The first overseas trip of Donald Trump’s presidency will not officially begin until he boards a 14-hour flight to Riyadh Friday on an Air Force One that is no doubt stocked with plenty of junk food.
But the countries that will receive Trump have been preparing for weeks. With the help of Washington-based consultants and Trump’s team, foreign officials have put together a tip sheet on how to keep the 70-year-old Trump happy. From the Times:
Keep it short — no 30-minute monologue for a 30-second attention span. Do not assume he knows the history of the country or its major points of contention. Compliment him on his Electoral College victory. Contrast him favorably with President Barack Obama. Do not get hung up on whatever was said during the campaign. Stay in regular touch. Do not go in with a shopping list but bring some sort of deal he can call a victory.
Onetime British ambassador to the U.S. Peter Westmacott emphasized that first point: “This is a guy with a limited attention span. He absolutely won’t want to listen to visitors droning on for a half-hour — or longer if they need an interpreter.”
Trump’s occasional distaste for interpreters has already been on display at the White House. When Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe visited in February, Trump left out his earpiece while Abe delivered remarks. If Trump wasn’t feeling the Japanese interpreter, the feeling was apparently mutual. After Abe’s visit, The Japan Times reported that Japanese interpreters “struggle to make sense of ‘Trumpese’.” Their colleagues in Saudi Arabia, Israel, the Vatican, Belgium, and Sicily will soon know their pain.
Food will be an issue for Trump too. The president has the palate of a first-grader and he will be accommodated on the trip. At dinner in Saudi Arabia, for example, he will have well-done steak and ketchup on the table along with the traditional cuisine, the AP reports.
Lessons from Trump’s successful foreign-leader meetings at home are to court the support of his family members and to keep in touch after leaving. Germany’s chancellor Angela Merkel has been particularly good at this, the Times reports, going as far as calling Trump for advice before a recent visit of her own to Saudi Arabia. It was advice that Merkel, who was meeting with King Abdullah in 2007 when Trump was meeting with Gene Simmons and Stephen Baldwin, surely didn’t need.