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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.

Go deeper

10 hours ago - World

Maximum pressure campaign escalates with Fakhrizadeh killing

Photo: Fars News Agency via AP

The assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the architect of Iran’s military nuclear program, is a new height in the maximum pressure campaign led by the Trump administration and the Netanyahu government against Iran.

Why it matters: It exceeds the capture of the Iranian nuclear archives by the Mossad, and the sabotage in the advanced centrifuge facility in Natanz.

Scoop: Biden weighs retired General Lloyd Austin for Pentagon chief

Lloyd Austin testifying before Congress in 2015. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Joe Biden is considering retired four-star General Lloyd Austin as his nominee for defense secretary, adding him to a shortlist that includes Jeh Johnson, Tammy Duckworth and Michele Flournoy, two sources with direct knowledge of the decision-making tell Axios.

Why it matters: A nominee for Pentagon chief was noticeably absent when the president-elect rolled out his national security team Tuesday. Flournoy had been widely seen as the likely pick, but Axios is told other factors — race, experience, Biden's comfort level — have come into play.

Updated 12 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: WHO: AstraZeneca vaccine must be evaluated on "more than a press release."
  2. Politics: Supreme Court backs religious groups on New York COVID restrictions.
  3. World: Thailand, Philippines sign deal with AstraZeneca for vaccine.
  4. Economy: Safety nets to disappear in December Black Friday shopping across the U.S., in photosAmazon hires 1,400 workers a day throughout pandemic.
  5. Education: National standardized tests delayed until 2022.