Once again, as regularly as the sun rising in the East, Donald Trump succeeds in making America look profoundly foolish on the international stage – this time in a command performance in England, at the invitation of Her Majesty, Queen of England. Trump managed, in this trip, to:
- Insult a member of the Royal Family, the Duchess of Sussex, Prince Harry’s wife, Meghan Markle, calling her “nasty”.
- Launch into a contemptuous slag of the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan – terming him a “stone cold loser”.
- Inject himself into British politics of the most sensitive nature, despite having been denied an invitation to address a session of Parliament.
- Grossly misrepresent the potential nature and likelihood of a trade deal between the U.K. and the United States
- Make ludicrous statements about his popularity in England and put forth absurd claims about the reception he received from the British people.
- Prove unable to even correctly follow a pre-gurgitated script of comments he was given by aides in extra large font prepared for the purpose of toasting the Queen and her country on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the allied invasion of Normandy, rendering the phrase, “they cleared wreckage from the streets”, as “they cleared records from the streets”.
It reminds one of the lament of the frustrated parent to the unruly and misbehaving child, “I just can never take you anywhere in public”.
Trump, in a chat with British tabloid, The Sun, was told about various critiques of Trump from the wife of Prince Harry – Meghan Markle. He responded to what he heard, telling the interviewer, “I didn’t know that. What can I say? I didn’t know that she was nasty.” There is a certain species of male, terminally infected with misogyny to whom any woman contradicting him, is thought to be bucking male authority and hence disagreeable or “nasty”.
If you are even moderately familiar with Trump’s manner of speaking, you clearly see in this beastly dismissal of Princess Meghan, of his most transparent rhetorical devices. He brands someone with an ugly label, but frames it in a way that although everyone knows exactly what he intends, leaves room to reverse course later or to altogether deny having said it. You might be familiar with a similar approach Trump uses frequently, after directly making a derogatory reference to a person, “but I wouldn’t say that”.
Possibly one of the most infamous examples of Trump’s tactic of savaging someone, but seesawing back and forth with a denial of the comment, was Trump’s response to Florida Senator Marco Rubio in a presidential debate on February 26, 2016:
“See, it’s guys like that — and he’s a nasty guy. I called him a nasty little guy, but I wouldn’t say that, because he’s a nasty guy. And we don’t need nasty. We don’t need nasty. Honestly, there’s no place for it. No, he’s a nervous basket case. Here’s a guy — you ought to see him — you ought to see him backstage. He was putting on makeup with a trowel. No. I don’t want to say that. I will not say that he was trying to cover up his ears. I will not say that. No, he was just trying to cover up — he was just trying to cover up the sweat that pours — I never saw — did you ever see a guy sweat like this?”
No sooner had the backlash ensued regarding his comment about the Princess, Trump incredibly denied ever having said it. The issuer of an estimated 10,000 and counting, lies, false statements and erroneous claims, issued a dismissal of his contemptuous remark on Twitter:
Trouble is, not only did reporters from the Sun report it, but there was audio of his comments because the interview was recorded. Trump, evidently is of the viewpoint that no matter how obvious his lies are and how simple it is to document them, that his core followers will always accept his assessment of them as “fake news”.
McGill University’s Tomlinson Professor of Political Theory, Professor of Political Science, Jacob T. Levy, remarked in an essay, alluding to the mystery of how Trump accomplishes such consistent lying and what it means in terms of the meltdown of American norms prior to Trump:
“a leader with authoritarian tendencies will lie in order to make others repeat his lie both as a way to demonstrate and strengthen his power over them. Saying something obviously untrue, and making your subordinates repeat it with a straight face in their own voice, is a particularly startling display of power over them. It’s something that was endemic to totalitarianism.”
On to Trump’s predatory insertion of himself in the most critical national issues in the United Kingdom and its principal players.
Trump began by amping up a personal animus between himself and London’s mayor Sadiq Khan. Trump referred to Khan as a “stone cold loser”. Among Trump’s arsenal of trash talk labels, ‘stone cold loser’ seems to be among his favorite go tos of late. He’s used it for White House counselor and media flack Kellyanne Conway’s husband, George Conway. Trump’s reference to Mr. Khan was as follows:
“…who by all accounts has done a terrible job as Mayor of London, has been foolishly “nasty” to the visiting President of the United States, by far the most important ally of the United Kingdom. He is a stone cold loser who should focus on crime in London, not me… Kahn reminds me very much of our very dumb and incompetent Mayor of NYC, de Blasio, who has also done a terrible job – only half his height.”
Trump then took aim at Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, pro-actively refusing to meet with Corbyn after Corbyn was a no show at the reception for Trump at Buckingham Palace. Of Corbyn, Trump put his strong aversion to criticism on display, remarking, “I really don’t like critics as much as I like and respect people who get things done – so I decided not to meet.”
Here, Trump is obtuse to the possibility that even if Corbyn and his party do not at some point become the majority in Parliament, Corbyn can still obstruct Trump’s policy objectives with the British government. It’s also one of those countless incredible moments where Trump evinces that he has no self awareness of possessing the very social traits he claims to find a detriment in others. But alternately, Trump may feel that his personal superiority affords him the exclusive license to act as a critic.
Trump made sure not to take some shots at outgoing Tory Prime Minister, Teresa May, telling reporters on Friday that in May’s handling of Brexit, she “didn’t give the European Union anything to lose” in negotiations. Then before leaving and because he had to have a meeting with her, Trump reversed course and called Ms. May a good negotiator – and of course felt obligated to include a self reference adding that May is “probably a better negotiator than I am” – meaning of course, she most certainly is not. It’s known as being damned with faint praise – another of Trump’s arsenal of rhetorical devices.
Trump got further involved in British national politics by pre-emptively coronating former Conservative Party Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson. Trump riffed about Johnson, “I know Boris. I like him. I have liked him for a long time. I think he would do a very good job.” Johnson, knowing that Trump has a 21 percent approval rating in Britain, declined to meet with Trump. Trump, whose only constituency in the U.K. is the far right, will likely ignore that snub and continue to cultivate Mr. Johnson.
Trump in a joint meeting with Theresa May, made a very curious comment, suggesting that the Prime Minister “stick around” until the Brexit issue was resolved one way or another, to which Ms. May demurred, telling Trump that she would leave as she promised because, “I’m a woman of my word”. Some might see a veiled implication there, comparing her core ethical principles with Trump’s lack of same.
Later, Trump floated a trial balloon, which closely resembled the ubiquitous “baby balloon” frequently seen aloft at massive protests against Trump. It was that the United Kingdom’s National Health system might be a factor involved in a negotiation between the U.S. and Britain on a bilateral trade deal.
It was immediately shot down by Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, whom the Telegraph reported, immediately tweeted: “Dear Mr President. The NHS isn’t on the table in trade talks – and never will be. Not on my watch.”
Hancock was joined by P.M. May, along with three other contenders for the Tory leadership role, in that sentiment. Then Trump backtracked telling Good Morning Britain host Piers Morgan , “I don’t see it being on the table. Somebody asked me a question today and I say everything is up for negotiation, because everything is. But I don’t see that as being, that’s something that I would not consider part of trade. That’s not trade.”
This obviously is a weasel answer due to the conspicuous internal contradiction of his statement. Of a potential trade agreement, Trump ad libbed, calling such a deal “phenomenal”, “tremendous” and “two or three times what we’re doing now”. That was grotesquely deceptive. The dollar amount of trade between the US and the UK at the present, is a hearty $263 billion. Trade analysts fact checked and called foul on Trump’s wild hyperbole, telling journalists that a best case of the potential increase would look like about .03 percent of current trade.
Trump also cannot unilaterally push through an unlikely deal, the negotiations of which could last years, without getting a buy in from Congress and that is not going to be a walk in the park. Trump has claimed that he could produce a “very, very big deal, very very quickly.” No one other than him, believes that, if he even does.
To round out the farce that Trump made of what should have been a meaningful state visit to one of our two most important international allies on the anniversary of such an auspicious event as D-Day, we have to take account of how the man serves up an alternate reality version of how he was perceived and received in Great Britain.
Trump told the Sun, “Now I think I am really — I hope — I am really loved in the U.K.” Trump further assessed, “I said, where are the protests? I don’t see any protests. I did see a small protest today when we came, very small. So, a lot of it is fake news, I hate to say.”
He also invented a narrative that there were “tremendous crowds” turning out in support of him, which he saw as the presidential entourage motored through town. “The big crowds, which the Corrupt Media hates to show, were those that gathered in support of the USA and me. They were big & enthusiastic as opposed to the organized flops!”
Once again, it is child’s play to debunk Trump’s claims that all he saw of substance was crowds saluting him. There is scant evidence that any such enthusiasm was shown to Trump, but there is substantial evidence that Trump was subject to widespread public scorn.
One protest of many taking place throughout Tuesday, was in Whitehall and in front of the Prime Minister’s HQ on Downing Street, where a crowd reliably estimated at 75,000 people congregated to let Trump know their thoughts about his presence in the country and their estimation of him. As you can see from some of the many interesting photos, it was not a “small protest, very small”.
Not small at all.