President Business Deals is over in Europe for a trip that, under most presidents, would probably float by on the river of news without much of a splash. Naturally, this one has people concerned the world order as we know it could be upended by next week. Having ramped up tensions in the lead-up by banging on about how our NATO allies aren't spending enough on their defense and suggesting his rendezvous with Vladimir Putin would be "easier" than meetings with friends, our president kicked things off Wednesday by dialing things down a bit.
Oh, you believed that?
This is not the first time our president-who's turned projection into an art form- has treated us to a Freudian episode. "Totally controlled by Russia" is definitely not a phrase continually ringing around Trump's brain.
Needless to say, it's not standard procedure to launch a summit of the members of your mutual-defense pact by repeatedly slamming one of the members over breakfast. While the U.S. and some Eastern European states have had their issues with Germany's decisions on natural gas pipelines with Russia, this is not normally the way those grievances are aired. It has the effect of further splintering the alliance-a major Putin goal-heading into Trump's meeting with the Russian president early next week.
Oh, and of course there's a deranged non-fact involved: Trump said Germany gets "from 60 to 70 percent of their energy from Russia," the basis for his claim that the EU's biggest economy is totally beholden to a geopolitical adversary. The German government puts the figure at nine percent. But who's counting? Certainly not the world's most powerful man. The president is just saying things again.
But to really grasp just how much of an unmitigated shitshow this whole production was, you need only look at the other Americans at the table. NATO Ambassador Kay Bailey Hutchinson, seated next to Trump, shifts uneasily in her chair in a great multi-angle video put together by The Washington Post. But the real star of the show is Chief of Staff John Kelly:
Reports are that Kelly's race is run in this White House. (New Communications Director Bill Shine, who was pushed out of Fox News for his role in the culture of sexual harassment there, has apparently filled the void-complete with lights that make Trump look younger on TV.) It's hard to believe Kelly even still wants the job, not that he did anything to slow the decay of the American republic while he had the president's ear.
Still, he at least has the wherewithal to keep track of who's side everyone is on. His boss is a regular Brick Tamland-unless, of course, the Artful Dealmaker knows exactly what he's doing.
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