For those who have family or friends on the other side of the world, communication often comes with a constant check of the time; after all, there are few things more irritating than getting woken up in the middle of the night for a non-emergency call. For President Donald Trump, that time zone check doesn't seem to exist. According to Politico, Trump reportedly won't consider time zones when phoning world leaders. The latest report is yet another example of the president's impatient, unorthodox leadership style, one that apparently often leaves aides scrambling to prevent diplomatic faux pas.
“He wasn’t great with recognizing that the leader of a country might be 80 or 85 years old and isn’t going to be awake or in the right place at 10:30 or 11 p.m. their time,” a former Trump National Security Council official told Politico, while another unnamed source from the publication said, "When he wants to call someone, he wants to call someone. He’s more impulsive that way. He doesn’t think about what time it is or who it is."
Trump’s aides had to repeatedly explain why he couldn't call world leaders whenever he wanted, but it wasn’t easy, Politico reported. During his first year in office, during the middle of the afternoon, the president reportedly wanted to call Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe — which meant Abe would have gotten the call in the middle of the night in Tokyo.
In defense of the president, the White House responded, explaining that the job comes with a learning curve and that the president isn't nitpicky when it comes to high decorum.
“The president has developed strong relationships and good rapports that are not only friendly, but also allow for candid conversations with many of America’s closest allies,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said to Politico. “He has even worked the phone with our competitors, injecting stability into bilateral relationships that are undergoing contentious, but necessary readjustments to place American interests first. Foreign leaders appreciate that the President is willing to take their calls day and night.”
“The president has made clear that when leaders reach out for calls, [aides should] set them up right away. He has had foreign leaders calls very late at night and never wants another leader to wait before their call is returned,” Huckabee Sanders added.
The president's apparent impulse to call global leaders at odd times is just one of several diplomatic upsets documented throughout his presidency. Most recently, news outlets reported on the president's supposed mispronunciation of Nepal as "nipple" and Bhutan as "button" while prepping for a meeting with India's prime minister. The president has also shown an inclination toward what seems to be hastily-decided White House invitations to controversial leaders. His most recent invitation to Putin, for example, caught his own national director of intelligence off-guard. Even more unconventional is Trump's informal use of social media throughout his presidency to communicate with world leaders. Last month, for instance, Trump threatened the president of Iran with an all-caps tweet.
But this recent report on Trump's penchant for international phone calls, protocol and etiquette be damned, aren't really new. He's been overturning institutional diplomacy since 2016, and at this point, new revelations about his style of leadership are unlikely to elicit the same stunned responses as it did during his first year in office.