If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be London

Every time President Donald Trump leaves the country he makes some big and unnecessary news, and the first day of his visit to London for a meeting of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization was no exception. Geo-politics is quite complex and unpredictable these days, but Trump has predictably further complicated it.
Since long before he improbably took office Trump has been an outspoken critic of the NATO alliance, at times calling it “obsolete” and at all times haranguing the other members for their meager defense spending, and promising only in the most ambiguous terms to uphold America’s commitment to defend any fellow member from attack. He’s sticking to the same rhetoric on this visit, but he’s also objecting to the French President Emmanuel Macron’s recent statements in an interview with The Economist that NATO is currently “brain dead” under its current American leadership, and Trump somehow finds himself in alliance with former favorite punching bag and outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel in defending the importance of the institution.
Trump is also feuding with Macron over trade matters, with the former threatening huge tariffs in retaliation for the latter’s recent internet tax law that will charge American tech companies. Trump continues to threateningly grumble about the rest of Europe’s automobile industries, and although that didn’t make the news we expect it came in the off-camera conversations. At one point in his lengthy conversations with the international media Trump admitted that there probably won’t be an armistice in the trade war with China until after he wins reelection, at which point he will deliver the greatest deal ever, and after that all the stock markets tanked for a second consecutive day.
Trump also struggled with the difficult chore of not meddling in the United Kingdom’s upcoming election. He’d clearly prefer that incumbent Tory Prime Minister Boris Johnson somehow be reelected, as he’s a fellow nationalist and populist with an even worse haircut, and presumptive Labour nominee Jeremy Corbyn is the British equivalent of Vermont Senator and potential Democratic nominee Bernie Sanders, only more dangerous in a country that has fallen in an out of socialism, but Trump has mostly avoided saying so. He did briefly brag about he swung the vote in recent gubernatorial elections in Kentucky and Louisiana, although the Republicans lost in both states, but declined to weigh in on British matters. He’s so very unpopular among America’s most important allies that Johnson has pleaded for no endorsement, according to both the Brith and American press, and Trump has for once adhered to a time-honored presidential tradition by declining to comment on an ally’s elections.
Trump also told the international media that he did not support the uprising of protestors against Iran’s government, although within a half hour he was correcting that on “twitter” and before the cameras. The British press dragged Trump into the middle of a big British brouhaha about Prince Andrew, who has recently withdrawn from public life because of recent interviews about his past relationship with the late billionaire and internationally notorious sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. Trump said he didn’t know Prince Andrew, a claim quickly disproved by photo and video evidence from the archives of both the Brith and American media, just as he claimed to have barely known Epstein, despite photo and video evidence and glowing compliments in published journals, but that barely registered as news back home.

Back in the states the big story was that the House Intelligence had issued a 300-page report concluding Trump had abused his presidential powers for personal gain and further abused his powers to obstruct a lawful investigation, and the House Judiciary Committee is now considering articles of impeachment. Trump has publicly complained this makes it hard for him to swing deals with all the other world leaders at these big summits, which is undeniably true, but so far at least a slim majority of the country blames Trump for the situation. We’re sure all those world leaders Trump is dealing with are well apprised./div>

All the rest of those NATO countries have their own embarrassing problems, and so do the Chinese and the Iranians and pretty much every country on the planet, and we wish them all the best. Even so, no one should count on any happy outcomes by the end of this NATO summit.

— Bud Norman

An Innocent Bystander

Two of the bigger fiascos currently swirling around Washington cannot be blamed on President Barack Obama, we are told, because the poor fellow didn’t even know about them.
By now everyone in America is aware that the $634 million computer program that was supposed to enroll a grateful nation in Obamacare simply does not work, but Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has assured the nation that her boss didn’t find out about it until the rest of us did. The revelation that the National Security Agency has been eavesdropping on German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the leaders of various other allies has been more widely reported in the snooped-upon countries, where the formerly Obama-crazed citizenry are now marching in the streets with “Hope and Change” replaced by “Stasi 2.0” and other similarly snooty slogans beneath the president’s famously chin-upturned and stylized visage, but Sen. Dianne Feinstein and others are nonetheless anxious for the American public to know the president was as surprised by the news as anyone else.
This might even be true, but if so it is not so reassuring as the apologists probably intend. One likes to think that the president is a bit more au courant on the latest bureaucratic computer glitches and cloak-and-dagger international intrigues than the common folk, after all, and it’s downright to worrisome to contemplate that he is just as uninformed as the average voter. There used to be a notion that the chief executives of large organizations were ultimately responsible for anything that happened along their chain of command, pithily surmised by the “Buck Stops Here” that adorned the Oval Office desk of Harry Truman, and it also discomfiting to think this standard is no longer in effect at the White House. The president’s most loyal acolytes will likely be satisfied by the belief that their man had nothing to do with these messes, only the people he appointed to positions of responsibility, but those less enamored will be left to wonder why he hasn’t fired the incompetent idiots who didn’t at least give him a heads-up before their best efforts hit the fan.
It causes a certain queasy feeling, in fact, that the Obama apologists are so seemingly confident they can successfully plead ignorance to acquit their man of responsibility for what happens during his time in office. So far they have done well at convincing a significant portion of the country that Obama is an innocent and righteously indignant bystander to the bad things that are happening in the country, well enough that Obama himself can claim with a straight face to be as angry as anyone about the state of the government, so perhaps the confidence is realistic. Still, it is hard to see what good can come of having an innocent bystander as the president of the United States.

— Bud Norman