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Could Trump’s unconventional foreign policy decisions yield results?

This week, President Trump made some announcements that took Washington by surprise. He accepted an invite to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and said he would impose import tariffs on steel and aluminum, a timely move ahead of a special election in Pennsylvania. NewsHour Weekend Special Correspondent Jeff Greenfield joins Hari Sreenivasan via Skype for analysis.

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  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    For more analysis on all the political news of the week I'm joined now by NewsHour Weekend Special Correspondent Jeff Greenfield. Jeff, let's start with North Korea, probably the most consequential bit of news this week. You say it's classically 'Trumpyian'. Explain.

  • JEFF GREENFIELD:

    Trump believes he is a master negotiator. Back in the 80s, he wanted to be able to negotiate nuclear arms with the Soviet Union. He thinks his personality can wipe away all of the past by dispensing with pesky details about nuance and diplomacy and just by force of personality, creating this reality. So when you look at you look at what he did, sort of taking an inch and then immediately making it, "Ya, I'll meet with him." Contrast that with the last bolt from the blue like this with Nixon in 1971 said I'm going to go to China. Nixon had been thinking about this for years. He'd written about. And so in this case what you have is Trump saying, again a classic Trump notion "I alone can fix this." That's a line from his acceptance speech. And on that score he might have a point. Maybe you need to do this thing that any other diplomatic notion would say, this is ridiculous. If it results in a lessening of tension on that peninsula. He's going to get credit for it.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Speaking of things that haven't happened too many times before the president going against his own party especially on an issue like tariffs, which is the other kind of big story this week?

  • JEFF GREENFIELD:

    Once again, Donald Trump has been pounding away at the notion that this is all a zero sum game, not win-win. Either win or lose and we've been played by suckers – suckers by these other countries. We have not had a president since Herbert Hoover who hasn't been a free trader but once again you know, he's here. He has this image of an America with steel and coal can be big again even though they've been declining literally for decades. I would also suggest it's not entirely coincidental that this was announced a few days before a special election in Western Pennsylvania where steel is a major issue.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Let's talk about that special election. How important is it?

  • JEFF GREENFIELD:

    You know, substantively it may not be that important. The district's going to be redrawn. This is a special election they're going to do it again in November. The psychological impact of a Democratic win in a district that Trump carried by 20 points, there I think it matters. There's an old saying that when Louis the 16th was guillotined every monarch in Europe reached for his throat. And the analogy, a lot of endangered Republicans if they see that seat go down may think about maybe it's time to retire. It's going to send tremors through an already nervous Republican Party.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    One of the comments the president made last night was directed toward Rep. Maxine Waters. Let's take a listen.

  • PRESIDENT TRUMP:

    Maxine Waters a very low IQ individual. Ever see her?

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    The president has criticized lots of people called lots of people lots of different types of names but when you look back at the history of his relationship with women and people of color this seems to fit a larger pattern.

  • JEFF GREENFIELD:

    He got very prominent back four or five years ago by claiming that he had proof that Barack Obama was born in Kenya not in the United States. No, if you don't hear a racialist dog whistle in that you're just not listening. Or the Mexican judge who is going to judge them unfairly who are run if they ruled in his favor or the whole American experience of blacks as nothing but failure and crime. And I think you have to take that in the context of how he talks and realize that there is a lens through which he sees people of color. That's very noticeable and I think those who like to brush it aside, I think are in denial.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Jeff Greenfield thanks so much.

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