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By Stump Connolly

President Trump returned Saturday to a red-faced nation after a nine-day trip to a world he doesn’t understand.

“I think we hit a home run no matter where we were,” he said just before boarding the plane home. But he’s the only one who thinks that. His sword dancing with the Saudis in Riyadh and bromance with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi (“Love your shoes, man”) won’t win any converts in the poor Arabian neighborhoods where terrorism breeds. Leaving a note that could have been penned by a 10-year-old (“It’s a great honor to be here with all of my friends. So amazing”) in the Book of Remember at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem  doesn’t instill confidence he can broker an Israeli-Palestinian peace. And just ask Pope Francis how happy he was with their Vatican meeting, or look at the photos.

By the time he got to Brussels for the NATO summit, the President had pretty much exhausted his good graces. All he had to do was give a speech dedicating a memorial to the 888 Europeans, 158 Canadians and 2,396 American troops who died fighting in Afghanistan.

The monument, a twisted piece of steel from the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center, honors Article 5 of the NATO pact that holds an attack on one nation in the alliance is an attack on all. For 70 years, it has been the glue holding NATO together, although it has only been invoked once – in defense of the United States.

Bungler-in-Chief

Everyone knows Trump wishes the other NATO nations would pay more for their own defense — so have other presidents going back to Ronald Reagan – so it would not have been out of line for him to mention it in his speech. But the gracious thing would have been to then pivot to America commitment to Article 5, reassuring our allies that we are all in this together. Instead, he harangued the European leaders for letting in too many Middle East refugees and running up “massive” past due bills to the United States (although that is not how NATO financing works.)

His ham-handed diplomacy bubbled over into a photo op where he got into a wrist-wrestling handshake with French President Emmanuel Macron. On a tour of the new NATO headquarters, he gratuitously chided the leaders for how much it cost. Then, in a separate meeting with our European Union partners, he called out Germany for its “bad, very bad” trade policies and threatened to stop importing German cars. (Apparently unaware that BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen manufacture 850,000 autos a year here in assembly plants across the South and German companies employ some 700,000 workers in America.)

Beat it, Montenegro!

To top it off, in a move that became the symbol for his whole trip, he pushed his way past the prime minister of Montenegro to preen in front of the cameras at a photo op of world leaders.

How much did Donald Trump isolate himself from our closest allies? As if the NATO snub weren’t enough, he flew on to a G7 conference in Sicily where he all but fell asleep as the leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Italy and the United Kingdom made impassioned pleas for the U.S. to stay in the Paris Climate Accord. (Pope Francis made a similar appeal in their private session and gave Trump his Encyclical on Climate Change as a parting gift.)

Back on Terra Unfirma

Back home, Press Secretary Sean Spicer provided a jaw-dropping account of the journey Tuesday that left reporters’ heads in the pressroom spinning. Chris Cizzilla, editor-in-chief at CNN, said it “felt like a trip to an alternate universe.”

After a two week layoff, and nine days on the road with a president (who held no press conferences), Spicer faced a growing mound of questions about the Russian investigation and the role of Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner. But first, he dutiflly had to give the White House version of what he called “the incredible, historic trip that the president and first lady have just concluded.”

“It truly was an historic week for America and our people,” he said. To underscore the point, he said “historic” five more times.

“We’ve never seen before at this point in a presidency such sweeping reassurance of American interests and the inauguration of a foreign policy strategy designed to bring back the world from growing dangers and perpetual disasters brought on by years of failed leadership” he said. Trump’s speech to the leaders of 50 Arab nations, he added,  “was a historic turning point that people will be talking about for many years to come.”

Maybe in the White House they will, or in the president’s twitter account, which he took to as soon as he got back. (“Just returned from Europe. Trip was a great success for America. Hard work but big results!” he tweeted at 7 AM the next morning. Twenty minutes later, he was on to the “fabricated lies” and fake news coming out of the White House,  and the “poorly covered” Republican victory in Montana House race.)

The Blowback

While the President was tweeting to himself in the one medium he controls (and 140-character thoughts are revered), the blowback in Europe was just beginning. German Chancellor Angela Merkel told a campaign rally in Munich Trump’s NATO appearance worried her. “The times when we could rely fully on others are to some extent over – I experienced that in the last few days. That is why we Europeans must really take our destiny into our own hands.”

Macron too said he left Brussels and Sicily wary of dealing with Trump. “My handshake with him, it wasn’t innocent,” he told a French newspaper. “It was a moment of truth. One must show that you won’t make small concessions, even symbolic ones, but also not over-publicize things, either.”

In Der Spiegel, Germany’s most popular newsweekly, editor-in-chief Klaus Brinkbaumer penned an editorial the week before Trump’s trip that quickly went viral. The opening paragraph was about as blunt as you can put it.

“Donald Trump has transformed the United States into a laughingstock and he is a danger to the world. He must be removed from the White House before things get even worse.”

Then Brinkhaumer detailed his case:

Donald Trump is not fit to be president of the United States. He does not possess the requisite intellect and does not understand the significance of the office he holds nor the tasks associated with it. He doesn’t read. He doesn’t bother to peruse important files and intelligence reports and knows little about the issues that he has identified as his priorities. His decisions are capricious and they are delivered in the form of tyrannical decrees.

He is a man free of morals. As has been demonstrated hundreds of times, he is a liar, a racist and a cheat. I feel ashamed to use these words, as sharp and loud as they are. But if they apply to anyone, they apply to Trump. And one of the media’s tasks is to continue telling things as they are: Trump has to be removed from the White House. Quickly. He is a danger to the world.

Left and Right Agree

            It’s not hard to find pundits in America who think Trump’s first foreign adventure was an embarrassment to himself and America.

Maureen Dowd wrote in her Sunday New York Times column, “Trump thinks the way to represent America is with a caricature of strength, without understanding it comes across as weakness and boorishness. Even with the weightiest job in the world, he can’t seem to mature beyond the schoolyard bully.” And Charlie Sykes, the conservative radio commentator from Wisconsin, characterized the President’s approach as “thin-skinned nastiness masquerading as confidence.”

How’s It Play in Trumpland?

There are people who say it doesn’t matter what Europe thinks as long as the President can hold onto his base, that vast swath of Middle America hankering to drain the swamp in Washington. So far, the investigation into Russian tampering with the election hasn’t moved the meter in their polling. The deleterious effect of repealing Obamacare, cutting taxes for the wealthy, or scaling back social programs they rely on doesn’t seem to phase them.

But when the President goes abroad and embarrasses America on the world stage, he’s tampering with something fundamental to our self-image, our American pride. That pride is born of the feeling we’re pretty good people. We work hard, we play hard, but we have a generous heart. We treat other people with respect, and we expect them to treat us with respect. We’re happy the German automakers are building factories here. We’re ready to stand shoulder to shoulder with our NATO allies to defend freedom. We want to do our part to make the world a safer, healthier place.

Make America Great Again

Make America Great Again was a slogan Trump voters bought into because it promised to restore those values in America, and President Trump’s job is to represent them here, and abroad. But he wasn’t representing America on this trip. He wasn’t putting “America First.” He was putting “Me First.” He was looking to see who would roll out the red carpet for him, how warmly Israel would embrace him, and how much he could squeeze out of Europe by making a really, really good deal. It was all about me, me, me.

The American way is to make friends out of enemies, not enemies out of friends. We do that by gaining their respect, but nobody respects a dick. So President Trump really ought to cut it out – if he can – and start showing the world why America is great.


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