If, like me, you once optimistically thought global leadership would be strengthened over time, you’ve no doubt been disappointed by 2016 and 2017.
Nothing confirms this more than the recently leaked transcript of Donald Trump’s conversation with Malcolm Turnbull over the refugee-swap deal.
The conversation, published by the Washington Post, gives some insight into the extent of stupidity and callousness that goes on behind closed doors. While our prime minister comes off as considerably more intelligent and skilled in diplomacy than the US President (it’s not hard), this conversation highlights the race to bottom on human decency–with Trump openly telling Turnbull at one stage: “You are worse than I am.”
The comment, made after Turnbull is seen to boast that not even a “Nobel prize-winning genius” who came by boat would be let into Australia – impresses Trump, who then suggests the US should adopt the same ruthless policy.
After all, who would want a genius on their shores?
But Trump also adds that his call with the Australian PM was the “most unpleasant” he’d had all day, even more unpleasant than the one he’d had prior with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Trump fumes that the refugee swap deal could see Australia sending America new “Boston Bombers”. His chief concern is being seen as a “weak and ineffective leader” in his first week. “This is going to kill me. I am the world’s greatest person that does not want to let people in this country.”
The Boston bombers, Turnbull gently reminds Trump, were Russian, and not from any of the countries the refugee deal encompasses.
Turnbull later promises the president, that in return for the US taking in “some people on Nauru and Manus Island”, Australia “will take anyone that you want us to take”– including people the Obama administration were “very keen on getting out of the United States.”
Turnbull also pleads that the deal simply requires the US to take those who meet America’s vetting processes. Indeed, the deal “does not require you to take 2,000 people. It does not require you to take any.” Turnbull repeatedly reminds the President that the number of people agreed to is 1250, not 2000 and certainly not 5000, as Trump claims he heard it could be.
Lastly, the transcript reveals the outright lies that have been told post this now infamous phone call. President Trump tweeted earlier this year that Turnbull had told “the truth about our very civil conversation that FAKE NEWS media lied about. “Very nice!” Turnbull agreed.
The full transcript is available here. A warning: You may kill some brain cells by reading it.
Thank you to Prime Minister of Australia for telling the truth about our very civil conversation that FAKE NEWS media lied about. Very nice!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 3, 2017