At one of his recent town halls, Justin Trudeau was asked if he thought his American counterpart, Donald Trump, was a misogynist. "I am pleased to have a constructive working relationship with the new administration," Mr. Trudeau said, adding that it was not his job to opine on U.S. politics.
It was a response that undoubtedly disappointed the Prime Minister's many feminist admirers. Mr. Trump's distressing history of female disparagement largely inspired the recent rallies across the United States and around the world, at which hundreds of thousands of women took to the streets in noisy condemnation of his ascent to power.
But those hoping our world leaders will bravely speak up in the face of Mr. Trump's various idiocies and inane proclamations are likely going to be sorely dismayed. Rather, they should be prepared for the type of vanilla-coated riposte we heard from Mr. Trudeau.
It was much easier to censure Mr. Trump for his unseemly antics when he was a long-shot candidate for the presidency. Now that he holds the most potent office in the universe, politicians are being forced to sing a more diplomatic tune.
They understand the economic might the United States wields. They also know what an often immature, vengeful person Mr. Trump can be. The economic havoc he can visit upon a country over some perceived slight is immense. Consequently, Mr. Trudeau is likely going to be biting his tongue a lot over the next four years.
There is an enormous danger associated with this strategy. By remaining mum, Mr. Trudeau and his global counterparts are normalizing this man's behaviour. Mr. Trump is a classic bully, and bullies thrive on the silence of their victims. No one should ever be afraid to stand up to this man, to denounce actions that deserve to be denounced.
Certainly no one should ever be disparaged for doing so.
Most will recall the now-infamous tape recording that emerged during the presidential campaign of Mr. Trump making horribly deplorable statements about women. Asked at the time to comment, B.C. Premier Christy Clark properly characterized his remarks as "absolutely disgraceful."
Earlier this week, Ms. Clark was ridiculed by a commentator on The Tyee, a left-of-centre online news magazine, for having earlier made her views public. According to the author, in criticizing Mr. Trump, the Premier had needlessly risked the jobs of thousands of people in her province whose companies do business with the United States. Imagine: being excoriated for decrying behaviour that is by any measure is execrable. Isn't that what we want our political leaders to do?
It seems absolutely bizarre to be chastising Ms. Clark because Donald Trump is now President. But it speaks to the broad uneasiness that has descended on the world in the wake of his victory. People are afraid, including our politicians. Few seem to have the backbone to stand up to him.
Look how easy it was for Mr. Trump to say he wanted to renegotiate NAFTA. It seemed to take all of three seconds for Canada to say okay, and throw Mexico under the bus in the process. This is the kind of influence the U.S. President wields. He knows it and isn't afraid to use it. Mr. Trump is also aware his fellow leaders are going to act in their nation's own self-interests. And if that means not doing anything to provoke a notoriously thin-skinned president, so be it.
There will be many who applaud this approach, especially in the business community. Corporations likely have the most to lose in any Trump-incited backlash. They would prefer their home governments just keep calm and carry on, regardless of what the erratic U.S. President does or says.
My guess, however, is that the broader populace won't stand for being intimidated or browbeaten by this man. They will demand their political leaders stand up to him and not cower at the first sight of his looming presence.
Nothing good can come of a deceitful, shallow narcissist taking control of a powerful sovereign nation on a craven nativist message and afterward being aided and abetted by the obsequiousness of those around him.
Our political leaders must always have the courage to indict conduct that deserves to be indicted. Even if the object of their wrath is the most powerful person on earth.