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Trump’s clownish conduct earns no respect from allies or adversaries

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By Jennifer Rubin, The Washington Post

President Trump brags about his lack of preparation in advance of the North Korea summit. It’s far from clear that Trump knows what he wants to achieve, what is attainable and what he should not give up. (He has already refrained from imposing new sanctions, muffled talk of human rights and given Kim Jong Un a previously unimaginable public relations coup.) Michael O’Hanlon of the Brookings Institution tells me that he certainly hopes for a deal in which “North Korea stops making more bombs and longer-range missiles but keeps some of what it already has for a while, as it gradually demilitarizes and gradually accesses benefits over a multi-year period.”

It’s not at all clear, however, that something along those lines is possible. “It does worry me to hear the talk about how President Trump would try to trade in our entire military alliance with South Korea for denuclearization,” O’Hanlon says. “There, I worry less about inadequate preparation and more about his worldview.”

Speaking of a frightful worldview, Trump remains convinced that our closest allies are our biggest threat. On Thursday he went on a Twitter tear, lambasting our European allies in advance of the Group of Seven meeting, giving Russian President Vladimir Putin reason to rejoice. The Post reports on French President Emmanuel Macron’s blast against Trump:

Macron said Trump could be excluded from joining with other leaders in a joint declaration of unity at the end of a global summit here, a very unusual move that was meant to isolate Trump’s recent burst of trade threats aimed at numerous U.S. allies.

“The American President may not mind being isolated, but neither do we mind signing a 6 country agreement if need be,” Macron wrote on Twitter. “Because these 6 countries represent values, they represent an economic market which has the weight of history behind it and which is now a true international force.”

Trump appeared unmoved, accusing Macron and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of hurting the United States with unfair trade practices. Trump also said Trudeau is “being so indignant,” an unusually personal attack aimed at one of the United States’ closest allies.

It is difficult to recall a more openly antagonistic relationship between the United States and Europe since the end of World War II — one that delights Putin, who has long sought to divide the Western alliance. At a time when we face multiple threats from Russia, China, Islamic terrorism, Iran and more, we are losing the trust of allies whose assistance is critical to our national security and economic prosperity.

Republicans, you may recall, berated President Barack Obama for insufficient solidarity with the West and for what they perceived as foolish efforts to win over hard-bitten adversaries. Now it is Trump who is feuding “during testy presidential phone calls with British Prime Minister Theresa May, Trudeau and Macron.” Now it’s Trump who cuts a sweetheart deal with ZTE, letting China’s sanctions-breaking telecom giant off the hook. And it is Trump, not a liberal Democrat, who panders to Kim, even offering  the brutal dictator an Oval Office visit, maybe even a trip to Mar-a-Lago, if things go “well” (which might mean Trump receives empty compliments from Kim).

Trump’s happy talk about the summit has alarmed Japan, among other allies. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited with Trump on Thursday, reportedly in a final plea not to give away the store — and imperil the United States’ allies by allowing Kim to keep his nuclear arsenal or dismantle our Asian alliances. (“Mr. Trump’s more conciliatory tone in the past few days has alarmed the Japanese, who worry that he might trade the security of the United States’ Asian allies for a deal with Mr. Kim on nuclear weapons,” the New York Times reported.)

And if that were not disturbing enough, Trump has convinced himself that his decision to pull out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action has been a diplomatic masterstroke. The New York Times reports:

Iran, he said, was no longer as adventurous in Syria and Yemen, and had relaxed its ambitions to extend its influence all the way to the Mediterranean Sea. “Iran is not the same country that it was a few months ago,” Mr. Trump said at a news conference, five days before he was scheduled to meet in Singapore with [Kim].

“They’re a much, much different group of leaders,” he concluded.

Mr. Trump cited no evidence to support his contention. Iran remains firmly under the control of its theocratic government, it continues to support proxy forces across the Middle East, and it just announced plans to increase its capacity to enrich uranium after Mr. Trump’s withdrawal.

Trump’s delusional view of events and inability to wrestle with the real world could have calamitous results for the United States, launching a trade war, separating us from allies, emboldening Iran and Russia, and letting North Korea slip the noose on economic sanctions without giving up much. Republicans, too afraid to antagonize Trump, remain largely mute.

Ironically, national security adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo find themselves working for a president who is far more gullible and far less able to discriminate between friend and foe than Obama, whom they bitterly criticized.

Trump promised to start winning around the globe and to earn respect from other countries. We are not winning; we’re not even in the game. And thanks to Trump’s clownish, irrational conduct, adversaries see an opening to achieve their ends, simply by flattering the vapid narcissist in the Oval Office.

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