Trump’s Nobel Peace Prize Bid?
There are reports that US president Donald Trump asked Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe to get his name placed in nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize. Trump apparently did so after his first summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, at which precisely nothing was achieved.
Comics and pundits will get mileage from pointing to this alleged request as further evidence of Trump’s unique combination of hubris and neediness.
But, here’s what concerns me about it.
When the leaders of other nations know that the president of the United States seeks some personal recognition, it gives those leaders a leverage point on the president. It creates the potential for those foreign leaders getting concessions that may be contrary to the interests of the United States from the president.
I accuse Shinzo Abe of nothing nefarious. But what might a Putin, a Kim, a Mohammed bin Salman, or an Erdogan be able to leverage from a US president desperate for accolades?
Of course, there are several accusations that Trump’s failure to put his business interests into a blind trust, including the Trump Hotel he put in the once-beautiful Old Post Office Building a few blocks from the White House, has left him open to being impeached or charged with crimes under the Constitution’s emoluments clause.
But in some ways, presidents leaving themselves open to leveraging or compromise for the sake an honor is even more disturbing than presidents trying to cash in on their presidencies while in office.
By many accounts, Abe is the one leader of a US-allied nation who has had a reasonably smooth relationship with Trump. He may have figured out early that appealing to Trump’s narcissism is the key to getting along with and getting what you want from the US president.
The chances are that most presidents suffer from narcissism, delusions of grandeur, and yawning inferiority complexes that need to be assuaged. You generally have to possess both great cheek and great need to ask a nation to make you their leader. But the wise presidents have usually tried to channel their psychological needs in service to the national interest.
President Barack Obama received the Nobel Peace Prize within scant days of taking the oath of office and to this day, doesn’t quite understand why he received it. There’s speculation that Obama’s prize is what fuels Trump’s desire for it. But there’s no evidence that Obama sought the prize. And if a sitting president ever openly admitted such an ambition to a foreign leader, he would, I think, endanger the interests of the United States.
[I also blog here.]