A Seat At The Table

I’m old enough to remember when African-Americans were totally shut out of most governmental and business decision making bodies. Back then the initial objective was literally a seat at the table. They realized that they needed to be in the mix before they could make an impact; but that if they weren’t represented they weren’t even in the discussion. They worked hard to get those initial seats.

There was Jackie Robinson like pressure on those first Board and Commission members. Any new member has to prove their worthiness and value but in the cases of these pioneers they would either prove the racists correct or incorrect and you can bet a ton of people were waiting for any excuse to say the experiment was a failure. Membership in organizations like the G20 is a privilege. Only the EU and 19 countries are members. For example Israel is not a member; neither is Egypt.

While the United States is a key member Donald Trump is one of the new kids on the block. As such he has an obligation to represent our country and the pressure of proving himself both respectful of the organization and worthy of his seat at the table. He failed miserably last week!

The literal seat at the table is occupied by the head of state of each country. At times they must vacate in order to attend to other business; when that happens normally the Foreign Minister (or in our case Secretary of State) replaces them. Trump had his daughter Ivanka take his seat. That showed ignorance of his job, made the United States look like a banana republican and insulted the other 19 participants.

Ivanka lacks the qualifications and experience to represent the United States in high level international negotiations. There is little we can do to stop Trump from having his kid hang around the White House as an unpaid advisor because unlike members of his Cabinet (and several traveled to Hamburg with him) her position is not subject to Senate confirmation. In reality she is representing daddy not America.

Is it any wonder that French President Emmanuel Macron (the de facto leader of the free world) said “Our world has never been so divided” and “Our common goals have never been so threatened” at the conclusion of the conference?

German Chancellor and host of the event, Angela Merkel, (as well as de facto leader of Europe) summed things up this way: “Wherever there is no consensus that can be achieved, disagreement has to be made clear. Unfortunately – and I deplore this – the United States of America left the climate change agreement. I am gratified to note that the other 19 members of the G20 feel the Paris agreement is irreversible.”

In addition to denying climate change Trump still doesn’t grasp the concept of the EU as a trading bloc. He and his supporters seem to be happy to strike out on an isolationist path in an increasingly global world. If he were a haberdasher he would be looking for a spats supplier.

The world is making it clear that they are prepared to move on without him if necessary. That would be fine except that currently he represents the United States. He is messing up and my grandchildren will pay the price. That upsets me!

Trump loves to tout his deal making ability. He always says he’ll get a better deal for America or go it on his own. The members of organizations like the EU and G20 are making it clear they will move on without America before they will rewrite everything for each new President. America is the most powerful country on earth both economically and militarily, but we cannot go it on our own. It is a global economy (even if Trump doesn’t have a hotel, office building or golf course there); we all literally share the air and water. American business often needs materials that are simply unobtainable domestically. The simple economic principle that your spending is my income dictates that American business wants access to global markets.

Acting like a Mafia Don or banana republic chieftain by having your kid take your seat at a major conference is both disrespectful and counterproductive. Ivanka Trump doesn’t belong seated between the UK’s Theresa May and China’s Xi Jinping unless it’s at a social function. Mr. Trump, if you don’t start taking your job seriously international leaders are going to stop taking you seriously if they haven’t already! A seat at the table is valuable – respect it!

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