Since taking office nearly three years ago, President Donald Trump has built up a history of making far-fetched statements and pursuing bizarre policies on the global stage. Recently, Trump’s characterization of freshmen Democratic representatives and his shaky stance on gun control have raised some eyebrows among political analysts, foreign leaders and the general public.
But perhaps no single action taken by Trump has caught the attention of officials abroad like his proposal to buy Greenland from Denmark early last week. Few Americans give any thought to this sparsely populated island, but its vast tundra is likely filled with natural resources, including gold, uranium and oil. Purchasing this territory would give the U.S. access to these valuable resources. Consequently, America would become less dependent on China for rare-earth elements already found in Greenland.
The Trump Administration is already aware of the opportunities created by climate change in the Arctic Ocean, such as the opening of faster trade routes due to melting sea ice. In May, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke at the Arctic Council in Finland, outlining the urgency to expand American influence in the region.
Trump’s bid for Greenland is not completely irrational. But when I consider his tendencies over the years, both the timing of this newsbreak and the public’s interpretation of it are quite suspicious. The proposal to buy a foreign-owned island seems to come out of nowhere. On Aug. 18, Trump spoke to reporters in New Jersey regarding the purchase, saying that he would “talk to [Denmark] a little bit, but it’s not number one on the burner.”
However, no president would let the idea of such a large purchase float around. I interpret Trump’s “not number one” statement as a deliberate attempt to make his plan appear casual. It is probable that he spoke to several of his advisors about the deal before speaking about it publicly.
Essentially, what seems like an impulsive, poorly calculated decision is just a classic Trump move. In his famed 1987 bestseller The Art of the Deal, the then-businessman Trump cited the significance of press attention as a form of free advertising. He claimed that those who are “a little outrageous” and “do things that are bold or controversial” are far more captivating in the eyes of the press.
There is certainly a correlation between Trump’s attitude toward the press over 30 years ago to his time in politics today. In the case of purchasing Greenland, his bold proposition forced the hand of Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen, who quickly called the idea “absurd.” The American media followed up Frederiksen’s comments by echoing her opposition to Trump’s vision.
Even in a digital age where nothing seems to stay in the news for long, there is a finite amount of coverage one individual topic can receive. The president’s “buy Greenland” declaration came within two weeks of the mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio. In the days following those events, Trump took to Twitter with a rare bipartisan suggestion: work with Democrats to pass stronger background checks in exchange for “desperately needed immigration reform.” However, his stance on this issue wavered in the following days.
As such, speaking about his intention to buy Greenland served as the perfect distraction to pressing questions surrounding the gun debate. On the day of the “strategically interesting” interview, most mainstream outlets abandoned their coverage of gun control to take a jab at Trump for his outrageous offer.
And it worked brilliantly. Just as the press was getting hold of the story, Trump returned to Twitter to divert attention again, this time with a meme of his signature high-rise hotel overlooking a small Greenlandic village. The caption read: “I promise not to do this in Greenland!” As he expected, the press ate it right up.
Say what you want about Donald Trump, but he has earned the distinction of being a master media manipulator. With a few “Art of the Deal”-esque answers and some social media savvy, the president has put Greenland on the map and in our minds. And that is something no one should dispute.
Carson Swick is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.