and I won them very easily. So they are dancing in the streets. You probably have the same thing where they are dancing in your streets also, but in reverse."

OK. A few things here.

First, on the specific numbers Trump cites.

He actually won 28% of the Hispanic vote, according to exit polling, not "well over 30%." He is right that people were somewhat surprised by that showing given his promise to build a wall along the southern border and his description of Mexico sending "criminals" and "rapists" to the United States. (Republican nominee Mitt Romney won 27% of the Hispanic vote in 2012.)

It's harder to figure out where Trump got the statistic about the Cuban vote. The exit poll doesn't break out Cubans from Hispanics. A Pew Research Center post-election analysis showed that Trump won 54% of all Cubans in Florida, the state where two-thirds of the Cuban-American population lives.

Second, the belief that Pena Nieto will somehow be swayed by the intimate details of his Electoral College victory is odd. Does the President of Mexico care that Trump won Ohio and Michigan or the fact that "some of these states have not been won in 38 years by a Republican and I won them very easily?" (Side note: George W. Bush carried Ohio in 2004; the last Republican to win Michigan was George H.W. Bush in 1988.)

Ditto Trump telling Pena Nieto that "I have been telling this to every group of 50,000 people or 25,000 people -- because no one got people in their rallies as big as I did." That Trump gets big crowds -- 50,000! -- is immaterial to the President of a foreign country who is trying to make clear that his country isn't planning to foot the bill for a border wall.

Trump does the exact same thing in his conversation with Turnbull -- as a way to get out of accepting more than 1,000 refugees, a deal cut by President Barack Obama. "Look, I do not know how you got them to sign a deal like this, but that is how they lost the election," Trump says. "They said I had no way to 270 and I got 306. That is why they lost the election, because of stupid deals like this."

Why is Trump's Electoral College count included in that argument? Does Trump believe that Turnbull will change his mind because Trump won 306 electoral votes (it was actually 304) rather than, say, 290? Does Turnbull even know or care about the US Electoral College? (If he does, he's more interested in it than about 75% of the US population.)

Third, the stereotypes Trump indulges in with Pena Nieto are rough. "So they are dancing in the streets," he tells the Mexican President. "You probably have the same thing where they are dancing in your streets also, but in reverse. "

Um, what? Is this suggesting that Mexicans like to party and dance? Protest? If it's not, then what is Trump trying to say?

The broader point here is that Trump appears to believe that by winning an election in America, he won the right to do what he wants around the world. The election victory -- no one said he could win, you know! -- justifies everything that comes after it. That by making clear he won with more than 300 electoral votes, someone like Turnbull or Pena Nieto will accede to his wishes.

Which is not, of course, how the world works -- proving, yet again, that geopolitics is hard.

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