Robert Lighthizer has had a long and distinguished career as a rock-ribbed Republican in Washington DC. It's pretty clear that he prides himself on being very good at his job as the US Trade Representative.
But like everything else that touches Donald Trump's presidency, he finds himself literally being laughed at by those he needs to respect him to negotiate America's interests.
In a White House meeting with Chinese officials before sitting down to serious trade negotiations, Trump--unburdened by any intelligence or sense of strategic communication--started riffing for the cameras, questioning the effectiveness of Memorandums of Understanding (or MOUs)--a standard in multinational trade negotiations-- in general.
Lighthizer got more and more visibly aggravated as Trump's Adderall-addled brain showed how little grasp he has of trade issues and what a delicate balance it can be with foreign entities in the room.
“I don’t like MOUs because they don’t mean anything. To me they don’t mean anything. I think you’re better off just going into a document. I was never a fan of an MOU,” the reality show grifter babbled.
Now, Lighthizer could have kept a discreet silence and then apologized to the Chinese officials behind closed doors for the buffoon in the Oval Office, identifying himself as one of the "adults" that keep the government running despite him. That's what many other members of his cabinet do. But Lighthizer couldn't do that. He broke the Cardinal Reagan Rule of Conduct: he was critical of a fellow Republican, specifically, his boss.
“An MOU is a binding agreement between two people,” he said. “It’s detailed. It covers everything in great detail. It’s a legal term. It’s a contract.”
Now, Trump may not be smart enough to be able to read and retain his briefings, but that unnaturally orange skin is thin enough to detect exasperation with how dumb he is.
“By the way I disagree,” Trump shot back. “We’re doing a memorandum of understanding that will be put into a final contract, I assume. But to me, the final contract is really the thing Bob, and I think you mean that too, is really the thing that means something. A memorandum of understanding is exactly that, it’s a memorandum of what our understanding is. The real question is, Bob … how long will it take to put that into a final binding contract?”
At this, a Chinese official LAUGHED. Not with the president, who was inches away from a tantrum.
No, he laughed AT the man who has been occupying the White House, however legitimately, and who is the sadly the face of this nation to the rest of the world. A face that is a laughingstock. A face that does not understand the issues. A face that willfully will not learn the issues. A face that seeks personal ego gratification over the needs of the country every single time.
This is what MAGAts have wrought upon this nation.
And because Lighthizer realized that there's little point in trying to educate the willfully ignorant, he quickly adapted to prevent the toddler tantrum from escalating.
“From now on, we’re not using the word 'memorandum of understanding' anymore. We’re going to use the term 'trade agreement,' all right?” Lighthizer said, to Trump's pleasure. Note that at no time was the content of the agreement ever brought up or discussed. No particular points of American interests. No assertions of what's best for international relations,
Just yet another instance of Trump being more concerned by the labels than the content of any agreement.