New York Times blames Taiwan call on Bob Dole

The New York Times breathlessly reports:

Former Senator Bob Dole, acting as a foreign agent for the government of Taiwan, worked behind the scenes over the past six months to establish high-level contact between Taiwanese officials and President-elect Donald J. Trump’s staff, an outreach effort that culminated last week in an unorthodox telephone call between Mr. Trump and Taiwan’s president.

Mr. Dole, a lobbyist with the Washington law firm Alston & Bird, coordinated with Mr. Trump’s campaign and the transition team to set up a series of meetings between Mr. Trump’s advisers and officials in Taiwan, according to disclosure documents filed last week with the Justice Department. Mr. Dole also assisted in successful efforts by Taiwan to include language favorable to it in the Republican Party platform, according to the documents.

Mr. Dole’s firm received $140,000 from May to October for the work, the forms said.

That’s not exactly a killing by Washington lobbying standards.

Times reporters Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Eric Lipton continue:

The disclosures suggest that President-elect Trump’s decision to take a call from the president of Taiwan, Tsai Ing-wen, was less a ham-handed diplomatic gaffe and more the result of a well-orchestrated plan by Taiwan to use the election of a new president to deepen its relationship with the United States — with an assist from a seasoned lobbyist well versed in the machinery of Washington.

(Emphasis added)

The Times is giving Taiwan and Bob Dole way too much credit. The Taiwanese government undoubtedly wants better relations with the U.S. Bob Dole undoubtedly wants to advance the interests of his client.

Yet surely what Donald Trump wants mattered more. The Times writes as if Trump had no informed say in his decision to talk with Taiwan’s president. Either he committed a “ham-handed diplomatic gaffe” or he was played by Taiwan and a 93 year-old.

There’s a third alternative, and it’s the only one that makes much sense. Trump wants to reorient relations with China, and for good reason. He saw the opportunity to take a pre-arranged call from Taiwan’s president as a means of signaling a reorientation or at least the prospect of one.

The Times eventually gets around to acknowledging that “several senior advisers to Mr. Trump have long advocated more overt outreach efforts and stronger United States support for Taiwan, arguing that it would help to counterbalance Beijing’s influence.” But even here, Trump himself is treated as a cipher.

Yet, he has railed against China for a year and a half. Why wouldn’t he want to show China straightaway that it’s a new day in Sino-American affairs and that he has a card or two to play?

The newspaper formerly of record is so accustomed — and predisposed — to a foreign policy in which our friends are snubbed to make our adversaries happy that its reporters can’t understand a policy that reverses this approach except in terms of lobbying and lucre. And it is so accustomed — and predisposed — to taking Donald Trump for a fool, that its reporters can’t fathom that he’s probably the one calling the shots, and calling them rationally.

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