Whatever the Trump era represents, it surely marks the dawn of a golden age of satire. But beware of laughing too much: the joke might be on us. Yes, Trump tweets like a buffoon. But we should not assume that all the missteps by the petulant president-in-waiting are down to ignorance: they aren’t.
Too many of Trump’s troubling tweets aren’t actually gaffes. He is intentionally blowing up global stability for the sake of an extremist agenda concocted by hawkish aides who make Dick Cheney look like Kofi Annan. That’s why the strange case of the Taiwan telephone call is worth examining because it is surely a sign of things to come.
At first, Team Trump dismissed the call with the Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen as an innocent congratulatory message. Mike Pence, the vice-president elect, suggested it was no big deal, telling ABC it was “nothing more than taking a courtesy call”.
These excuses seemed weak after foreign policy experts predicted the Taiwan call would lead to a major breach with US policy, which has been in place since 1979. Then, they fell apart after the New York Times reported that the call was the result of a long-planned and well-funded lobbying effort by the Taiwanese themselves. According to the New York Times, it was all orchestrated by its paid foreign agent, Bob Dole, the former Republican presidential nominee and Senate leader.
“It’s fair to say that we had some influence,” Dole said. “When you represent a client, and they make requests, you’re supposed to respond.” That influence included special attention at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland in July, attended by a Taiwanese delegation, where the party platform was changed for the first time to include several commitments to Taiwan’s security.