TOKYO – Donald Trump’s loutish campaign for the US presidency has left most of the world – excluding, perhaps, Russian President Vladimir Putin and his European populist allies, like France’s Marine Le Pen – confused and aghast. Indeed, it is difficult for anyone to assess not only what Trump would do as President, but also which racial or religious minority, or foreign country, he holds in greatest contempt.
Name virtually any group or country, and you can bet Trump has insulted it. He has called Mexican immigrants to the US “criminals” and “rapists.” He has proposed banning all Muslims from entering the US. He has flung sexist invective at professional women, such as the political pundit Megyn Kelly, who have the temerity to stand up to him, and has called others “dogs” and “fat slobs.” He has sneered at America’s European and Asian allies, and blamed China for many of America’s economic woes.
But it seems that the people whom Trump holds in the greatest contempt are his own supporters. Instead of giving anything like a straight answer about the policies he would pursue were he actually elected, he has stoked and manipulated their inchoate rage, rooted in frustration with stagnant wages and fear of the unknown.
Japan has particular reason to be unsettled by “The Donald’s” incendiary rhetoric, which has the potential to do lasting damage. At one moment, he treats Japan as a freeloader, unnerving Japan’s citizens about the state of our core security alliance with the US. At the next, he says that he would not think twice about Japan (and South Korea) becoming a nuclear-weapon state, feeding fears that today’s arms race in Asia might escalate beyond conventional weapons. Then he backpedals, claiming the words were fabricated by the media.