Presidential historian Jon Meachem said Donald Trump’s performance at the NATO breakfast reminded him of “a guy at the end of the bar with a bee in his bonnet and he’s already had four beers.” Right after Trump spoke a Munich newspaper’s headline blared “It is not only bad, it is catastrophic,” and even a guest on a Russian news program exclaimed,“I never thought I’d live to see this! Neither the USSR nor Russia, who tried many times to drive the wedge between transatlantic allies, but Washington is doing everything to break down the foundations of transatlantic alliance and unity.”
That is the reaction of the rest of the world to Donald Trump disgracing himself and us in Brussels. However, the spin is already in and this is how Sarah Huckabee Sanders is painting what went on today. New York Times:
“During the president’s remarks today at the NATO summit, he suggested that countries not only meet their commitment of 2 percent of their G.D.P. on defense spending, but that they increase it to 4 percent,” the White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, said in a statement.
“President Trump,” the statement said, “wants to see our allies share more of the burden and at a very minimum meet their already stated obligations.”
That dialogue, along with the video we all saw, will play on Fox News and the base will be utterly convinced that their hero, Donald Trump, showed ‘em. And this is by no means an isolated incident, this manipulation has been going on for some time. It involves the cherry picking of facts, stated in the context of Trump knows more than other presidents before him, and he’s done letting America be taken advantage of. He said as much today, “Other presidents didn’t do anything because they either didn’t understand it or they didn’t want to say anything.” Right, he’s the only president since Harry Truman who has understood NATO. You and I may shake our heads, but that remark and the remarks he made on twitter about NATO being deadbeats in essence, prior to departure for the summit made clear his agenda: that he intends to train the base that NATO is not really our allies and that Vladimir Putin is. New York Magazine:
Where Trump’s intent has grown abundantly clear is the manner in which he is speaking to his supporters. At his rally in North Dakota two weeks ago, he said, “Sometimes our worst enemies are our so-called friends or allies, right?” At a subsequent rally in Montana last week, the president declared, “Our allies in many cases were worse than our enemies.” Trump understands the power of repetition, and it is notable to see this allies, they’re the worst, amirite formulation becoming a staple of his rhetoric.
More noticable still was a comment he made at the latter rally. Adopting his mocking pundit voice, he ridiculed the notion that “Putin is KGB.” (Putin did in fact work in the KGB.) “You know what,” he said, “Putin’s fine. He’s fine. We are all fine, we’re all people.”
Needless to say, “we’re all fine, we’re all people” is not Trump’s customary approach to the question of locating the shared humanity of all God’s creatures. But his efforts to train the Republican base to reverse its long-standing views on the relative merits of NATO and Russia have borne fruit. According to a recent poll, just 40 percent of Republicans think the U.S. should should stay in NATO, while 56 percent of Republicans consider Trump’s relationship with Vladimir Putin good for the United States.
Those statistics are insane, but not when you take into account that Fox News is state television and a large percentage of Americans think that it’s real. Trump also set the stage for a victory with Putin standing in front of Marine One the other day when he said that the meeting in Helsinki, “would be the easiest of them all.” It’s going to be deja vu, like it always is with Trump. He’s going to make a huge mistake but the spin on it will be that he negotiated a great victory. Singapore II, here we come. Vox:
“Putin will try to enlist Israel’s [Benjamin] Netanyahu and Jordan’s [King] Abdullah to the cause, promising them and Trump he’ll keep Assad from doing his worst in southwest Syria, where Jordan fears new refugee flows and Israel wants no Iranian-Hezbollah presence,” Hof continued. “Trump may be tempted to leave northeast Syria to the regime and Iran, claiming he worked a marvelous deal to secure Israel and Jordan in the southwest. And, then, Putin will help Assad consolidate [power] in both places, enabling Iran and Hezbollah to emerge as the big winners.”
So the final deal would simply be this: The US removes its troops from northeast Syria as long as Russia promises to quell the Assad-led fighting in Syria’s southeast, hopefully making Israel and Jordan happy.
It’s unclear, of course, if this is what Putin has in mind. And even if he does, Trump could possibly reject Putin’s proposal. But based on Trump’s own inclinations and longstanding desire to work with Russia, Putin could convince Trump of his plan — which would give Moscow and Tehran even more freedom to do what they want in Syria.
Moscow’s going to win, you know that going in. But the meeting with Putin will be carefully crafted by Putin so that it seems that he’s been bested by Trump in a difficult negotiation. That’s essential to the Fox-fed fiction that Putin is a good guy and Trump a master negotiator. And you know that Trump has said that he will withdraw troops from Syria “very soon” because “it’s time to come home.” The base will be fine with all of this. They don’t need history or context, wouldn’t understand it if Sean Hannity put in on a chalk board and gave away movie tickets to anybody who could pass a quiz. The reason that Trump has gotten as far as he has is because a large portion of the electorate is asleep and ripe for a fascist takeover and here we are.
In the era of Trump we compete with and castigate our allies and we cooperate with and compliment our foes. That’s how it is. That’s how it’s going to stay. And the base is oblivious to this, but they can cast a ballot, and Trump and his cabal are hoping that the base will expand.