Last week we saw the spectacles of a NATO meeting in London and the summit in Helsinki. These two events told us a lot – about Trump, and the Republican party and about the rest of us.
I am not an historian, but I am confident in saying we have not anything in our foreign policy like this past week. A sampling of the headlines pretty well sums it up for most people:
“This sad, embarrassing wreck of a man”
“What does Putin have on Trump?”
“If Putin wanted a US. President to do his bidding, it would look exactly like this”
“The entire Republican Party is becoming a Russian asset”
“This conservative would take Obama back – in a nanosecond”
“Putin has his own version of the truth. And Trump believes it.”
“Maybe Trump proved his point about our intelligence”
And on the list goes. What might we take away from all this?
There should be no surprise that Trump had zero focus or preparation for either meeting. Meetings with the G20 and Kim Jung-un were previews. This is not a man capable or inclined to study or prepare for anything.
Nor should it be a surprise that he would be churlish toward our allies and positive toward an autocrat. The man’s affection and admiration for dictators is complete. That has been obvious all along.
But even with these forewarnings, few of us would have anticipated the NATO meeting. Here was language and conduct designed to destroy NATO from within. Can any ally now feel that America honoring Article 5 of the NATO treaty is a sure thing?
This mutual security pledge has been the core of the most successful alliance in history. In a matter of days and with a few intemperate remarks, Trump put 70 years of security at risk. And for good measure, he wondered why any American would come to the aid of NATO’s newest member.
Mr. Trump criticized the British Prime Minister in a public interview. Within hours, he pretended that it never happened. The Queen likely felt the 15 minutes she gave him was time wasted. She would be right. After London, I would not expect many invitations for state visits anywhere in NATO.
And then there was Helsinki. Again, some of this was likley. But the words spoken and even the body language on display were unlike anything I have ever seen.
It was sad, it was confounding, it was inexcusable.
Trump looked like a man defeated and under complete control of another. I actually know the Russian Foreign Minister a bit. I attended meetings with him during my time with the US Mission to the UN. He is a sober, measured guy. His elation at this summit was more ebullient than I have ever seen him. He has good reason.
There are three more surprises out of all this, at least to me.
Republicans have long been clear about no interest in constitutional counters to Trump. But the lack of any action, any hearings, any censure motions went below even my low expectations of them. A Sense of the Senate resolution that its not good to turn over US diplomats to Russia is not enough, folks.
This has gotten so bad that one has to wonder if the Russians have something on some of these people as well. It is hard to imagine any other reason to let what happened in London and Helsinki stand unchecked.
Two, the Democratic congressional leadership has come up short as well. I expected a unified front along the following lines: They would do all they could to stop the Congress from any but the most essential functions. This would continue until hearings were heard on London and Helsinki, until the US Translator in Helsinki was subpoenaed to testify in closed session and until the Mueller investigation was provided congressional protection.
If only a couple of Republicans agreed with them, it could be accomplished. Guess I expected too much.
Three, and most disappointing, is public polling. It appears that a large majority of Republicans think Trump did fine in Helsinki. A majority say they would support him even if he has colluded with Russia. Think of that. We have citizens who put Trump and whatever they think he can deliver to them ahead of their country. His obvious incapacity to function as a president is not important.
We are more lost in the woods than one could have imagined. I still think we are better than this. A lot of people are working overtime to prove that conclusion to be erroneous.
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