PM Selfie visits You-Know-Who.
On Monday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau travelled down to Washington to meet with President Donald Trump. It’s been a longstanding tradition that Canada is one of the first nations to get to meet with the new American president. But this visit is set against an uncertain future, and Trump is already plagued by judicial knock backs to some of his swaggering executive orders, mass public demonstrations undermining his authority, and key cabinet resignations already beginning to snowball after a mere 24 days in office. The Trump/Trudeau meeting is the top story on all five of Toronto’s dailies February 14, and the ideological leanings of each paper were on full display.
The Globe and Mail
The Globe covers this meeting without betraying too much about how scandal-plagued Trump already is, portraying this moment as they would always cover the first time a prime minister and president meet face-to-face, with a photo of Trump walking Trudeau along the corridors outside the West Wing, softly pushing him along. Trump’s tough talk about ripping up NAFTA is now described as a mere “tweaking,” and the Globe mostly focuses on how Trump is trying to use Trudeau’s vaunted appeal with the ladies by taking Trudeau’s suggestion to hold a “women’s roundtable” involving his daughter, former Nordstrom merchandise-supplier Ivanka Trump. Columnist Barrie McKenna takes this at face value and describes the roundtable meeting as “a stroke of diplomatic genius.” The other big story of the day is a recall of tainted medical marijuana strains sold by government-mandated suppliers.
The Post also features a giant photo of Trump offering Trudeau an avuncular pat on the back, although they also feature the two leaders shaking hands. The Post tries to split the difference this morning, with their general front page contempt for Justin tempered somewhat by their respect in principle for the symbolism and decorum of the first meeting between the prime minister and the president. John Ivison even admits Trudeau was wise to appeal to Trump’s narcissism by presenting him with a framed photograph of Trump and Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, taken at a banquet in the 80s. The Post might be a little frustrated that Trump didn’t use the occasion to bulldoze Trudeau and give their neo-con columnists more material, but they are not particularly disappointed that Trudeau didn’t use the occasion to lecture Trump either, as some in the Canadian media were hoping would happen.
The Star pointedly runs the photo that went viral on social media yesterday, of Trudeau looking quizzically at Trump’s outstretched hand as it is offered for him to shake. Does Justin know where that hand has been? The Star‘s coverage of this meeting is notable in contrast to the establishment-serving Globe and Post; they compliment Justin for using the opportunity to signal “differing values” between the nations, especially on immigration, without roasting him for not drawing a harder line. The Star is the paper most likely to bring in a body language expert to analyze the deeper meaning of the actual handshakes between the leaders, complimenting Trudeau for not letting Trump be the Alpha Male in this moment, as he had in an earlier meeting with the prime minister of Japan. The Star is the only paper to mention on page one that Trump’s National Security Adviser Michael Flynn resigned the night before (the shortest tenure of an incoming cabinet member in modern history) under a cloud of suspicion: why can’t a man tasked with national security remember whether or not he discussed with the Russian Ambassador the lifting of economic sanctions…before Trump was even president? And curiously, film critic Peter Howell thinks La La Land, all but assured of winning the Oscar for Best Picture this year and currently sporting a 93 per cent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, deserves a little more love from the critics on this Valentine’s Day.
Metro has the harshest dig against Trump of the five papers yesterday morning with their “shots fired” headline, “Trudeau Enters Trump’s Bunker.” They also feature “five revealing moments” from the historic meeting, agreeing it was smart of Trudeau to get in Trump’s good books by doing a favour for the embattled Ivanka with the “women’s roundtable” feel-good photo-op. Metro‘s big story yesterday was about the aging and declining population of the affordable housing offered on Toronto Island, with City Councillor Pam McConnell (Ward 28, Toronto Centre-Rosedale) urging young couples to get on that waiting list because, at the current rate, it could take 35 years to be offered a space there.
The Toronto Sun, perhaps struck by Cupid’s arrow, decline to level a direct insult at Prime Minister Selfie yesterday morning, presenting the Trump/Trudeau meeting as perhaps the beginning of a beautiful friendship between the two leaders. The Sun was obviously flattered by Trump’s sweet-sounding words about the historic love between our two nations: “America deeply fortunate to have a neighbour like Canada,” reads the subhed. Mark Bonokoski, no fan of Trudeau, admits in his column that The Boy King played it pretty well in Washington, giving him kudos for leveraging Ivanka Trump’s purported interest in women’s issues to his diplomatic advantage in their state visit. Maybe the Sun is just glad this Prime Minister Trudeau didn’t stick it to the Americans as hard as perhaps the dreaded Pierre might have in his day.
This week’s winner: The jury is giving it to the Toronto Star, despite the Sun‘s transparent ploy to score another victory with a shamelessly ridiculous front page. The anti-Justin Sun showed a loss of nerve by taking Trump’s pro-Canada boilerplate diplomatic niceties at face value, whereas the Toronto Star coverage reflects more of a reality: the insincerity of the authoritarian Trump’s outstretched hand of friendship, while in the background his embattled cabinet is already starting to crumble after less than a month of journalistic and judicial pushback.
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