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There can be no doubt that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his Liberals are as delighted by the defeat of Donald Trump as most other Canadians, even if the U.S. president has to be dragged kicking and screaming from the White House, clutching his hair dye and tanning bed.
Liberals love tying themselves to the coattails of popular Democratic presidents, even as they try to smear Conservatives by torquing their supposed similarities to unpopular Republicans. Trudeau has already been on the phone with president-elect Joe Biden, no doubt reminding him of the Ottawa-Washington bromance that bloomed in the latter months of the Obama administration.
In practice, the prime minister has as much in common with the outgoing president as he does the incoming, minus Trump’s dishonesty, bigotry and monumental personality defects. Here are eight ways in which Trudeau and Trump are alike.
Both were born into wealth, attended elite schools and grew up in a world of privilege. Trump’s father built a real estate empire and passed it on to his son, along with hundreds of millions of dollars in inheritance. Trudeau’s first home was the prime minister’s residence. From an early age, he enjoyed dividends from a $1-million trust fund and family money dating from his grandfather’s successful gas station business.
Both trade on their celebrity. The Trump empire consists largely of licensing the Trump brand, which has been slapped on everything from hotels to steaks. His reputation as a successful businessman is largely a myth cagily crafted from his years as a reality TV host. Most of his other ventures have bombed. His run for the presidency was originally a means of reviving the brand. His victory was an unexpected accident. Trudeau’s biggest pre-politics source of income was giving speeches fed by name recognition and family reputation. His main jobs until then — short-lived teaching positions and roles at institutions associated with his family — hardly merited the $10,000-$20,000 fees he charged charities and others for an appearance. Nor did his modest political career justify his overwhelming success as leadership candidate.
Both men rely intensely on image. Trump pretends to be a successful billionaire, exploits the power of his office for his own interests and promotes blatant falsehoods to back the mirage of a triumphant presidency. Trudeau came to office on a wave of selfies and magazine covers, continues to carefully manipulate his own image and that of his family and demands strict adherence to official story lines from government members.
Neither tolerates dissent. Trump’s administration has been a revolving door of increasingly comical flunkies and henchmen who are willing to do as they’re told. Trudeau unloaded his justice minister for daring to challenge him, dropped his finance minister over his reluctance to obey, operates at the centre of a small clique of unelected advisers and prefers a cabinet of obedient figures who are unlikely to challenge him.
Trump threatens state governors, insults members of Congress who displease him, scorns his own appointees and resorts to executive actions to enforce his demands when foiled. Trudeau prorogued Parliament to block inquiries into the WE scandal, uses lengthy filibusters to frustrate committee hearings, claims cabinet privilege to hide information, threatened an election to frustrate opposition inquiries and requires Liberal members to voice empty, pre-crafted responses to queries in Question Period.
Both depend on fear to get what they want. Even after his defeat, Republicans have refused to challenge Trump’s position rather than risk his wrath and the forces he can turn against them. Liberals know that failure to toe the line brings lonely days ostracized from favour, possible demotion, exclusion from cabinet and potential difficulty getting renominated.
Trump’s mammoth tax cut and coinciding spending increases raised the U.S. deficit at least a third to more than US$1 trillion ($1.3 trillion). Failed policies have been hidden by massive subsidies, even before COVID-19 hit, including tens of billions in farm subsidies to offset damage from his confrontation with China. From his first days in office, Trudeau approved deficits many times the levels he promised, has added $343 billion to the debt this year alone and pledges to continue borrowing well into the future. Though increased spending was needed to fight the pandemic, billions have gone to people who didn’t need the money, disappeared into savings accounts or discouraged workers from returning to jobs that paid less than they could get from Ottawa.
Both operate by two sets of standards. Trump’s narcissism and inconsistency is legendary. He portrays himself as a “law-and-order” president but blatantly flouts legalities and faces multiple legal challenges once outside the protective shield of the presidency. Trudeau has banished members of Parliament for abuse allegations while dismissing his own alleged groping as a misunderstanding, claims feminist credentials while demoting strong female members, has two ethics violations and is facing a third , and brushes off blatant conflicts of interest that would be a firing offence for ordinary Canadians.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020