Trump’s trip to Europe was a complete disaster, and not because he acted like a boorish bully

On his recent visit to Europe, he managed to convey once again his contempt for America’s European allies, and to demonstrate that he places more value on his own personal comfort than on the sacrifices that US soldiers have made in the past.

The trip itself cost millions of taxpayer dollars, yet Trump chose to skip a key ceremony honoring US war dead at Aisne-Marne American Cemetery because it was raining.

The White House offered up a cloud of unconvincing excuses for Trump’s absence, but other world leaders were not deterred by the fear of a few raindrops, and neither were past presidents ObamaClinton, Bush, or Kennedy back in their day.

By choosing to stay warm and dry in his hotel room while other world leaders acknowledged the heroism of those who fought and died for freedom, Trump gave the concept of “American exceptionalism” a whole new meaning.

Overall, Trump seemed intent on proving that while the obligations of being president might force him to go on such trips, he doesn’t have to behave himself while he’s there.

For example, Trump is correct to accuse China of engaging in a variety of predatory trade practices and of failing to live up to its World Trade Organization commitments. He is also right when he complains that Europe has neglected its own defenses and relies too much on American protection (though he still seems to think NATO is a club with membership dues)..

He is hardly the first US official to criticize European defense preparations but being unoriginal doesn’t make it wrong.

Trump is also correct in his belief that Europe, Russia, and the United States would be better off if the divisions that presently divide them could be bridged or at least alleviated.

It would be better for Europe if Russia withdrew from Ukraine, stopped trying to intimidate the Baltic states, and stopped murdering former spies in foreign countries.

It would be good for Russia if Western sanctions were lifted and it no longer had to worry about open-ended NATO expansion. And it would be good for the United States if Russia could be pulled away from its increasingly close partnership with China.

For that matter, Trump wasn’t wrong to see North Korea’s nuclear and long-range missile programs as a serious problem that called for creative diplomacy.

The real problem is that Trump has no idea what to do about any of these issues, and he seems incapable of formulating a coherent approach to any of them. To the extent that he does have an actual policy toward Europe, for example, it is the exact opposite of what the United States ought to be doing.

Trump’s broad approach to Europe is one of “divide and rule.” He’s called the European Union a “foe” of the United States, and he has backed a number of the political forces that are now roiling the Continent and threatening the EU’s long-term future.

He endorsed Brexit, expressed his support for Marine Le Pen in France, and thinks well of illiberal leaders like Viktor Orban of Hungary and Andrzej Duda of Poland. Why? Because he thinks dividing Europe into contending national states will allow the larger and more powerful United States to bargain with each European state separately rather than face all of them together, and thus secure better deals for itself.

This approach might be termed “Neanderthal realism.” Playing “divide and rule” is a good idea when dealing with real enemies, but it makes no sense to sow division among countries with whom one has generally friendly relations and close economic ties, and when their collective support might be needed in other contexts.

This approach also runs counter to Trump’s stated desire to reduce US security commitments to Europe and to get Europe to take on greater responsibility for its own defense.

If you really want the United States to get out of the business of protecting Europe, you should also want Europe to be tranquil, capable, prosperous, and united after the United States withdraws. Why? So that Washington doesn’t have to worry about developments there and can focus its attention on other regions, such as Asia.

A Europe roiled by xenophobia, resurgent hyper-nationalism, and persistent internal wrangling wouldn’t be to America’s advantage; it would be just another problem area we’d have to keep an eye on.

Nor would a divided Europe be of much use in addressing any of the other problems on America’s foreign-policy agenda.

Why doesn’t Trump see this? Possibly because he is reflexively relying on the same tactics that brought him to the White House.

It has worked tolerably well here in the United States, because a lot of Americans are still angry or fearful and Trump is both shameless and adept at fueling those emotions. This same instinct leads him to behave abominably abroad: Insulting British Prime Minister Theresa May and London Mayor Sadiq Khan, deriding Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada as “Very dishonest & weak” or derisively tossing Starburst candies to German Chancellor Angela Merkel during a meeting of G-7 leaders.

.. The problem, of course, is that the boorish behavior and conflict-stoking policies tend to backfire on the world stage.

.. Trump’s bullying bluster didn’t win big trade concessions from Canada, Mexico, or South Korea; the shiny “new” trade deals Trump negotiated with them were nearly identical to the old arrangements and in some ways inferior to them.

And given how Trump has treated America’s allies, why would May, Merkel, Macron, Abe, or Trudeau do him (or the United States) any favors? The declining US image abroad compounds this problem, as foreign leaders know their own popularity will suffer if they help Trump in any way.

.. Trump’s personal conduct is not even the biggest problem. Arguably, an even bigger issue is the strategic incoherence of his entire transactional approach. His overarching objective is to try to screw the best possible deal out of every interaction, but this approach instead makes it more difficult for the United States to achieve its most important foreign-policy goals.

.. Threatening trade wars with allies in Europe or Canada makes little sense from a purely economic perspective, for example, and it has made it harder for the United States to address the more serious challenge of China’s trade policies.

If Trump were as worried about China’s trade infractions as he claims to be, he would have lined up Europe, Japan, and other major economic actors and confronted China with a united front. Similarly, pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal and threatening allies with secondary sanctions not only raises doubts about America’s judgment (because the deal was working, and the Europeans know it); it just fuels further resentment at America’s shortsighted bullying.

.. It is increasingly clear that Trump was never the brilliant businessman he claimed to be; he got most of his wealth from his father using various shady tax dodges, and the Trump Organization may have been heavily dependent on illegal activities like money laundering.

.. We should focus less on his personal antics and inadequacies and focus more on his inability to formulate effective policies, even on issues where his instincts are in fact mostly correct.

.. Sadly, the 45th US president possesses a world-class ability to get things wrong, even when he’s right.

Lawmakers’ Efforts to Rewrite Government Plan Imperil May’s Brexit Strategy

Mrs. May’s plan was agreed less than two weeks ago by her cabinet, prompting the resignations of two prominent cabinet ministers and a handful of junior ministers.

Among other provisions, it called for a free-trade area between the U.K. and the EU to ensure the free flow of goods after Britain’s withdrawal—a proposal that enraged hardline Brexit supporters because it would require the U.K. to effectively follow EU rules and standards.

.. Mrs. May lost her parliamentary majority in an ill-judged election last year and has struggled to impose order on a Conservative Party riven by disagreements over Brexit ever since.

Internal party debates have become increasingly ill-tempered and public. Dominic Grieve, a leading pro-EU Conservative, on Monday described the anti-EU wing’s legislative amendments as “malevolent.”

.. For negotiators in Brussels, the political turmoil will intensify questions over whether Mrs. May can deliver whatever Brexit deal she eventually agrees to, as splits in Parliament mean that almost any possible Brexit outcome may not command majority support.

.. The splits increase the chances, many lawmakers say, of Britain leaving the EU without a deal, an outcome that many businesses fear because it would mean there would be no legal basis for many economic transactions with the EU.

Hitting Putin Where It Hurts

But the prime minister should have gone in harder. If she really wanted to teach Russia a lesson, she should have announced measures allowing her government to scrutinize the billions of dollars invested in Britain by Russian oligarchs and their associates, some of whom have criminal or intelligence backgrounds. This kind of transparency would hit President Vladimir Putin and his allies where it hurts most: their bank accounts.

To this day, anybody from Mexican cartels to Saudi arms dealers to Russian oligarchs (and even American real estate magnates) can invest money in Britain through anonymous companies registered in Crown Overseas Territories like the British Virgin Islands. In London’s central borough of Westminster alone, some 10,000 apartments and houses are owned by companies whose proprietors are entirely unknown to the government.

.. In 2016, Mrs. May’s predecessor, David Cameron, was preparing legislationto force anonymous companies to reveal their real owners. Then he lost the referendum on Britain’s membership in the European Union.

.. Mrs. May probably has her reasons for not going forward with the law. She is the country’s weakest prime minister to assume office since World War II. Brexit has not only polarized public opinion but also created bitter divisions in her cabinet, and several ministers are open about their desire to take her place.

Because of this, she has had to handle the relationship with Russia after the murder attempt with great care. If she gets it wrong, her already enfeebled administration could collapse.

.. Mr. Putin may have realized how weak Mrs. May is, which is why he would decide to act now to take revenge on a man he sees as a traitor and to cause Britain new headaches.
Russia’s motivation is understandable. Its economy faces serious structural problems, including a dangerous overreliance on oil and gas. At the same time, business leaders are worried about the country’s long-term demographic decline. Mr. Putin seeks to bolster his domestic popularity by looking powerful as he sows discord with the West.
.. The government is reaping the dubious rewards of having opened the City of London since the late 1990s to foreign capital with no questions asked about its origin.
 The initial aim of this permissive approach was to persuade investors that London — rather than New York — was best suited to be the world’s financial capital. Among the many to take advantage of the light-touch regulations were oligarchs, spies and gangsters.
.. Russian oligarchs have made an indelible mark on London. Some own newspapers, others our most successful soccer clubs, while many more own huge chunks of high-end property in the most fashionable parts of the capital.
.. And some of those characters are close collaborators and friends of President Putin.
.. If Mrs. May is convinced that Russia is behind this attack, then she needs to devise a way of getting to President Putin’s friends and collaborators. And that means great transparency. She should reintroduce the stalled proposal to force anonymous companies to reveal the sources of their cash.

Theresa May: ‘Highly likely’ Russia responsible for spy’s poisoning by nerve agent

The British leader said police identified the poison as a “military-grade nerve agent of a type developed by Russia.”

She said Russia either engaged in a direct attack against Britain or lost control of the nerve agent it developed. Britain will not tolerate such a “brazen attempt to murder innocent civilians on our soil,” she warned.

.. Skripal was jailed in Russia in 2006 for selling state secrets to British intelligence for 10 years, but he was released in 2010 as part of a high-profile spy swap. His daughter has been living in Russia but has also spent long periods in England. The two remain in critical condition at a Salisbury hospital.

.. Immediately after May’s remarks, the Russian government denounced her speech as a spectacle designed to mislead. “It is a circus show in the British Parliament,” the Tass news agency quoted Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova as saying.

“The conclusion is obvious: It’s another political information campaign, based on a provocation.”

.. May said British investigators have concluded that the chemical used in the attack was part of a group of Russian nerve agents known as Novichok.

..  Russia views some defectors as legitimate targets for assassinations

.. Novichok was developed in Moscow in 1987 at the State Union Scientific Research Institute for Organic Chemistry and Technology. That government laboratory was described by one of its top officials in the 1990s as “the leader in the technology of chemical destruction.”.. he doubted that Russia would provide any detail, beyond denials. But the two-day pause was likely designed as “a way for the British government to prepare everyone for a robust response.”

.. Several lawmakers suggested that Britain pass its own version of America’s 2012 Magnitsky Act

.. Dmitry Kiselyov, the broadcast journalist, suggested it was all a plot to ruin the games for Russia and get British allies to boycott the World Cup.

“Why not poison him?” Kiselyov said. “Is he so valuable? And do it with his daughter to turn it into a real tear-jerker for the public.”

May needs Trump Support, but can’t appear to close to him

The meeting highlighted the tough spot Mrs. May finds herself in: She needs Mr. Trump’s support as the U.K. leaves the European Union and seeks to build economic relations with the U.S., but she also has publicly admonished him and sought to avoid the political fallout of appearing too close to a leader who is unpopular among many in her home country. She appeared to tread a careful path, stressing free trade and a global rules-based system that has “delivered the greatest advances in prosperity we have ever known.”

.. Mr. Trump also met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, saying that Palestinians must return to peace talks with Israel in order to keep receiving U.S. aid. Although he said he was hopeful a for a peace deal between the two nations at-odds, the president said the Palestinians had “disrespected” the U.S. by refusing to meet with Vice President Mike Pence on his trip to the Middle East earlier this week. “That money is on the table,” Mr. Trump added, “and that money’s not going to them unless they sit down and negotiate peace.”

Donald Trump’s Crisis of Legitimacy

morning papers were full of stories demonstrating that his political legitimacy, or what small reserves he had left of it, was steadily draining away. After days of prevaricating, America’s business leaders were finally abandoning him en masse.

  • Top generals from all five military branches were issuing statements implicitly rebuking him.
  • Many White House staffers were despairing of him.
  • And even some members of the Society for the Protection of Spineless Conservative Politicians, otherwise known as the leadership of the Republican Party, were starting to distance themselves from him, albeit hesitantly and anonymously, via leaks to journalists and statements from well-connected intermediaries

.. “I see no equivalence between those who propound fascist views and those who oppose them,” Theresa May, the British Prime Minister, said in a statement.

.. It is now clear that when Trump announced on Wednesday that he was disbanding two White House advisory councils made up of C.E.O.s and other business bigwigs, he was telling another one of his tall tales. One of the groups, a council on manufacturing, had already agreed to disband itself, because its members could no longer justify (to their employees, stockholders, and customers) coöperating with the cretin who said there were some “very fine people” among the torch-wielding protesters who marched through Charlottesville on Friday night, chanting “blood and soil” and “Jews won’t replace us.”

.. As of this writing, none of Trump’s aides has resigned in protest at the President’s statements. But a number of them have been busy getting the story out that they are mad as hell.

  • Three different sources told the Times that Gary Cohn, Trump’s top economic adviser, who is Jewish, was incensed by the President’s remarks. The Washington Post reported that
  • John Kelly, the former Marine general who took over as the White House chief of staff a couple of weeks ago, with a mandate to impose some order on all the chaos, had been left “deeply frustrated and dismayed;
  •  Bloomberg reported that Steve Mnuchin, the Treasury Secretary, who was standing next to Trump at Tuesday’s Trump Tower press conference, had gathered his staff together and assured them that he had no idea that the President was going to say what he did.

.. Before composing his ode to the statues of Confederate leaders, he tore into two Republican senators who had dared to criticize him by name for what he said about Charlottesville: Lindsey Graham, of South Carolina, and Jeff Flake, of Arizona. In one tweet, he described Graham as a “publicity seeker.”

In another, he endorsed a little-known Republican politician who is challenging Flake in a primary race: “Great to see that Dr. Kelli Ward is running against Flake Jeff Flake, who is weak on borders, crime and a non-factor in Senate. He’s toxic!”

.. Bannon described the Unite the Right marchers as “a fringe element” and “a collection of clowns.” But that seemed like an effort to have it both ways, which is a familiar Bannon tactic. As the head of Breitbart News, he gave an influential platform to elements of the alt-right but vehemently denied that the site was racist.

.. “If the left is focused on race and identity, and we go with economic nationalism, we can crush the Democrats,” Bannon told Kuttner.

..“Trump is using the precious capital of the bully pulpit to talk about confederate monuments in between savage attacks on fellow Republicans,” Holmes, the former aide to McConnell, told Politico Playbook. “Just think about that.

  • Not tax reform.
  • Not repeal and replace.
  • Not North Korean nuclear capabilities.
  • No focused critiques on extremely vulnerable Democrats who have opposed him at every possible turn.”

.. While McConnell and Paul Ryan, the Speaker of the House, have both put out statements saying that racism and white supremacism have no place in the G.O.P., neither of them has explicitly criticized Trump. Even now, most Republicans are too intent on pursuing their regressive policy agenda, and too frightened of incurring the wrath of the Trump-supporting hordes going into the 2018 midterms, to do what almost all of them must know, deep down, is the right thing.

.. Outside the arena of national security, the Presidency is a weak office; to get anything substantial done, the person in the Oval Office has to put together coalitions, bringing along powerful people and interest groups. As the health-care fiascodemonstrated, Trump wasn’t very good at that stuff to begin with—forgive the understatement—and he has just greatly compounded his difficulties.

.. By dint of his pigheadedness, or prejudice, or both, he has moved onto political ground that makes it virtually impossible for other people in influential positions ..  to stand with him, or even to be seen to coöperate with him. That is what happens when a President throws away his own legitimacy.

.. Trump may have convinced himself that he doesn’t need political allies, or corporate advisers, or anybody else—that he can bully his opponents into submission and succeed through simple force of will. Maybe he thinks that invoking the memories of Lee and Jackson, the Southern battlefield commanders, will help his cause. It won’t: the fate of the Confederacy was settled more than a hundred and fifty years ago, and right now, Trump’s Presidency seems headed to a similarly ignominious ending.

How Jeremy Corbyn Proved the Haters Wrong

Cast as an incongruous combination of incompetent beardy old man and peacenik terrorist sympathizer

.. Mrs. May came across as robotic and out of touch; she didn’t seem to like engaging with the press, much less the public. The more people saw of her, the more her ratings sank.

.. his quiet confidence, credibility and integrity — so refreshing at a time when politicians are viewed as untrustworthy careerists

.. Momentum, a grass-roots organization of Corbyn supporters, activated the party’s estimated 500,000 members — many of whom had joined because Mr. Corbyn was elected as leader — into canvassing efforts across the country, including, crucially, in up-for-grabs districts.

.. appearances that were swiftly turned into video clips and raced around the internet.

.. For decades, Labour has been resolutely centrist, essentially offering a slightly kinder version of neoliberal consensus politics.  .. this was what had caused the party’s slow decline, a hemorrhaging of support from its traditional working-class voters.

.. It was a hopeful vision for a fairer society, offered at a time when the country is experiencing wage stagnation and spiraling living costs

.. the Conservatives are now a maimed party with a discredited leader