It’s official as it will get – the primary attitude towards the Tiny Tyrant is mockery, along with modest amusement. Those who were initially concerned with the upcoming whirlwind Regime tour aren’t so concerned now. Yes, they know they are dealing with a teensy attention span, and must give Trump tiny participation trophies of some kind, but the attitude has shifted from a fear-laced concern to a mildly amused dismissal. This is not dealing with a savvy, brutal, wannabe dictator. This is dealing with the Naked Emperor, parading his new clothes.
Those were just a few of the comments I heard in Berlin this week from senior European officials trying to make sense of the meltdown in Washington at just the moment when a politically imploding President Trump embarks on what he called “my big foreign trip” in this morning’s kickoff tweet.
Many I spoke with said they had made a fundamental mistake of viewing Trump primarily as an ideologue with whom they disagreed rather than what he increasingly appears to be: an ill-prepared newcomer to the world stage, with uninformed views and a largely untested team that will now be sorely tried by a 9-day, 5-stop world tour that would be wildly ambitious even for a seasoned global leader.
“People are less worried than they were six weeks ago, less afraid,” a senior German government official with extensive experience in the United States told me. “Now they see the clownish nature.” Or, as another German said on the sidelines of a meeting here devoted to taking stock of 70 years of U.S.-German relations, “People here think Trump is a laughingstock.”
“The dominant reaction to Trump right now is mockery,” Jacob Heilbrunn, the editor of the conservative journal the National Interest, told the meeting at the German Foreign Office here while moderating a panel on Trump’s foreign policy that dealt heavily on the difficulty of divining an actual policy amid the spectacle. Heilbrunn, whose publication hosted Trump’s inaugural foreign policy speech in Washington during last year’s campaign, used the ‘L’ word too. “The Trump administration is becoming an international laughingstock.” Michael Werz, a German expert from the liberal U.S. think tank Center for American Progress, agreed, adding he was struck by “how rapidly the American brand is depreciating over the last 20 weeks.”
Some of the reported preparations for the NATO session in Brussels this week suggest just how much the volatile-clown theory of the American president has now taken hold.
NATO has labeled the May 25 session a meeting, not a summit, and will hold only a dinner to minimize the chances of a Trump eruption. Leaders have been told to hold normally windy remarks to just two to four minutes to keep Trump’s attention. (“This is routine,” the NATO spokesperson said.) They are even preparing to consider a “deliverable” to Trump of having NATO officially join the U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State in Syria, as Trump has said his priority is getting NATO to do more in combating terrorism. “It’s a phony deliverable to give to Trump, a Twitter deliverable,” said a former senior U.S. official, pointing out that the individual NATO member states are already members of that coalition.
The Volatile Clown Theory. Yes, that sounds right. Now we just have to kick the volatile clown out of the center ring.