It’s The Same Old Trump Schtick. So Why Is Everyone So Surprised?

Trump’s Headed To Controversial Summit With Russian Leader Putin, So Of Course He Blames Germany For Cozying Up To Putin


But is it really that much of a shock he’d do this, considering it’s one of his most tried-and-true “bits”? (Remember “no puppet, you’re the puppet” from the debates? Remember the many, many Tweets asserting the “real story” is Hillary Clinton’s collusion with Russia?) Yes, perhaps calling Germany “a captive of Russia” and “totally controlled by Russia” because it’s involved in a Russian pipeline deal is a bit of a stretch, but still all part of a piece that we know all too well right now.

BTW, you can watch all of Trump’s harangue here by clicking on the photo:


And after NATO’s Secretary General goes out of his way to give Trump all the credit for changes in the treaty group that were first promoted by the U.S. and embraced 2 years before Trump was in office, in the hope that he would “take the win”, is it really surprising that he didn’t?

Of course not. What perplexes us is so many people around the world: America’s trading partners, security partners, the media, are all acting that way. As if the fact that Trump’s first Tweet immediately afterwards begins: “What good is NATO…?” was a complete curve ball.

As is Trump’s assertion this morning that “the United States was not being treated fairly, but now we are”. (Because of course, he’s said similar things before about NATO). And NATO leaders “have substantially upped their commitment” without saying exactly how. And: “We are doing numbers like they’ve never done before or ever seen before.” Which is how the President often phrases things when he means very little. All the while the Washington Post reporting Trump threatened to “do his own thing” and go it alone, later clarifying that he believes he could pull the U.S. out of NATO without Congressional approval, “but that’s unnecessary.” Without the President providing details of his “new agreement”, it’s hard to tell if he’s done some good negotiating, or just kicked up a lot of dust on the way to settling on something close to what was on the table in the first place, and then taking all the credit. Either way, this frantic approach ending with Trump signing a joint statement that contradicted some of the implications in his own statement: not surprising for this President.

Trump, who keeps saying he’s making it so America’s no longer laughed at, is so totally being laughed at. Yet at the same time, those same people who are laughing at him are also terrified. Because they should be? Maybe. (Jonathan Chait in New York Magazine asserts that Trump is determined to convince his base that NATO is bad and Putin is good. That’s plausible and huge and scary. Former U.S. Ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro puts it in even starker terms in a series of Tweets.) But it could also be because they keep falling for what by now should be tired old gags.

For instance, Trump’s willingness to conflate a sacred and crucially important long-standing military treaty among the U.S.’ closest allies with short-term trade objectives. Again, NO SURPRISE.

We’ve said so many times that Trump is only effective as long as he continually provides plot twists and palpable, satisfying entertainment.

We’ve gotten what should be a revelatory insight recently to what happens when that stops: the separation of parents from children at the border made Trump all of a sudden appear just plain cruel.  And he had to step back.

But sadly, he just packed up his tents, named a new Supreme Court Justice in a prime-time extravaganza, and trundled off to Europe, his same sad old act in tow, and looking remarkably fresh. Even the “sideshow” like this amusing tidbit in the Washington Post about the facial expressions and body language of close advisors seated next to him as he ripped into America’s closest allies only enhance Trump’s aura. Even the White House’s explanation of Chief of Staff John Kelly’s sour face as “[Kelly] was displeased because he was expecting a full breakfast and there were only pastries and cheese” only contribute to Trump’s mystique.


It’s tough going though: standing up to Trump would risk the demise of NATO. And it could also risk already delicate trade relations with some of America’s biggest trading partners. But the current approach of patiently explaining things to Trump, as Secretary General Stoltenberg did repeatedly at the meeting, or diverting his attention by offering him “wins”, ain’t working either. So the strategy European leadership seems to be increasingly settling on is letting Trump bloviate and then hoping he then kind of blows through. We’re not sure this works either. You can’t just get out of Trump’s way and hope he passes.