The retort that President Trump tweeted in response to Angela Merkel’s statement yesterday ought to have disturbed every American except the America First movement and the Steven Bannon supporters. Not that Trump himself actually cares—apparently—but not only did he embarrass the country by his conduct at NATO and with G7, but he has now confirmed all of Germany and Europe’s worst fears about his presidency.
It is becoming very clear that Trump is incapable of being part of a team in which he is not the captain and which he is not the absolute leader. The fact that he dissed NATO when it came to Article 5 of the Treaty was unacceptable. That Trump could not express the importance of the relationship in Brussels or even clarify the matter himself afterwards was astonishing. He left it to his lackeys to explain away “what he actually meant”. Never can Donald Trump be seen to mis-speak. He never admits to making a mistake or accepts being corrected.
Similarly, in Sicily, with respect to economic agreements and the Paris climate accord, Trump preferred to kowtow to domestic interests and political pressure at home. The fact is that with respect to the climate accord he threatens to withdraw without being willing to address the matter publicly. Once again, he falls to his staff to spin his unexpressed position.
Aside from the infantile and narcissistic conduct of the President, his inability to focus in a mature fashion on serious geopolitical issues–beyond those that affect his bottom line–is causing long-term damage to the interest of the country. The nation can ill afford today alienating friends and buttressing enemies. Support for fighting terrorism, for example, which Trump is seeking, will not be forthcoming from allies who do not respect his leadership or his priorities.
Friends can disagree about policies but Trump does not understand building consensus and compromising. There is no one on the world stage who Trump can “fire” if he does not like them. Coalitions and alliances are extremely important. Bi-lateral agreements cannot replace multi-party treaties. It is in the world of realpolitik that the key deals are made.
This is not the America of the 1920’s. America’s leaders today need to recognize this fundamental fact. To date it is clear that Trump does not do so. When a President persists in criticizing the German people and its Chancellor, Angela Merkel will call you out for your behavior. The President does not comprehend that he may be able to attack and embarrass his staff and American politicians with impunity, but that does not work on the world stage. In fact the long-term global consequences of such persistent behavior could be devastating for the U.S.
At the rate Trump is going, it is impossible to speculate what might be left in four years of the America he inherited in 2017.