The Washington Post
On Monday, House Republicans defended President Donald Trump from impeachment by (rather charitably) calling his brand of international relations an “ ‘outside the Beltway’ approach to diplomacy.”
On Tuesday, Trump stepped outside the Beltway and reinforced how far outside that approach is.
In several interactions spanning more than two hours thus far, Trump has once again thrown NATO into a state of chaos, contradicted his own administration on multiple occasions and contributed to a plunge in the stock market.
It all began when the Beltway was still sleeping. Trump suggested at the NATO summit in London that a trade deal with China - which Trump has suggested is progressing so much that “phase one” will be signed this month - might not be so imminent.
“In some ways, I like the idea of waiting until after the election for the China deal, but they want to make a deal now, and we will see whether the deal is going to be right,” Trump said. He added, when pressed: “I have no deadline, no. . . . In some ways, I think it is better to wait until after the election, if you want to know the truth.”
That appears to be what caused the Dow Jones industrial average to drop more than 400 points when the markets opened. Trump, who often plays up the stock market when it looks good for him, said he wasn’t minding it.
“I don’t watch the stock market,” he rather dubiously claimed.
Trump also was asked to respond to French President Emmanuel Macron calling NATO “brain dead,” which Trump called “insulting.”
Never mind, apparently, that Trump himself once called NATO “obsolete” and has repeatedly accused its member countries of not contributing more financially to the alliance.
In another flap that recalled Trump’s old NATO comments, he was asked whether the United States would help defend a NATO member that was attacked, even if it was delinquent on its defense payments. Trump declined to commit to it.
“You know, we’re going to be discussing that today, and it’s a very interesting question,” he said. “It also depends on what your definition of ‘delinquent’ is.” Trump was also asked later whether Canada is delinquent, and he said it is “slightly delinquent.”
It wasn’t the first time Trump has suggested that the United States might not fully abide by Article 5, the “common defense” portion of NATO’s charter that says all member countries shall treat an attack on a NATO ally as an attack on themselves. In mid-2017, Trump caused a stir by declining to affirm Article 5 in a speech to NATO. He eventually did so, but then he suggested it might not be worthwhile to defend a small NATO ally such as Montenegro because it could lead to World War III. Now it appears he might want to add another asterisk to his earlier affirmation of Article 5.
Trump was asked about another tense situation - this one involving Iran, where protesters erupted last month in opposition to the government. Last week, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued a strong statement of support for the protesters, saying: “To the courageous people of Iran who refuse to stay silent about 40 years of abuse by the ruling regime, I say simply this: The United States hears you, we support you, and we will continue to stand with you in your struggle for a brighter future for your people and for your great nation.”
When Trump was asked whether the United States supported the protesters, though, he said the opposite.
“I don’t want to comment on that, but the answer is no,” Trump said.
He apparently didn’t mean to say that, though, because he issued a correction both verbally and on Twitter. “We do support them totally and have supported them from the beginning,” he said, explaining that he interpreted the question to be about financial support.
And last was Trump’s announcement about another global summit - the Group of Seven, which is scheduled to meet in the United States next year. After the White House initially announced that the summit would be held at Trump’s Doral resort in Florida, it reversed course amid an outcry over Trump potentially enriching himself.
Trump said Tuesday that the summit would instead be held at Camp David. But there’s one problem with that: When it earlier announced that the summit would be at Doral, the White House’s argument was that Camp David would be an awful place to hold it.
“I mean, who was here for the last time it was at Camp David?” acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said at the time. “Was that the perfect place? In fact, I understand the folks who participated in it hated it and thought it was a miserable place to have the G-7. It was way too small. It was way too remote.”
Apparently, there was no other place in the United States that wasn’t so miserable.