Jul 15, 2018 - Politics & Policy

Reality check: Trump's worldwide tantrum-and-torpedo tour

An illustration of Air Force One, with Donald Trump's signature in the place of the trails from the plane

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

Even in this era of parallel universes, where facts are no longer facts, history is no longer history, allies are no longer allies, and foreign thugs are no longer foreign thugs, President Trump’s worldwide tantrum-and-torpedo tour has been truly bizarre.

  • You can fairly argue Germany should pony up more for NATO defense or trim a few tariffs on U.S. goods. But it’s harder to argue Germany has been anything other than a trustworthy and resolute ally. (Trump is correct that Germany's leadership has allowed its military to become badly depleted. And the reality is that it can't provide much meaningful assistance to the U.S. And, yes, the Russian gas pipeline is a problem.) But Trump turned Angela Merkel, the staunchest of U.S. partners, into a confused, aggrieved skeptic playing footsie with China on trade. 
  • You can fairly argue Britain has its internal issues and its people have been unusually hostile to the Trump presidency. But it’s hard to argue Britain has been anything other than America’s strongest ally, even when it hurts or is unpopular. Then Trump kneecapped Theresa May on her own soil. Trump's trip did horrors for the British public's view of him. But May knows she needs the U.S., so she stiff-upper-lipped it.
  • You can fairly argue that engaging Russia is better than escalation. But it’s hard to argue that Mueller's methodical investigation is a witch hunt.

Be smart: Trump legitimizes patently illegitimate behavior by publicly coddling Putin.

The irony is that if Trump just kept his mouth shut, his actions would put him in a much better spot with America's allies:

  • He's definitely harmed European relationships through his steel and aluminum relationships, withdrawal from Paris, and withdrawal from the Iran deal.
  • But he's also done stuff the Continent likes — including substantially increasing American military investment in Europe from the Obama years.
  • Oh, and on this trip he signed the NATO joint statement reaffirming all of the allies' commitments.
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