Justin Trudeau was the very picture of Mr. Congeniality, positive and alert. Donald Trump looked as if he was struggling to stay awake. You couldn't blame him. Their news conference was a snoozer. Which means that it was a resounding triumph.
"Our relationship with Canada is outstanding," said Mr. Trump, failing to make eye contact. He clarified that he has no desire to trash the North American free-trade agreement – only tweak it, whatever that means. When asked whether he thinks the northern border is secure, he ignored the question and bragged instead about how he's deporting Mexican criminals and bad guys.
There is no rapport between the two of them. That's no surprise. Mr. Trudeau would rather drink strychnine than play golf with Mr. Trump. Fortunately, he has mastered the elementary political skill of acting cordial toward people he would rather strangle. He also knows the last thing Canadians want is for him to look too chummy. The aim is to appear dignified, and avoid humiliation.
Mission accomplished. Mr. Trump did not hang up on us the way he did on the Australians. He didn't stomp all over us the way he did with Mexico. For the time being, we seem to have persuaded him that we're his harmless little buddy. Our guys can get back to Ottawa and pour themselves a nice stiff drink.
The PMO's idea of creating a positive event featuring leading female business executives was, frankly, a stroke of genius. The event was a manufactured feel-good piece of non-news that everyone, even the media, could solemnly applaud as they tried to fill up air time. It gave Mr. Trudeau a chance to burnish his feminist credentials, while giving Mr. Trump a chance to mend his reputation as an unredeemed sexist pig. "I had so many women executives that were phenomenal," he gushed at the meeting. "They really helped me a great deal in business."
To be sure, the obstacles faced by women in the workplace are not one of our more pressing bilateral issues. But they are a pet cause of Ivanka Trump, who was prominently featured at the meeting sitting next to Mr. Trudeau. Not coincidentally, Ivanka has been named chair of the new Joint Initiative for Female Businesses and Entrepreneurs. This ensures that we have a reliable connection in the White House who actually returns our calls.
The businesswomen's summit also gave the two men an excuse to find common ground, without having to make excruciating small talk with each other. Never mind their deep-down differences on NATO, border taxes, security, immigration, refugees and all the other big steaming messes that Mr. Trump has dumped on our head. Here, at last, was something the two sides could totally agree on! Perhaps it was Ivanka who persuaded Donald to be on his best behaviour. Or maybe he realized it's good to show he can actually get along with his closest ally, even if Mr. Trudeau did say nice things about Fidel Castro.
Many, many Canadians wish Mr. Trudeau would put his foot down when dealing with Mr. Trump. These people need to realize that he'd get it cut off. Others, in the United States and elsewhere, dreamily hope that Mr. Trudeau will lead a band of liberal countries to oppose him. Last week a Washington Post story wishfully said that he was "emerging as a leader of the liberal global resistance." Hours later – perhaps after a suggestion from Ottawa? – the story was amended to omit any such unfortunate perception.
It was Justin's father who first talked about the perils of sleeping with the elephant. But no prime minister in history has faced a president like this one – a rogue elephant who could trample the crops and kill the villagers at the faintest provocation. Mr. Trudeau's responsibility is to reflect our values while making sure that never happens. He had a very good day. Let's just pray no bad guys slip across the border from our side and detonate a bomb. In that case, all bets are off.