From his ranch in Arizona where he is battling brain cancer, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., almost certainly the most respected American politician internationally, reached out to comfort our allies. “To our allies: bipartisan majorities of Americans remain pro-free trade, pro-globalization & supportive of alliances based on 70 years of shared values,” McCain tweeted. “Americans stand with you, even if our president doesn’t.” Unfortunately, Donald Trump is for now president, and he is busy trashing our most important international relationships. It will be fascinating to see which other Republicans have the nerve to speak up.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., sounded genuinely appalled; not phony-political appalled, but for real. Pelosi tweeted, “This week started with @realDonaldTrump boosting a Chinese company identified as a national security threat to the U.S. It ended with him standing up for Russia and alienating our allies at the G7.” And for good measure, she added, with obvious disdain, Trump’s “MAGA” hashtag. Schumer echoed that sense of amazement. He tweeted: “Are we executing Putin’s diplomatic and national security strategy or AMERICA’s diplomatic and national security strategy? After the last few days, it’s hard to tell.”
Michael D. Shear and Catherine Porter of the New York Times describe the G-7 trainwreck this way:
“The result was a slow-rolling collapse of the fragile alliances that officials at the summit — and even Mr. Thump’s own White House advisers — insisted throughout the day could be maintained in the face of fundamental disagreements. . . .
“Mr. Trump confronted several of the leaders individually, giving examples of how, in his view, each of their countries had mistreated the United States, whether it be through trade barriers or security commitments, according to a European official.
“The president delivered a running monologue in one of the closed-door meetings, one person familiar with the discussion said. One minute, he slammed Germany for taking advantage of the United States by selling so many cars there. The next, he talked about how his grandfather was German and how much he loved Europe.”
In other words, our allies see an incoherent, irrational president who cannot grasp the fundamentals of the international system that works for the benefit of all Western democracies. To him, none of the benefits of the post-World War II international architecture matter. It’s about his pride, his demand for attention, his ability to create havoc — and if he needs to take a wrecking ball to the Western alliance to convince himself he’s smarter than all his predecessors, he’ll not think twice about it.
He pulls out of the Iran deal and declares, with no basis in fact, that Iran is now cowed. He says he’s getting tough on China, and then lets Chinese telecom company ZTE — a national security threat to the United States, according to our intelligence community — off the hook. (You do wonder if Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is mortified by all of this, or whether he too has become a soldier in the Trump cult.) He pulls down the curtain on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which would have limited China’s influence, and now China’s “one belt, one road” vision may secure it as the most dominant power in Asia (and beyond).
This is all the more stunning as Trump turns to the North Korea summit. America’s allies, a significant cross-section of Congress (although Republicans are too cowardly to admit it publicly), much of the free press here and abroad, and a very sizable majority of Americans do not trust him. (As for the latter, the most recent Quinnipiac poll showed 64 percent of voters don’t think he is level-headed; 59 percent don’t think he is honest. You wonder if the other voters have just tuned out.)
The potential ramifications of an unhinged and untrustworthy president are horrifying:
• If Trump comes out of his meeting(s) with Kim Jong Un imploring the world to ease up on Pyongyang, the American public and Congress, as well as our allies around the globe, will have more than a little reason to doubt his hype and self-congratulatory description of what he’s gotten.
• Conversely, if Trump announces at some point military action against Pyongyang is necessary, I’ll be surprised if the American people or our allies buy it.
• If he sits down for a summit with Vladimir Putin, Americans and the citizens of other Western democracies will reasonably fear Trump will give away the store (and maybe give some more signal intelligence to Russia?).
• If his administration announces Iran is racing to a bomb, the public or the international community may very well disbelieve him.
And on it goes. Trump’s behavior, quite simply, makes him a threat to our national security. (It is hard to decide which is worse — his destruction of America’s alliances or his willingness to be taken in by thugs such as Putin and Kim.) In any event, super-hawks like national security adviser John Bolton and sycophantic Republican senators (e.g., Ted Cruz of Texas, Tom Cotton of Arkansas) who fancy themselves as tough defenders of American freedom will have a lot to answer for as Trump’s international demolition derby takes its toll on America and the free world.
Jennifer Rubin writes the Right Turn blog for The Washington Post, offering reported opinion from a center-right perspective. Follow her on Twitter @JRubinBlogger.