Remember the outrage among conservatives when a newly inaugurated President Obama dared to return a bust of Winston Churchill to the British government, replacing it in the Oval Office with a bust of Martin Luther King Jr.?
The decision was spun as an egregious insult to our British friends, endangering the “special relationship.” It was even cited as evidence of Obama’s Kenyan, anti-colonial attitudes, as if it were somehow wrong for the leader of the United States, a nation founded upon rebellion against British colonial rule to be, you know, anti-colonial. The right-wing handwringing and fainting-couch collapses over the return of the Churchill bust were impressive to witness.
Fast-forward now to Donald Trump. In his foreign policy speech last month, Trump complained that under Obama “our friends are beginning to think they can’t depend on us. We’ve had a president who dislikes our friends and bows to our enemies, something that we’ve never seen before in the history of our country.” He promised to be different, to restore allegedly strained relationships with our allies.
Well, Mexico has long been an ally, and they’ve already made quite clear their distaste for Trump. And under President Trump, what would be the status of the “special relationship” with Britain?
“It looks like we’re not going to have a very good relationship,” Trump grumbled this week, referring to British Prime Minister David Cameron. “Who knows, I hope to have a good relationship with him but it sounds like he’s not willing to address the problem either.”
Trump’s anger — his temper is even shorter than his fingers — was inspired by criticism from the Conservative prime minister, who had called Trump’s approach to Islamic extremism, including his proposed ban on Muslim travel to the United States, “divisive, stupid and wrong.” Given Trump’s reaction, Cameron’s words apparently stung:
“Number one, I’m not stupid, OK? I can tell you that right now. Just the opposite. Number two, in terms of divisive, I don’t think I’m a divisive person, I’m a unifier, unlike our president now, I’m a unifier.”
Such a unifier. Trump’s going to do so much unifying around the globe that you’ll be sick of such unifying. In fact, as a demonstration of his abilities as a unifier, he has even offered to give the newly elected mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, a one-person exemption to his ban on travel to the United States by Muslims.
For some odd reason, though, Khan declined to be unified. He warned instead that Trump’s “ignorant view of Islam could make both our countries less safe — it risks alienating mainstream Muslims around the world and plays into the hands of the extremists…. Daesh, ISIS, all those guys, hate the fact that I am mayor of London. Why? Because it contradicts what they say, which is that Western liberal values are incompatible with Islam.”
And Trump’s response?
“I think they’re very rude statements, and frankly, tell him that I will remember those statements … very nasty statements.” He even challenged Khan to an IQ test to see who is smarter.
The only foreign leader with whom Trump apparently has a good relationship is Vladimir Putin. Trump has made it clear that he admires Putin as a strong leader, even he is a little rough around the edges. As Trump puts it, “If he has killed reporters, I think that’s terrible. But this isn’t like somebody that’s stood with a gun and he’s, you know, taken the blame or he’s admitted that he’s killed. He’s always denied it.”
Vlad Putin: Unifier.