Dr. Jason Johnson discusses issues that President Trump needs to focus on this month, as well as his recent interview with Sean Hannity. Panel members include Ana Marie Cox, David Frum, and host Lawrence O’Donnell. To see the video, CLICK HERE.
On Hardball with Chris Matthews, MSNBC Contributor Jason Johnson discussed the issues of the day with Indira Lakshsmanan of the Boston Globe and Susan Glasser of Politico.
On President Trump’s speech to NATO
On the General Election in the United Kingdom
All James Bond villains are alike. They’re almost always some 50-something smarmy white guy who has some weird personal tick (rubs a cat, a bloody eyeball, a fetish for blond Aryan men, something) and thinks he’s bigger than the government.
The point is that villains step in when decent elected governments fail, which is exactly what we’re seeing right now with corporate activity in Africa in the new Trump era.
George W. Bush’s administration, followed by President Barack Obama’s, improved American relations with Africa by leaps and bounds (as much as any former colonial power driven by global corporations can). More equitable business relationships were established, African leaders were invited to Washington, D.C., and generally engagement with the continent advanced beyond soliciting donations for starving children. Once Obama made it clear that the U.S. would treat Africa with more respect, corporations began to follow suit, leading to increased humanitarian efforts along with the profit motive. But under Trump, all of that advancement will pretty much come to a screeching halt.
The Trump administration has demonstrated an ineptness regarding foreign policy that would get you kicked out of a high school Model UN conference, with the president and his secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, failing in even the most basic elements of protocol. Early signs indicate that the Trump administration sees Africa as a country (that delivered black immigrants for about 400 years) where foreign aid should be tied only to fighting terrorism or advancing U.S. business interests, not humanitarian aid or human rights.
To put this into perspective, the U.S. gives $3.1 billion a year in aid to Israel and $1.4 billion a year to Egypt, but only $8 billion a year spread among 47 countries in sub-Saharan Africa. So when Trump wants to cut aid to Africa but has no problem selling fighter planes to Nigeria to fight Boko Haram, despite that country’s questionable human rights record (Obama had scrapped the deal), who will step into the humanitarian breach? Private corporations that are often up to no good.
Take Unilever, for example—a company that on paper is concerned with issues of sustainability, diversity and environmental justice across Africa. Yet when you peel away the surface, the company routinely gouges African satellite offices by doubling or tripling fees for the right to make Unilever products, overcharges for consumer goods and engages in transfer pricing to the continent.
Oil companies across the globe regularly portray themselves as saving Africa by handing out a few scholarships and providing hard hat photo ops with African businesspeople. Then they get down to the business of poisoning the local environment and creating wealth that seldom trickles down to the regular people. Coal, uranium and even some natural gas companies engage in similar tactics, sometimes resorting to fomenting war and ethnic fighting to ensure that profits are met. While foreign aid from the United Nations and the United States certainly doesn’t come without strings, those strings are much less likely to choke the average African citizen than the bait-and-switch offerings of global corporations.
While many African Americans have an “affinity” for Africa, there isn’t the kind of organized lobbying and passion for any one country there along the lines of Jewish Americans’ feelings toward Israel or Mexican Americans’ towards Mexico. Part of this is because of slavery and systemic racism in public education; most black American have no idea what their connections to Africa are. Even more insidiously, many don’t know what the significance of a healthy sub-Saharan African continent means to the well-being of black people in America. Consequently, we sit idly by jumping from hashtag to hashtag without realizing that the current administration is paving the way for more exploitation of one of the most open and hospitable environments for African-American entrepreneurship.
This article originally appeared online at The Root.
On CNN Newsroom with , The Root Politics Editor Jason Johnson discusses Donald Trump changing stances on foreign policy. Joining Dr. Johnson in the discussion were CNN Senior Political Analyst Ron Brownstein and Jackie Kucinich of the Daily Beast.
Donald Trump gave his first official foreign policy speech in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday and reminded Americans that his understanding of world affairs is just short of a “Street Fighter” world map.
To Trump the world is a brightly colored, dangerous place full of bad guys whom Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have ignored, coddled or abetted. He suggested that the United States get out of NATO, saying that the treaty with our European allies had outlived its usefulness. He said that he could get the Middle East back in line with “better deals,” and he said that he would finally put an end to China’s, and much of Asia’s, unfair trade policies.
What he didn’t do, however, was lay out any policy vision for the continent of Africa. (The only mention came when Trump discussed the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings in Africa, mispronouncing Tanzania as “Tan-ZANE-nee-ya.”)
Africa, that big continent in the middle of the world, which includes 54 nations, is apparently not part of the grand vision that Trump’s presidency will be enacting. Which might actually be a good thing, because what little we do know about how Trump looks at Africa would make for tone-deaf, foolish, horrible foreign policy.
The American public has a funny relationship with foreign policy during presidential-election years. On the one hand, since 9/11, voters desperately want a candidate who makes them feel safe. On the other hand, most voters’ eyes still glaze over if discussions of foreign policy involve anything beyond which country we’re currently bombing (the ratings prove it). However, that hasn’t meant that presidents and candidates have been lax in their foreign policy talks, especially with the African continent.
Both George W. Bush and Barack Obama as candidates and presidents spoke about engaging with African nations economically, for security purposes and to battle HIV/AIDS. President Bush, rightly or wrongly, was praised extensively for his work to combat AIDS in Africa. He visited the continent twice and spoke out about how Africa was the new battleground against global terror.
President Obama went even further, becoming the first president to host a U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit at the White House in 2014, where he discussed greater economic ties between the U.S. and several African nations, and he followed it up in 2015 by becoming the first American president to deliver a speech to the African Union. In other words, knowing about Africa and having a policy toward the nations there is not a Democratic thing or a Republican thing; it is now to be expected for any legitimate candidate for the office of the presidency.
Since Trump said nothing about Africa on Wednesday, what do we actually know about what he thinks? Not much.
In 2011, even though he wasn’t running for president, Trump was asked by conservative magazine Human Events what a President Trump would do about the rash of Somali pirate attacks off the Horn of Africa.
“I’d wipe them off the face of the earth,” Trump said.
This is not a particularly specific or nuanced plan, but in Trump’s defense, that’s the same plan he has for ISIS, Mexican drug lords and Black Lives Matter activists. His plan also happens to be the absolute opposite of what was eventually done to combat East African piracy, but Trump has never been much for details.
The only other time Trump has said anything publicly about Africa was when he was defending his sons’ hobby of going to Africa on safari to kill rare and exotic animals. Trump defended their actions as a “Second Amendment” issue. While Trump might have just been trolling all the Americans who were heartbroken over the death of Cecil the lion, it’s equally possible that he doesn’t realize that the Second Amendment is about as applicable to nations in Africa as Ubuntu is to American economic policy.
Just because Trump knows nothing about Africa doesn’t mean Africans know nothing about him. He’s become a bit of an Internet celebrity around the continent for his bizarre rants and aggressive style. Earlier this year, there was an Internet hoax that Trump swore to deport all Nigerians because they (along with Mexicans) were taking all the American jobs. The rumor was taken so seriously that Nigerian elected officials and celebrities responded in kind.
Another rumor reported in many African press outlets was that Trump vowed to jail Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe and Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni. And while there are probably millions of people in both nations who would welcome a change in political leadership, Trump made no such vow. And the only thing Trump knows about putting out African dictators is when he told Muammar Qaddafi to get off his lawn.
Trump’s lack of foreign policy knowledge is actually just one of the many reasons he would make a terrible president of the United States. Nevertheless, the fact that he tried to sound informed on foreign policy, and still missed an entire continent that is the location of crucial economic, political and military partners for the United States, is amazing. Then again, Trump’s knowledge of Africa isn’t that much worse than his knowledge of America—and that hasn’t hurt him yet in the polls, either.
This article originally appeared online at The Root.