Playing a bad hand
Donald Trump’s unfortunate tour of Europe and the United Kingdom revealed his inability to move stealthily. Because he blasted NATO and Prime Minister Theresa May, then tried to make amends by declaring non-success, he hurt the credibility of the presidency and the U.S. Moreover, much of the good he might have done in re-orienting Western policy toward Russia was permanently damaged.
Unpredictability can be an asset, true enough, but Trump goes back and forth at an alarming speed. Simply, his word cannot be trusted and he is stuck in the moment. The European visit was a reprise of his performance at the G-7. More or less, the other six stink on the first day and everything was superb on the second. Emmanuel Macron played the role at NATO and Justin Trudeau at the G-7 in calling Trump out when he declared that everyone was on board.
You cannot afford to appear to be a predator when you fashion alliances. It’s bad enough that the American exceptionalists tried to hector foreign governments, but Trump out and out insults them. He is behaving like a president who is leading a very weak republic and trying to gain the attention of more powerful players. For whatever reason, Trump seems to forget that the United States is the premier power. American presidents do not have to strut; it is understood they come with a winning hand.
Rather than show authoritative confidence, Trump tries to make news, not history. He certainly can display charm, why not do so? Ronald Reagan simply had to say no to Mikhail Gorbachev to deflate his ambitions in 1987. Vladimir Putin is tougher and more focused than Gorbachev and knows how to play a weak hand well.
Perhaps the Republican party is rubbing off on Trump. The House Intelligence Committee, led by “Battlin'” Bob Goodlatte, made a fool of itself in the grilling of Peter Strzok. Indeed, most of the GOP representatives looked wild-eyed and unhinged. If Trump wants that as a “base” then he truly should be pitied. To his credit, Mark Meadows of the Freedom Caucus was smart enough to fold a bad hand. Smart Conservatives need to take charge fast before it gets out of hand.
No diplomacy, with a lack of decorum and shrill talk, is now what’s left of the GOP. Archie Bunker took over with a vengeance, leaving the Republicans offering all hot sauce and no substance. For Trump, if he does not change course he will find himself more and more controlled by the establishment. They do know how to be patient and wait Trump out. Like Kaiser Wilhelm II, whose erratic style made himself an irrelevancy by the end of his reign. The generals and the diplomats were forced to work around a blustery loud mouth who spouted theories on every possible subject. And, yes, he too was a “genius.”
Trump has advisors that more or less try to ignore him. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has shown class and subtlety, trying to hold the Trumpian balloon before it goes into the ether. Republicans who thought they could control him are coming slowly to the conclusion they cannot. Foolishness brings down great nations. Let’s hope fuzzy thinking emanating from political emotions does not injure the United States.